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Learning to Score Through On-Course Games

By Brendon Elliott, PGA
Published on

There is a major difference between the process of learning to become proficient in the various techniques required in golf and the process of learning to become a player that can produce low scores on the course. Most golfers understand that becoming better, from a technical standpoint, requires time on the range, at the short game area, or on the practice putting green.
Becoming a better “Player” however, and shooting lower scores requires playing on the course and learning how to manage one’s own game on the field of play. There is absolutely a major difference between the two. If you are a golfer that has been playing for some time, you have surely experienced days where you have hit the ball good, but your score did not quite reflect the way you played overall. Perhaps, you had one really bad hole, yet played well the rest of the way…or maybe you could not buy a putt but otherwise hit the ball well, and chipped and pitched well.
One thing that is common for many golfers that will almost certainly hurt the final score on the card is focusing too much on technique or mechanics on the course. Working on those technical aspects that you are working on in practice, while you are on the course, takes your focus off scoring. When you are on the course, for the most part, your focus should be on a routine, and a target. That is really it. Perhaps one other “swing thought” but nothing that is too technical. This idea of “Playing” golf rather than “Playing” golf swing gets lost with many golfers. In addition, personal expectations that are too high while playing on the course and trying things that you are simply not capable of currently, will hinder the ability to shoot lower scores. Worrying too much about the distance you hit the ball or the club you use to get a shot up on the green also hurts many golfers.
So, what can you do to learn how to score on the golf course, regardless of where you are at from a technical standpoint currently? Below is an example of an on-course game you can play while out on the links that will help you change your mindset and get you more into the mode of “playing” golf rather than “playing” golf swing…
3 Club Challenge
This one is simple. Go out on the course for a quick 9 late in the day but only play with 3 clubs of your choosing. You could also do three clubs plus your putter if that helps you feel a little more secure. The idea is to just play, have fun, and because you have fewer clubs, expectations lower and more creativity comes out as you play. You will find that you become OK with things not necessarily looking pretty, especially if you figure out a way to advance the ball and get it into the hole. You are simply playing and trying to get the ball in the hole…which is pretty much the essence of playing golf anyway. Don’t be surprised if you play better than you would have thought…I see that happen a lot when I have students do this challenge.
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