Ways To Improve Your Golf On-Course Decision Making Skills

Author: Jomathews


Are you a good golfer with bad habits? Or a bad golfer with good habits? That answer probably hinges on your ability to make split-second decisions on the golf course. Because let’s be real: Putting and chipping are nearly worthless if you can’t think quickly and react even faster. If your game is getting stale, check out these tips for improving your on-course decision-making and resetting your swing. These strategies will help you get out of sticky situations with ease, so you never have to worry about making par again. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, everyone can benefit from some on-course strategy. Whether you’re working on your first par-5 or trying to shave a few strokes off your next tournament round, these tips will help you get the most out of your next trip around the course. From booking practice rounds to pre-round routines, there’s something here for every golfer. When you’re done, be sure to let us know in the comments which tips you found most helpful. Golf has its roots in philosophy, after all. By learning how to think like the pros, you can grow as both a player and an individual.


Know your distances


For a start, you should know how far the average distance of each club is. Especially the ones you use most often. By keeping a mental distance tally, you’ll be able to quickly select the right club for the job. You’ll be able to read the course more effectively and have a better understanding of how to employ a strategy on each hole. Knowing distances will also help you select the right club in tricky wind and weather conditions. The majority of professional golfers have a laser rangefinder in their bag. This makes it easy to keep track of the course’s nuances, so you can adapt to almost any situation. If a laser rangefinder isn’t in the budget, you can always take a few practice swings with each club to mark the distance or find the distance yourself with a tape measure. You just won’t be able to access this info as quickly. If you struggle with distances, make sure to practice with your course’s markers in mind.


Develop a short game strategy


How you approach and execute shots around the green can either make or break your game. If you’re not sure what you’re doing in this area, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Most good golfers have their own method for chipping and pitching shots, but the basics remain the same for most amateurs.  


  • Chipping - With chipping, make sure your hands are ahead of the ball, and the club is behind it (normal address). This allows you to hit down on the ball and create a backspin, which will stop the ball from rolling too far. 
  • Pitching - With pitching, make sure your hands are behind the ball and the club head is ahead of it (reverse address). This allows you to hit up on the ball and create a topspin, which shortens the distance the ball travels. 
  • Long putts - With long putts, make sure your hands are ahead of the ball and the club is behind it. This allows you to hit down on the ball and create a soft roll.


Focus on key shots


There are certain shots that occur surprisingly often on the golf course. These shots are also the most likely to cause you trouble, so it’s important to have a plan of action. Here are a few of the most common shots and how to execute them correctly: 

  • Making sand save - When your ball ends up in a bunker, your first instinct might be to hit it out as quickly as possible. But that’s rarely the best option. The best way to deal with a bunker shot is to take your time and think about the shot. 
  • Shortening a long par 3 - When your ball lands on a short par 3, you have a few choices as to how to approach the shot. You can hit a normal shot and try to get a hole in one, or you can hit a low, skimming shot that stops quickly and gives you a birdie chance. 
  • Longing a short par 4 - On a short par 4, you’ll want to hit a longer approach shot to give you enough distance to get to the pin.


Be confident in your shot selection


Once you’ve got your short game strategy down, you need to be confident in your shot selection. Being selective and confident in your shots will help you avoid putting yourself in difficult situations. Confidence in your shots can help you get the most out of each shot and make sure you are in the best position to make a successful putt. Confidence in your shot selection can also help you avoid negative thoughts that might cause you to choke. Which shot you play will likely depend on the lie you’re given. There’s no set rule for this. The best way to see which shot is best is to practice various lies on the range. With time, you’ll be able to quickly identify which lie you’re given and know how to respond. With confidence in your game around the greens, you won’t have to worry as much about missing a shot because you’ll be able to correct whatever mistake you’ve made instead of letting it take root and grow.


Don’t be afraid to take risks


Last but not least, you don’t want to be afraid to take a risk. Because you’re human, you’ll make mistakes. This is a given. But the difference between good and great golfers lies in the ability to learn from these mistakes and not make the same one twice. Good golfers will learn from their mistakes and try to correct them, but great golfers will learn from their mistakes and try to avoid them altogether. Mistakes are unavoidable, but they can be minimized. With the right approach and the right mindset, even the most experienced golfers can learn something from the game’s most basic principles. If you feel like you’re hitting shots that just aren’t working, it’s OK to try something new. If you take the same shot over and over again and it’s not working, you aren’t going to get better. With that being said, don’t get too wild, and be sure to have a plan of action before you take the shot.




Golf is a game that requires mental fortitude and a whole lot of patience. It’s easy to get worked up if you’re not hitting the ball well, but the best way to improve is to try new things and learn from your mistakes. The sport is more mental than anything, so by improving your decision-making on the course and learning from your mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to a lower handicap and a calmer mental state. Learning how to overcome mistakes and accepting that every round won’t be perfect will go a long way towards helping you to lower your handicap. You’ll also want to make sure you’re staying disciplined during every round. If you start to lose focus or are feeling anxious, take a moment to regroup and remember why you started golf in the first place.


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