By Paul Finch, Coach, International Golf Institute
I would like to take this opportunity to talk to about a how better course management could take a few shots off your next round. Course management is one of the most important elements of the game of golf but it is also one that is underestimated by many club golfers.
When we talk about course management, we are discussing how a player manages his way around the golf course. For many this is hit it as far as possible and then play from wherever the ball finishes, or take on every flag no matter where it might be placed on the green. as we know, the golf course has many penalty areas and the less time we spend in these, then, hopefully the better our score will be.
I have looked at Holes 2 and 3 at NSRCC Changi, two good par 5’s that as you know, require a bit more thinking than hit and hope.
The approach to hole 2 is not an easy one, bunkers and water on either side. Challenging with a wedge in hand, even more difficult with 6 or 7. I would look at this scenario and assess what would be the safest option to keep my ball in play but also close to the pin.
Playing towards the pin does not always get you the lowest score therefore for this approach, with the pin in the middle of the green, I would play to the biggest portion of the green away from the water. If i was slightly left or right of that then I would be ok. If I was slightly left while going for the pin, I would either be in the water or long left.
Picking the correct club is also key. Having a putter in your hand is better than a wedge so if you are between clubs for your shot to the green, pick the one you will commit to more and stick with it. If you finish a little beyond your landing zone on the green, you will still have a putt vs a tricky little chip because you finished short with the other club.
Hole 3 is another challenging hole that makes you think about your club selection not just off the tee but for the rest of the hole until you reach the green.
I will focus mainly on the shot that I believe is the most important when saving strokes. For some this would be the second shot, for others the 3rd. Over the water playing to a green with water on nearly every side. A very tough shot with water in front of you, bunkers splitting the fairway into two and playing into a narrow green.
This is where managing how you play the hole is very important. as we have said before, sometimes playing away from the hole is often the best option.
I would work back from the green at this point to see how I could get close to the hole and where I could achieve this from.
This is where playing to your strengths is key when thinking about course management. Going straight towards the hole with a long iron, hybrid or even 3 metal brings into play all the of the penalty areas, the areas we are most trying to avoid. It also means we are taking on the green from a difficult angle.
Playing away from the hole and left of the bunkers takes us away from danger but also, more importantly gives us a better shot straight down the green. Don’t get me wrong, I'm all for the aggressive pin seeking play however, if we haven’t warmed up and the swing is feeling good, pin seeking early on with so much water in play can lead to big numbers that would ruin a scorecard.
Another element to remember is that these holes are par 5’s, meaning a green in regulation for that hole is 3 shots and with handicap that number only ever increases, never decreases. So even if the guys on tour are hitting par 5s in two, they know when they can and when they need to lay up to give themselves the best opportunity to make a good score.
Think about that the next time you play those holes and if you playing a friendly game, give it a try, see if you come away with a few strokes less because you didn’t go for the flag directly. It should be better because you didn’t go for the hole directly. Have fun!
Article first published in NSRCC magazine Resort View, Mar/Apr 2021 issue.
Paul Finch has been a member of the British PGA for the past 10 years and has held various positions within the golf industry. He thoroughly enjoys coaching and this has been his passion throughout his career. Read more about him here!