Adding just 1 or 2 of these golf course management tips to your game will create lasting improvement. Knocking a couple strokes off the next time you play golf and giving you a leg up on your playing partners by improving your golf strategy.
I personally utilize all of these course management strategies and have been playing to a +2 handicap for over 15 years. And the last 10 of those years with very little practice. Just sticking with what works.
These tips aren’t swing tips, nothing technical or analytic in nature. Each of them are simply a mental decision or awareness and planning for good course strategy for your golf game.
Let’s get to it.
#1 Find the Fairway
The first course management tip is that finding the fairway off the tee with your good shots will optimize your chance to hit the green by staying out of trouble. Golf.com states that most golfers only hits an average of 49% of their fairways. That’s a lot of holes where you are scrambling for options rather than sitting comfortable in the fairway for your approach shot.
Sure bombing it down there is fun and looks awesome, but if that puts you in trouble and takes the birdie putt out of the equation…
#2 Know your Favorite Shot
Laying up to a specific desired yardage where you can hit the right club is a fantastic way to get better at golf, even with tee shots is a real benefit to your course management. Know exactly what your favorite distance is that you are the most accurate and most comfortable from.
Then give yourself that shot as often as possible using a GPS device to know where to hit to. If that means hitting a 3 iron off the tee to give you that shot, then that is your best option for success on that hole.
Your favorite distance for approach shots may be a 105 yard shot, so that is what you want to work towards as often as you can. The more times you have that yardage, the better chance you have to shoot lower scores and better golf!
#3 Learn your miss
One of the great tips to be a better golfer is next on our course management tips list.
Know your common miss side and aim accordingly. Think back over your last few rounds. Or start to pay attention to see what pattern you can find in your miss hit shots.
If your miss is a pull, aim a little further right to a spot that if hit perfect will be good, and if pulled may be even better.
A pin on the right side of the green on approach shots for someone who misses right as their common miss is a great opportunity. Aim 15 feet left of the hole. A well struck straight shot will give you a 15 footer for your birdie putt. A slight miss to the right, a 5 foot putt for birdie, help you get lower scores with this golf scoring strategy.
And you don’t even need to tell your buddies you weren’t aiming there!
#4 Middle of the Green
Don’t always aim at the pin, aim somewhere that give you some safety for a miss. Find the pin locations that you can aim at. Ones that are more in the middle of the green, and aim at those. This is a highly successful golf course management strategy for high handicappers.
The pins that are tucked closer to the edges, hit it to the middle of the green with good distance control. Enjoy the fact that you are more often putting for birdie and tapping in for par. This is one of the best tips for new golfers.
#5 Wedge Intelligence
Don’t get overly aggressive with your golf swing with a wedge, stick to your own game by using a smart miss aiming location. Remember that just because you are using a wedge, doesn’t mean that some of the previous tips no longer apply.
A miss is still a miss and getting too aggressive with your aim on a wedge shot can be just as troublesome a result as a 7 iron. Protecting against the miss with a wedge is a great golf strategy move.
#6 Stay Mentally Loose
Stay mentally sharp by not dwelling on shots between them. Joke with your buddies, talk about things other than golf. Look around at the scenery and enjoy the outdoor goodness.
Basically anything other than thinking about the shot you just hit or the one you will hit in 5 minutes. Going in and out of the zone is a very hard course management strategy. But can be an extreme advantage because you will stay mentally sharp longer.
#7 Don’t Over Practice Swing
Course management involves golf tips for kids, and our next tip applies to both kids and adults.
Don’t hold your club until you are ready to hit, whether on the tee box or in the fairway. Over practice swinging every shot can use up the mental capacity needed for the shot and leave you at risk for when its time to hit.
So when you are standing in the fairway or tee box waiting for the group in front of you to clear, keep your club in the bag. Go ahead and make your plan. Know what club and what shot you want to hit. But don’t stand there holding it and swinging it around. Wait till it’s time to actually hit the shot, then pick up the club and start your routine.
#8 Dry Hands and Dry Grips
This may sound more like a physical tip. But it is actually a golf strategy mental approach to remember how important dry hands are when swinging. Letting your body core get wet, but keeping your hands and grips dry takes mental work. Keep your hands and grips dry in the rain, everything else can get wet…
This can provide a real mental edge. While your playing partners are worrying about keeping everything dry, and working hard to do so. You can be focusing on other things while only worrying about your hands and your grips.
Dry hands help every shot be the best shot you can hit at the time, helping you in the quest of how to play your best golf.
#9 Think About the Optimal Putt
When you are hitting towards the green, have a plan on what kind of putt you want. Think about what you know of the green’s slopes. Or what you can see from where you are hitting.
Most golfers, especially amateur golfers don’t think ahead with their golf game. Focusing instead on the one shot at at a time plan.
Pick the spot you want to putt from and then try to hit to that spot. If you prefer left to right putts, aim for that spot!
#10 Know your Landing Zone
Golf driving tips for beginners and seasoned golfers are a big part of course management, this tip fits both those categories. And is a great female golf tip as well.
