Mental Mondays: Play Conservatively
The conservative play rarely is the most exciting, but for higher handicappers, it’s usually the route to lower scores. While it’s true that great reward sometimes lies at the end of a risky shot, it isn’t true often enough. More generally, bad decisions and poor shots compound, and a sure bogey turns into a round destroying triple.
So leave the swashbuckling to Phil Mickelson and play for the sure thing.
Sometimes the decision is obvious. One recurring situation has a player with his ball behind a tree line. Here, there often are two clear choices: take a risk and try to advance the ball through a narrow gap, or choose the safer chip sideways (or even backwards) through a larger opening. Playing the safer chip absolutely will add a shot to his total, but it also will eliminate the possibility of hitting a tree and bouncing the ball further into the woods, thus ballooning the score.
Another is the ball-in-a-steep-bunker scenario. Playing it forward to the green is possible, but risks clipping the top and forcing the same play over (and over, and over). A choice that could ultimately result in a lower score would be to play back out of the less steep front, and then forward to the green.
Other situations are less obvious, and thus more problematic. Fairway shots to an open green often defy analysis. If all options seem equal, choose the play that makes the following shot less risky.
Around the green, a friend of mine has a couple of rules for conservative play: “Never chip when you can putt. Never pitch when you can chip. Never take a full swing when you can pitch.” Given an open path to the hole, Paul will putt the ball to the green from as far away as forty yards.
Playing conservatively is tough, though. It requires a great deal of mental discipline and the ability to shrug off your partners questioning your manhood.
About This Series:
In 1960, the average golf score was 100. Forty years later, in spite of all the innovations in clubs, balls and instruction, the average golf score is ... still 100. In fact, only 20 percent of all golfers will ever break that mark.
Here’s the problem: Even with all the improvements, the one thing we haven’t been able to improve is the golf intelligence of the players. Most hackers—and more than a few better players—just play dumb golf. So here’s part one of a series on playing smarter golf. I’ve been collecting mental game golf tips for years in a series of notebooks, on my palm pilot and in various computer files. They’ve helped my game. I know they’ll help yours
This tip is an excerpt from The Five Inch Course: Thinking Your Way To Better Golf. The complete book is available in Kindle format at Amazon.com.
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Mental Golf Tips