If you play golf, you will experience an occasional blow-up hole. The secret to becoming a better golfer is to minimize these disaster holes. Here are a number of strategies to help you become a better golfer:
• Use the 70% rule: Don’t try a shot on the course that you haven’t practiced. If you can pull it off 7 out of 10 times in practice, go for it on the course.
• Practice recovery shots: You need to learn how to hit a ball high and low. Getting out of trouble means learning how to curve the ball from left to right and right to left.
• Take only one risk per hole: If you were aggressive off the tee and got in trouble, then you need to be conservative on your next shot. It might mean chipping it back into the fairway.
• On tee shots, always play short of trouble. If hitting a driver can get you into a fairway bunker, then hit a fairway wood or hybrid off the tee.
• Firing at the flagstick is not always a smart play. Picking a safe target on the green can eliminate big numbers. For example, if the flagstick is tucked behind a bunker in the front of the green, then play one extra club and hit to the back of the green.
• If you are going to lay-up on a hole, lay up to a number that you can hit well. It is easier to hit a 100-yard shot than a 40- to 60-yard pitch.
• Always tee off on the side of trouble. For example, if there is out-of-bounds on the left side of the hole, tee off on the extreme left of the tee box and swing away from trouble.
• Don’t live in the past. You can’t change your previous shot so focus on the shot at hand.
• Before executing a shot, using the word “don’t” can cause you problems. For example, if you say “Don’t hit it in the water,” your brain hears “Hit it in the water.” Always be positive and tell yourself what you want to do.
• Your body language and self-talk is important after a bad shot. It can influence how you feel inside and cause you to hit another bad shot. Take a cleansing breath and walk to your ball slowly with your head high and shoulders back.
• Finally, expect that you are going to hit a bad shot or get a bad bounce during your round of golf. Remember that you cannot change the past so concentrate on hitting your next shot back into play. This will help keep those disastrous holes off your scorecard.
Dr. Jean Harris is an LPGA Master Professional and teaches at local courses. email@example.com; golfdoctorjean.com