Know what the fairway is like in the area you will land. If it is a tight neck where you driver will land, lay it back a little with a 3 wood to the wider area. Giving you a better chance of staying in the fairway. Don’t just always hit driver simply because the hole isn’t a par 3.
Just like our earlier tip, the more fairways you hit the more opportunities you have for birdies. Good golf is played by finding the fairway. So laying back a little bit to find that short grass and taking the risk of trouble out can really pay off.
#11 Warm Up
This can be done a variety of different ways. It can be hitting balls on the range. Or swinging a swing trainer like the Orange Whip. Being loose on the first tee gives you a better chance to pipe that first shot down the middle of the fairway.
Golf Digest does an excellent interview with Jordan Speith discussing the importance and benefits of a structured warm up session. He goes into detail on how he warms up and why it’s so valuable. Starting with dialing in his swing for the day and finding the extremes in his misses. You can find that article here, check it out.
Many golfers don’t have the proper course management awareness to get warmed up. But taking this approach leads to better golf and perhaps a birdie putt on the first hole.
#12 Carry your Warm Up Confidence into the Round
One of the great new golfer tips is to finish your warm up putting with 5 made putts in a row. Line up a 3 foot putt and drain 5 in a row to give you that confidence before the round starts. Knowing you want to to finish the warm up this way is a good course management plan.
So much of your proper course management will come from confidently approaching each and every shot. Starting with the putting green.
Watch those last 5 putts drop in the hole on the putting surface. Hear them hit the cup and let that feeling of making those putts in a row sit in your emotions. Stride confidently to the first tee with those thoughts riding high.
This way when you have that 5 foot par putt on the first hole, you can confidently drain it. Setting you up for a great round.
#13 Always use Accurate Yardage
Always use accurate yardage. Thinking the distance you need to hit is about 150 yards is a lot different than knowing it’s 150 yards. The difference between knowing can lead to hitting a good shot and still missing the green.
Using a golf rangefinder or golf GPS is the best way to get these accurate yardages. Measure distances before each shot and KNOW how far you are needing to hit each shot. Where it’s to the back of the green or the front of the green, know your total distance.
Another way you can get accurate distance plans is to print off the google earth image of the golf course. Put this in your yardage book and reference it often to avoid trouble and think like a tour pro.
#14 Aggressive swings
One thing that is amazing about course management is that it’s all inside you. A great example is the making swings that feel free and aggressive.
Always make an aggressive swing. If you are between clubs, take the shorter club and make an aggressive swing. Or choke down on the longer club and make that aggressive swing. Keeping the club moving through the ball will ensure solid impact and a truer line.
Too often golfers try to ease into a shot and create a decelerated swing. This creates many issues. So having the mentality of aggression through each swing will keep the club face moving towards your target.
This can be applied to shots off the tee box, fairway bunkers and shots on the putting surface. The best way to make solid contact is an accelerated swing speed. Definitely a part of solid course strategy and part of our golf hints and tips.
# 15 Simplify your Swing Thought down to One Thought
Have one swing thought and stick it. This is one of my most coveted golf tips for new golfers, having positive golf thoughts.
My favorite swing thought on golf shots is to envision the target and then react to it. Thinking only about that target when you make your move. Whatever your thought is for the day, don’t let others creep in, stick to that ONE thought on each shot.
Commit to that thought and only change it to a different one if you are really, really struggling that day. A couple bad shots here and there should not make you change your swing thought.
#16 Stay Confident
Confidence is a huge part of good course strategy. So approach each shot with confidence, even when playing a new course. If you think it won’t go well, then you likely will be right. Worrying about the hazard or the trees will just bring those thoughts into your process and will interrupt your aggressive swing. Focusing on the target with laser focus will allow your swing to be the best it can that moment.
Don’t look at the hazards like fairway bunkers when you aim, look at your target. Keep your mind focused on where you want the ball to go, not where you don’t want it to go. This keeps your confidence high and focused.
Many golfers struggle with this, seeing the greenside bunker or the danger on the short side and easily wreck their best chance. Often ending up on that dreaded short side they were wanting to avoid in the first place.
#17 Know your Energy Level
Recognize when you get tired and make sure to be extra aggressive. A tired golf swing will decelerate and create bad shots. It is even more important to be aggressive and focused once your body gets tired.
This can take time and observation to really learn yourself. You need to recognize BEFORE you hit a shot while tired. That way you can add that extra level of aggression and focus to that first tired shot.
Pay attention to how sharp you feel mentally and any changes in the pace of your steps. These can be great indications of energy levels.
#18 Commit to Each Shot
A simple good course management tip is to never hit a shot you are unsure of. If you don’t have the confidence to pull it off once you are over the ball, back off and start your pre shot routine over. Commit to the shot and nail it.
Hitting a solid long iron into a par 4 or par 5 will feel great and can give you more confidence to carry around the course the rest of your round.
#19 Know your best
Learn your body rhythm and find what works best for you. Riding or walking. If you pay attention to how you feel you will find that one or the other has a better rhythm for you. Then when the round has big meaning, use the one that works best for you.
Tour players walk, but you don’t have to! Your best strategy maybe different than other people’s.
