Golf Course Management Tips & Strategy To Improve Your Game

We hear about the tactics of different sports like football and rugby but have you ever considered it for golf? Golf course management is very much how we golfers can consider our approach to around or a course and how we want to actually manage our way round the course.

It is about planning, about knowing your game and having an honest discussion with yourself about how that fits with whatever course you are playing. Have you ever considered how your game fits with a course? You should, it will save you shots, read on to learn more.

New clubs and new distances

Last year I changed my irons and moved away from my much beloved Wilson Staff FC Tour 100 blades to TaylorMade irons. I needed a bit more forgiveness in my game but by changing clubs, all my distances changed and it was hilarious.

On my first round out I was flying over greens and getting myself in places I had never been, both short and long. It was a great example of how important it is to get to know your yardages.

What is course management in under 100 words

Course management is the golfer’s way of learning his/her game so that they can make good decisions on the course. It is choosing the right club, choosing the right shot and plotting your way around the course. Good golf course management is about attacking when it is right to do so, playing conservatively when it is sensible and knowing when these moments come in a round. It is something that elite golfers work hard on as it is the best way to prevent throwing away silly shots on the course.

5 key aspects of course management

#1 Knowing your yardages

Could you honestly tell me your distances right now? Could you confidently tell me how far your 8 iron would go? If not then this is the place you absolutely have to start. I see so many golfers these days with yardage watches or laser guns yet they don’t know their own yardages.

Book some time onto a launch monitor and work through your bag. Hit 10 shots with each club, take your average distance and get rid of any really bad shots. Write these numbers down and repeat this at least once a year.

#2 Tracking your data

This is a similar point to above and is all about knowing your own game. Do you know if you tend to miss fairways left or right, do you miss putts in a certain spot more often? These are all things you should know to help you plan out a round.

Course management is about playing to the percentages. If you know that you have a tendency to miss to the right from the tee, then when you see danger our there you can choose a club that will avoid it. Tracking your data helps you avoid trouble beforehand.

#3 Playing to your strengths

I love my sand wedge, it makes me feel great when it is in my hand and I usually hit good shots with it. I have learned that by tracking my data which has given me confidence with this club. If ever I need to lay-up on a hole, I leave myself a good sand wedge distance for my approach.

Playing to your strengths can be any part of your game but that’s where you put the pressure on a hole or on a round. Maybe you’re a good putter and just play for greens in regulation. Whatever it is, learn where the strengths of your golf game are and use them.

#4 Think through the round

Formula 1 drivers memorise the track they are driving and constantly go over it in their heads. You can get a lot out of your round by doing this yourself for a golf course. Think about where the perfect tee shot is on each hole and how you will get round the course.

Visualisation helps you come up with “plan A” and you can think about how to plot your way around the course. You can even do this online before you play a new course, this is something I find really helpful.

#5 Learn from your mistakes

Another great thing to do that many don’t is to debrief after the round. Have a think about any big course management mistakes you made and how you could have avoided it. Think more about the good decisions you made and how you could do more of that.

This is a learning process and you will only get out of it what you put in. Pay attention to the times in a round that you make mistakes too, maybe you get sloppy in the final holes or maybe nerves get you edgy at the start. Tracking data and revisiting rounds once they are done will help uncover these trends.

5 tips for proper course management

#1 Play safe, not aggressive

Watching tour players hit miraculous shots is great but you need to think if it is a 1/100 shot for you before you commit to something reckless. Playing safe doesn’t need to mean playing boring, it just means that you should play shots that you know you can pull off almost every time, this will save you buckets of shots.

#2 Find out your “go to” clubs

What clubs do you feel great about as soon as you pick them up? If you don’t know then you need to figure it out. These are the clubs you should lean on most and try to give yourself as many shots as possible with. If a club makes you feel confident then that is something to use to your advantage.

#3 Lay-up to your favourite distances

Even from the early days of golfing, we all start to learn a distance that we feel comfortable hitting to the green from. For me, I love to be 120-125 yards from the flag, it’s the perfect gentle gap wedge. Learn what your yardage is and when you can’t reach the green, try to leave yourself that distance.

