Course Management Secrets: The Ultimate Guide on How to Navigate the Course Like a Seasoned Pro

If you have ever watched professionals play the game and wondered why it looks so much different for them, the answer could be in the course management.

Course management is a major factor in how well you score, and most amateurs do a poor job of managing it. Luckily, there are some course management secrets that you may not have implemented into your game just yet.

Try these to see if it makes a difference in your next round. 

Sometimes Straight Is Better Than Far 

There are certain holes on the golf course where it makes sense to hit the ball as far as you possibly can. If you get enough distance maybe you give yourself a shot at hitting the green in two or making a birdie on the hole. 

However, there are other holes where hitting the ball straight is more important. 

Your job as a golfer is to decide which type of hole you are playing. If straight makes more sense than far, use a 3-wood or 5-wood to get the ball in the fairway. If the fairway is tight and hitting it further just means a pitching wedge into the green vs. an 8 iron, go with the straight shot. 

Pay Close Attention To the Risk vs. Reward 

It’s very easy to get hung up on the reward and focus on all the good that can happen when you hit over the water, over a tree, or out of a fairway bunker with a fairway wood. However, in most situations, these shots involve too much risk and likely won’t pay off. 

Pay close attention to the risk vs. reward in the golf shots that you hit. 

You’ll want to keep the risk to a minimum most of the time. 

Try to play shots that you know you could hit 6/10 times. Great players may not hit shots unless they know they could hit them 8/10 times. 

You’ll Need A Basic Fade and Draw 

Hitting the golf ball straight is helpful. However, not every shot you need on the course will be a straight one. Instead you must also know how to hit a draw or a fade at times. 

The easiest way to do this is to change your stance and grip. You won’t have to think so much about your swing path. 

Shot TypeClub FaceGripTarget AlignmentBall PositionWeight DistributionSwing Finish
DrawClosed relative to pathStrengthen (rotate hands to the right)Align body right of targetBack in stanceMore on back footHigh finish
FadeOpen relative to pathWeaken (rotate hands to the left)Align body left of targetForward in stanceMore on front footLow finish

Do Some Pre Round Planning 

Have you ever planned a round of golf? Thought about where you would hit every shot and then attempt to follow that plan specifically for the full 18 holes? 

You won’t hit all the shots you plan on hitting, but you may hit some of them. Pre round planning helps you stay focused on the task at hand and make better decisions on the course. If you have a golf GPS just scroll through it and think about each hole and where it’s best to hit your drive or your approach. 

You will start to learn that some holes are just not worth playing, and a layup may make more sense. In addition, you may find that going for the center of the green is better than taking direct aim at the pin. 

All of this is made possible thanks to smart pre-round planning. 

Without golf GPS, you can easily just mentally play through your home course in your head. 

Analyze Every Lie 

Part of your pre-shot routine should be analyzing every lie you have. Analyzing your lie can help ensure you choose the right club and give yourself the best chance at a good shot. 

Professionals will use their stock full-swing shot when they have a great lie. However, if the lie is tight or the ball sits in the rough, they adjust. Here are a few tips to help you adjust to any lie on the golf course. 

Type of LieClub SelectionSwing AdjustmentBall Position
Tight LieLess lofted clubShallow swing to avoid too much groundCenter to slightly back
Deep RoughMore lofted clubSteeper swing to cut through grassSlightly forward to help lift
Uphill LieClub with more loftSweeping swing to utilize slopeCenter to help launch
Downhill LieClub with less loftCompact swing to ensure contactBack in stance to control trajectory
Sidehill Lie (Ball above feet)Standard clubChoke up on the club for controlNormal
Sidehill Lie (Ball below feet)Standard clubWiden stance for stabilityNormal

Read The Green Before You Get There 

Another course management secret is to think about where you want to putt from as you are hitting your approach shot. 

Most golfers wait until their ball is on the green to read the green. However, for the best course management you should be doing some green reading from the fairway. 

Take a close look at how the green is sloped. Look for any tiers on the green where the pin may be high or low, and pay very close attention to the slope from front to back. 


The goal is to leave yourself a makeable putt, even if that puts you a little further from the pin. The best putts to have are straight uphill. 

Narrow Down Your Distances

Do you know what your 150-yard club is? How about your 145 or 147 club? 

Golfers who excel at course management have a strong understanding of how far they can hit every club in their bag. Most amateur players think of their clubs in 10-yard increments, which is standard. 

However, you need to know how to hit the in-between shots as well. 

Spend some time at the driving range with a launch monitor. Take a close look at your normal carry distances for each club and record them. Also look at the total distance. Make yourself a chart so you know exactly what to expect on the course. 

For those in between yardages, try choking down on the club a little bit to see if it helps you decrease yardage in 5-yard increments.  

Study The Round When It’s Done 

Finally in order to get better at golf course management you have to pay close attention to your stats. At the end of the round you should be studying where you made good decisions and where those decisions were poor. 

All rounds of golf will produce some tough breaks or bad lies, and there is nothing you can do about that. 

The question is whether or not you were putting yourself in situations that helped or hurt your game. 

Take some notes, start a golf journal and try to learn from every round you play. If you get to play the same course often, it won’t be hard to make adjustments to the way you play the course over time. 

Final Thoughts 

Poor golf course management is costing you strokes. Start to be more aware and more methodical about your approach to playing the golf course. It’s not an accident that professionals manage a course so well. They make good decisions and put in the time to practice and learn. 

The Golf Bandit
The Golf Bandit

Hi, I'm Jan. I love golf and I have been playing for a while now. I really enjoy trying out new golf clubs and equipment, and like to review them on my blog. I consider myself lucky as I have access to the latest clubs and gadgets, so I can get a feel for how they perform on the golf course. I also like to share my tips and tricks on how to improve your game, so if you're looking for help with that then look no further! Thanks for visiting, and I hope you find something useful here.

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