It’s ok to match the scenario of your playing partners. If you usually walk and they want to ride, it’s not a big deal to hop on the cart and ride too. But if the round has big meaning. Like the club championship or something that is important to you. Stick to what you want and stay in your own preference.
#20 Have Fun
Enjoying what you are doing can do wonders for keeping your brain functioning to it’s max potential. Remembering that this is a game and that you are playing because you like it is super important.
It can help you stay level headed for your next tee shot and ready to bounce back from bad shots or hard holes making it the 20th golf course management tip.
#21 Complete every Read for your Putts
Look at important putts from both sides of the hole. Maybe your normal round doesn’t support this level of study for every putt. And that’s fine.
But when the round matters, take the time to look at your putt from both sides of the hole, walking around the whole putt to get a better feel on what each part of the putt will do.
This really helps identify if it is an uphill putt or a downhill putt.
You will find that the perspective on the other side of the hole may just reveal that 3 inch break that drops it right in the center.
This commitment to the read is a good course management plan that will help you play shots that add up to a great round.
#22 Be Intentional with every hole
Have a golf course strategy for the hole by working backwards from the green. This helps you find where you want each shot to land before you start the hole. Don’t just hit each shot as it comes, have a plan before the hole starts.
This is another way the google earth satellite images printout in your yardage book can be really handy. Draw lines on it before the round. Giving you the birds eye view for each par 4 and par 5 so you can avoid trouble. Whether the trouble is on the left side or the right side, you can see it and plan ahead for your tee shot.
Think about where you want to hit the next shot from. So when teeing off on a par four, think about what angle and distance you want to hit your next shot from. Then play to that location.
Same when hitting onto the green. Think about what putt you want and then hit to that location.
#23 Know your lie before you pick your shot
The way the ball sits in the grass may help determine what club and what type of shot you decide to hit. Don’t assume that the lie is good, check and make sure. Once you know what the lie is like, then plan the shot.
Making a club selection that matches the lie you have and the approach shot you are have in front of you.
#24 Smart Misses by the Green
Missing to the side that the flag is not on can help you avoid being short sided. Giving you a lot of options when chipping up for your par attempt.
Amateur golfers often play shots that are riskier than they should.
Short sided can turn a slightly bad shot into a big number very quickly. But if you plan for the miss to be a more comfortable chip shot with lots of green to work with, that slight miss will not be so bad.
#25 Know the Conditions around you
Know the course conditions before hitting each shot. Know the wind direction and strength. Know the firmness of the green and the fairway in front of the green. Don’t try to bounce up a shot when it’s soft, or try to stop it on a dime when the greens are hard.
Use this information when making your decision on the type of shot you want to hit. Pick a target that matches the conditions so that the ball will end up where you want it even with a big bounce or a gust of wind.
Tour players are always aware of the influence the weather has on every hole. Planning to aim at the left side when the wind is blowing right. Or playing to the back of the green when into the wind.
The way they approach course management for all their golf shots, tee shot down to short iron shot, should be the same as yours.
#26 Aim Small Miss Small
Pick a small target, like a tree trunk in the tree line or a corner of a bunker in the distance rather than the whole fairway. Aiming at a much tighter, smaller target will give you the ability to hit a good, not perfect shot and still be on target.
Then if you miss the target by a little bit, you will still be in the fairway. Or on the green. Getting an accurate yardage is important here, check out our best budget golf rangefinder article for some good priced options.
#27 Use the Whole Tee Box
One of my favorite golf course management tips is to use the whole tee box for your tee shot. If you typically miss with a hook, stand on the left side of the tee box, it will give you a wider option for missing and will improve you chance of finding the fairway. Or if you miss with a slice, tee up on the right side and also improve the chance of hitting the fairway.
By teeing up your golf ball on the smart side of the tee box, you give shot more room to miss to your typical miss side on each tee shot.
Having great drives can lead to more sand wedge shots, which is a great thing when wanting to lower your score with better course management.
#28 Know Where your ball lands
Watch the ball all the way down to the ground. It may sound silly and not like a golf course management tip, but losing a ball can be costly. Don’t count on your playing partners, especially when hitting driver towards a fairway bunker!
This is very critical on a par 4 or par 5 when hitting driver with your tee shot. If the ball is headed towards the right side, follow it so you know where it goes!
Don’t let you eyes drift or move away thinking you know the general area your ball went, make sure you know the exact spot so you can find it and avoid any penalty strokes for a lost ball. Nothing ruins a good round like a lost ball!
#29 Watch Missed Putts
Watch missed putts to see how they break after they pass the hole. A putt that misses and continues a few feet will show you exactly how it’s going to break on your next putt.
Tour players are great at this, staying engaged with each putt as part of their course management.
Use that free visual information to your advantage!
Which of these good course management tips are you going to add to your golf strategy now? How are you going to make smarter decisions during your next round and get that advantage over your competition?
Play short of danger? Find the safer side of the par4 or par 5? Aggressive tee shot with a long iron to find the fairway? Better approach shots or better placed tee shot on a par 4 by knowing the accurate distance?