#4 Improve your putting

We putt on almost every hole we ever play, this is where you can really change your scorecard. Working on your putting as a priority will help you drop shots and keep the momentum going in your round. Great putting skills can never be undervalued.

#5 Aim for the middle of the green

Jack Nicklaus always said that golfers should aim for the middle of the green, he’s right. Pin positions can be used to sucker you into hitting it into danger, aiming for the middle of the green helps you avoid that. Aim for the middle part of the putting surface toward to flag to give yourself safer birdie chances.

What to do when you’re having a bad round – knock it down

The knock down shot is one that every golfer should have in their bag. Not only does this help wind-proof your game, but it is perfect for when things aren’t going so well in your swing. The knockdown is a slow and abbreviated swing that helps take spin off the ball.

Sometimes we show up and our swing just isn’t working well, we’ve all had those days. This is when you want to pair it back to the knock down for a few shots to get your confidence back. Hit a few fairways and find some greens in regulation, reset and get going again.

What to do when you’re having a great round – let rip

When your swing is feeling great and you know you can’t miss, embrace it and let it fly. These are the days when everything is a green light and you really want to take advantage. Cut the corner on the dogleg, attack that pin, go and enjoy that feeling.

Days like this on the golf course feel phenomenal, you feel invincible. Try to remember how you act during these times so you can bring them into your other days on the course. Golf is a mental game.

Improve your weak points with lessons

Golf lessons are the best way to improve your golf swing and technique. The most underrated type of lesson though is the playing lesson. Have you ever had one?

This involves you and your coach getting out on the course together for nine holes whilst he/she takes a look at how you apply you game to the course. You will always learn some great course management tips during these lessons, do these fairly regularly.

Getting clubs to match your style and swing speed

A lot of what we’re discussing here requires consistency in how you strike the ball. In order to do that you need to trust your equipment is right for you and that you have the best chance to be consistent.

To help you with this, get yourself a custom fitting session and also have some do a gapping session with you. When you buy new clubs you want to make sure they are made for you and by doing gapping you can make sure that the lofts are uniformed to ensure consistency through the bag in terms of shot distance.

Your balls matter too

I have spoken here before about how important it is to have the right golf ball for your game. In terms of course management, playing the same ball and getting to know it is a great way to improve your consistency on the course.

Learning how much a ball spins with wedge shots, how high it flies and all performance characteristics will really help you manage your rounds. Repeatable golf is better golf.

Best devices for tracking your game

Arccos Smart Trackers

Arccos Smart Sensors 1

Imagine being able to play golf as normal then getting tour standard stats after your round on every shot you hit. That’s exactly what you’ll get from Arccos Smart Trackers, an incredible system that will teach you more about you game than you ever thought possible. These small sensors just sit at the butt-end of your grip and will help revolutionise your understanding of your golf game.

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The Garmin S62 Watch

Garmin Approach S62 2

Knowing how far you are from hazards is a key aspect of good course management. The Garmin S62 Watch is a great piece of kit for helping you effortless navigate and plan out your golf. This watch has all of the details of over 41,000 courses so you’re all set and it also helps you track club stats.

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ShotScope V3

The latest version of the incredible ShotScope is by far their best yet. The ShotScope V3 is a great watch that automatically tracks your shots, you tell the system what club you are using with small sensors that go into the heel of the club. After your round you will see a map of the course with your shots overlaid on the map, it is an incredibly powerful tool to help you visualise your game.

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18Birdies App

18 Birdies Golf App

This is a free app that can help you track some basic stats as well as being a social network dedicated to golfers. 18Birdies lets you track if you are missing fairways left or right, how you are getting on out of bunkers, scoring averages and many more great stats. It is the best way to quickly start learning about your golf game.


The key to good golf course management is knowing your game well. Once you know how far you hit each club and where you tend to miss, you can start planning your way around courses. You will know what hazards you can and can’t take on, you will know what distances to lay up and you will know what flags you can go after.

Knowing my game, I use a traffic light system to help me out on the course. A red light shot is too dangerous to attack and requires the most conservative shot. Amber is proceed with caution and green light mean attack mode. Come up with your own system and watch how much your golf game improves.