Golf Strategy: Play Your Game Backwards For Lower Scores

Ken RiceCorrespondent IMay 6, 2009

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 06:  A golfer plays a shot from a bunker during a practice round prior to the start of THE PLAYERS Championship on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on May 6, 2009 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

We amateur golfers are often fixated on the technical aspects of our swing or other direct components of contacting the ball, and many of us actually achieve a measure of success in this. We develop long and even accurate drives, solid ball striking, and effective short games. 

Very often, however, we find that we still can't seem to push through to the lowest scores that bring about club championships or Saturday foursome bragging rights. This is probably due in part to the fact that we are still playing the game on each hole from "tee to green" rather than from the "green back to the tee."

We, who have played this game for more than a few rounds, already know that putting from below the hole is far easier than making a downhill left to right slider or that pitching or chipping up to a short-sided pin is more difficult than one where the pin provides plenty of running room across the green. 

How many of us have listened to the world's best players lament after a poor round that they just weren't hitting the greens in the places that would set up favorable putts? Or that they hadn't placed their drive in the place that would have given them the best angle to attack the pin?

It stands to reason that if the best players are explaining their game's shortcomings in reverse order as the reasons they aren't playing their best, we should consider what this actually means in terms of our own course management.

The key here is that we should think like the pros do and plan each shot by considering the placement of the ball from the "hole back to the tee."

If below the hole is the best place to be to score birdies or save par, we should try to place the ball in the place that gives us the best angle into the green and gets us below the hole. Or, if the angle of approach is on the left side of the fairway, we should aim from the tee for the best landing area on the left that provides the optimal angle for our next shot.

Distance is also key here. It's not always the best strategy to bomb a drive if the landing point is out of position with the best angle for the approach shot. We can't remove strokes for long drives; in fact, there are no additional rewards for shooting beyond the three point line as in that other sport.

Our goal is to make fewer strokes, not higher, so setting up the putt is actually the most important goal we should have in planning our game. A "hole to tee" thought process can get us there.

Ken Rice