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How to Tackle a Tough Course: A Strong Mentality

By Brendon Elliott, PGA
Published on

hane Lowry during the The Honda Classic at PGA National Resort And Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.Getty Images

Pretty much right out of the gate on Thursday, Daniel Berger was off and running on what is typically a very, very demanding PGA National Champion Course. The Honda Classic, year in and year out, proves to be one of those courses that really puts the best in the game to the test. Aside from Berger’s -11 par 54-hole total, and three consecutive rounds in the 60’s (65-65-69), the course has only seen 17 players finding an under par, 54-hole total.
The round of the day on Saturday went to a guy who has a history of playing tough courses well. The 2019 Champion Golfer of the Year, Shane Lowry, with his 4 birdies and only 1 dropped shot, posted a -3, 67.
“They (the greens) are firm and open, and just crusty…and around the hole is pretty difficult. It’s quite hard to get a 25-footer to not go past it and to get the right speed. Its just tricky. Its playing great though, I really like the way its playing…In a weird way its quite enjoyable out there…Its such a tough test…I feel like personally, that its too many weeks we play where its 20, 25 under winning tournaments, so for me this is more enjoyable than that.” Lowry said.
Lowry, like others that tend to play hard courses well, usually equate that success to mindset. “You gotta take both the good breaks and those bad breaks on the chin and just move on…just shot the best score you can” Lowry said in a post 3rd round interview.
With Shane’s thoughts in mind, I wanted to give you a few tips on how to play tough courses well, or at least better than your playing partners.
Manage Your Expectations
This really goes to the top of my list to get a golfer into the right state of mind before any round of golf, tough course or easy one. You must be realistic about your abilities and what you are capable of. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take chances here and there, or that you shouldn’t try your very best throughout the round, but rather, just focus on being realistic about what is possible.
Let the Bad Holes Go
You need to understand that the bad holes will come. Your goal is simply to accept them when they happen and move on. There is nothing worse than compounding the situation by dwelling on a previous bad hole and not being able to focus on the next one.
Focus on Tempo
Hard golf courses usually mean having to play some long and tough holes. The temptation to hit it hard may happen in situations such as:
  • Holes that require a long tee ball, in order to give you a chance of hitting a shorter iron in on your approach.
  • A long par three over water, requiring a long iron or hybrid. You must fight that urge. Swinging smooth and in good tempo should be your focus.
Be Extra Careful on the Greens
Like this week at PGA National, tough courses sometimes mean fast and tricky greens. Make sure you look from all sides of the hole for any potential areas that a simple look from down the line may not show you. Also, watch what is happening with your playing partners putts, you can never have too much info on what a putt may do. Once you have your decision in your mind for your putt, lock it in, be confident and go for it!
Have Fun
I can not ever stress this enough…Have Fun! It’s a game, and if you are a golfer, the game should always be something that brings you joy…don’t ever forget that!