Four Tips for Playing an Unfamiliar Golf Course
Got a round of golf tomorrow on a course you’ve never played before? Here is some advice to keep you from becoming a casualty out there.
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So your office buddies invited you out to their favorite course-one you haven’t played-and are intent on beating you into the turf after hearing that you’re a decent golfer. Whether there’s a $5 Nassau or not, there are a few fundamental strategies to contemplate if you intend on hustling a few extra bucks out of your buddies or if you’re just flat out trying not to make a fool out of yourself.
For one, do some online research. Map engines such as Google Earth are fantastic for mapping out a new golf course; it is a great substitute if you don’t have a golf GPS device. The key, obviously, is to obtain a satellite image of the course you’re about to play. Engines like Google Earth even come with measurement tools so you can map out yardages to specific points on the course. This allows you to get a roundabout feel for the clubs you’ll pull on doglegs or par 5s to the extent that you can effectively chart out an entire round. Of course, you’ll have to compensate for elevation changes and course conditions the morning of, but it is perhaps the closest thing to having a caddie’s notebook prior to game day.
Secondly, make sure you warm up. This is really a no-brainer: go to the range if available before the round, make sure you hit a few balls the day before to groove your swing, do your stretches, have a good breakfast, get that cup of coffee or that bottle of 5 Hour Energy, and visit the putting green. Hopefully you already have a similar routine, but if you think you can just mosey onto the first tee on a new course without feeling any nerves, you’re kidding yourself.
Third, putt to a radius around the cup on mid to long range putts. Again, this should be a general strategy, but it’s an easy one to forget on a new course, especially if you’re on in regulation and trying to drop a birdie on your buddies within the first few holes. Greens encompass a great deal of a course’s “character.” Yes, others may point you to the signature hole or the high fescue, but rest assured the greens make the course. Tee boxes may be in pristine condition, fairways may undulate or streamline, the sand may be powder or clay, but usually the most significant variant between golf courses is the quality of their greens. There will be subtle breaks unseen by the first time patron and speed channels that can surprise and torment a solid putter with several three-putts. As a result, you have to make an extra effort to play more conservatively on the greens of a new course, to know when to go at the birdie putts, and to have a short memory when (not if) things don’t quite go your way.
Fourth, add five strokes to your normal handicap. If you don’t like the sound of that, then add about ten points to the slope rating of the course. Yes, golf is a game of pride, but it is also important to stay realistic. If you normally shoot in the mid 80s during a solid round on your home course, aim for a 90 on a new course. Relative to the previous point, you will probably give up those five strokes on the putting green, so focus on a steady driving, iron, and wedge game. Lowering your standards just a tad will also alleviate some of the pressure going forward, and there is no reason why you can’t go out there and still shoot a low number.
If you can incorporate these four ideas into your new course routine, you will have a better time playing your game on an unfamiliar track. Who knows-you may even humble the guys who thought they’d have an easy time taking your dollars in the parking lot.