Five Strategies For Lower Scores

Change your game without changing your swing

Be Positive4. Be Positive
Are you always positive over every shot? Let me put that question another way: Have you ever pulled out a “water ball” on a par-3 that required a carry over a lake or river or some other type of dangerous hazard? If so, it’s easy to make the case that you weren’t totally committed to a successful outcome, nor were you necessarily brimming with confidence or optimism. While it’s true you need to identify the trouble spots on a particular hole, you also need to sharpen your focus on creating the proper distance, direction and trajectory that will put you in position to score. In order to do that most successfully, it’s crucial to focus on what you want to do before hitting your shot, not on what you don’t want to do.

Here’s a simple test. Close your eyes and try not to think about a red apple. If you’re like most people, a red apple is just what pops into your mind. You see, your mind doesn’t understand “don’t.” If you give yourself a cue not to do something, like hitting the ball in the water, out of bounds, or hitting it fat, generally one of two things will happen: 1) the power of suggestion will take over and you’ll actually do what it was that you were trying to avoid, or 2) you’ll compensate with a swing motion that sends the ball in the opposite direction of the trouble and into just as bad a situation.

To develop a more positive attitude, try this preshot routine. Start by evaluating the lie, the distance of the shot, the wind strength and direction, and take note of any obstacles or hazards. Visualize a successful outcome of the shot and take a single practice swing to restore the feeling of the swing you would like to make. Once you’re over the ball, commit to the shot, focus on your target and let it go. Practice this technique consistently and you’ll soon find the quality of your shots improving.

5. Know When To Leave The Driver In The Bag, Baby
The key to good driving isn’t producing long hits. Instead, good drivers of the golf ball always put themselves into position for the next shot. To accomplish this seemingly simple task, it’s important to realize you don’t always have to hit a driver. When selecting the appropriate club to hit off the tee, it’s best to start by deciding how long a second shot you want to leave yourself. For example, if you’re playing a short par-4, say, 350 yards, use the distance of an average-length shot (250 yards) with your driver to calculate your yardage into the green. In this example, you’ll only have approximately 100 yards left to the green, provided you hit the fairway. Realistically, you might be better off using your 3-wood and hitting the ball 230 yards, which would leave only 120 yards to the green. Although the distance for the second shot is slightly longer, a fairway wood is generally easier to control than a driver, which makes finding the fairway more likely.

Remember that the most important thing is getting the ball in play, not hitting it as far as possible. Lean toward choosing the club you hit most accurately, and your results will generally be better.

Another situation where you can leave the driver in the bag is when you’re faced with a long par-5 that you know you won’t be able to reach in two shots, even with your best drive and fairway wood into the green. You have a better chance at par, or even birdie, if you keep your tee shot in play with a fairway wood or long iron. This way, you have a chance to lay up to a comfortable distance for your third shot without having to hit any unnecessarily risky shots.

Lana Ortega is a Class-A LPGA member and director of instruction at the McGetrick Golf Academy ( in Denver, Colo.


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