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Golf Tips from a Pro: Effective course management

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Mark Wehrman, PGA, hitting a 3 metal off of the tee versus utilizing a driver for positioning purposes at Wolf Creek golf course in Mesquite, Nevada. PHOTO BY GINGER WEHRMAN

By Mark Wehrman EBS CONTRIBUTOR

Are you close to reaching your goals but just can’t get over the last hurdle? Is there one part of your game that continues to hold you back from reaching your scoring goals? Do you have goals for your game like being a better putter, breaking a personal scoring record, or just having more fun? I am asking these questions because it might not be a change in your swing or putting stroke that is needed to achieve your goals, instead it could simply be better course management. 

As I was talking with one my staff today about his goal of breaking par this summer, I realized that in my opinion, he doesn’t need to change his swing or stroke to realize his goal, he just needs to get better at managing his game around the course.

So, what is course management? In a nutshell, having good course management means making sensible decisions that have minimal risk. Things like aligning yourself to the target, where if you mishit your shot you are not penalized, and even club selection are examples of proper course management. 

Here at Big Sky golf course we should always be playing short of the hole when hitting your shot to the green. Why you may ask? Because all of our greens slope from back to front so, if you miss long then getting up and down for par is almost impossible from behind the green as the slope is running away from you. 

Other course management practices include playing a predominant ball flight, meaning don’t try to play a draw with every shot on the course if you normally fade the ball. The old adage I learned when I was a junior golfer growing up was “dance with the lady you brought.” This means you can’t try to change your game on the course, but instead go with the shot that comes naturally.  

When I conduct lessons on the course with students, I am always right next to them for every shot, asking questions such as, why they’re aimed where they are? What if you miss to the right or left and, if you do, are you going to be in trouble? 

Another thing we emphasize is club selection. If your ball is in the deep rough, you shouldn’t be trying to hit a 3-wood but instead using a short-lofted iron to get yourself back in play. If you are between clubs, what is your rationale for making a club choice? Are you looking at the trouble around the green? 

Big Sky golf course sits at 6300 feet elevation and because of the thinner air we breathe, we should generally be taking the lesser of the two clubs, so we don’t miss long, for the reason I mentioned earlier. 

Many times, I notice that golfers select a club based off of that one time when they hit that club perfect. But what about all of the times you didn’t hit it perfect? How far did it go then? Does that club normally curve to the right or left? These are all questions we need to ask ourselves before deciding on a club.

The final piece of the puzzle are unforeseen factors like wind, soft and dry conditions, uphill and downhill shots with significant elevation changes, and weather. Wind will obviously affect a golf ball and the choice between more or less club to compensate is vital. 

If the golf course conditions are dry then the ball will roll a little more and transversely, if the conditions are wet then there won’t be a large roll after the ball lands. If you have a significant elevation change then you will need to choose more or less club to compensate. 

If you are hitting into a strong head wind, are you teeing the ball lower? If you are down wind, are you teeing the ball higher? A majority of the time, these outside factors will make or break your round. One misjudgment or miscalculation can make all the difference. So, the bottom line is analyzing and managing play throughout the course will most likely lead to less mistakes and hopefully help you reach your goals.

Mark Wehrman is the Head Golf Professional at the Big Sky Resort Golf Course and has been awarded the PGA Horton Smith Award recognizing PGA Professionals who are model educators of PGA Golf Professionals.

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