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Watching golf on TV, notice how many times PGA Tour players play the safe shot to avoid major trouble off the tee.
Watching golf on TV, notice how many times PGA Tour players play the safe shot to avoid major trouble off the tee. (Dio Dipasupil/EclipseSportsWire.com)

Lower your golf scores without changing your swing

Les MillerBy Les Miller,

Improving your score is a simple matter of using your head when you play a round of golf. Most golfers, regardless of their skill level, fail to properly think their way around the course. So please read the following tips, and see those scores come down.

On the tee

Always, I mean always, play the safe shot off the tee. If you are required to hit a "perfect" shot to avoid trouble off the tee, then you are putting way too much pressure on yourself at the start of every hole.

If you watch the PGA Tour on TV, notice how many times these great players play the safe shot to avoid major trouble off the tee. If, for instance, there is trouble on the left-hand side of the fairway, always tee off on the left side of the tee box so you will be hitting away from the trouble. Likewise, if there is trouble on the right, tee off on the right side of the tee box. This allows you some room for error on the tee shot.

Another thought is to use a club off the tee that will not carry your ball far enough to reach the trouble. An example of this: I play a course on a weekly basis that has a short par 4 that plays around 280 yards. Up by the green there is trouble on both the left and right. The smart play is to hit a middle- or long-iron short of the trouble, which will leave a nice, easy short iron or wedge into the green on the approach shot.

One of my playing partners always hits his driver as he can hit the green with a perfectly played drive. In the last two years, he has hit the green twice, as every other time he plays the hole, he hits his drive into the trouble and makes double or triple bogey.

I always hit a long iron and always make par or birdie. Some might say the results I have are because I am a better ball striker; I say it's because I always play the safe shot off the tee and leave myself an easy approach shot into the green. By the way, after my friend makes double or triple, it usually ruins the remainder of his round.

Shots into the green

Again, always play the low-risk shot. If the pin is tucked behind a bunker, play to the center or safe side of the green.

A 30-foot putt is much more stress free than a bunker shot to short-sided pin. This strategy will save you many shots during a round of golf.

Years ago when I worked the tour for Cleveland Golf, one of our tour players, Bob Estes, told me he broke greens down into four quadrants, front-left and right, back-left and right. He said during his practice rounds he would map each green so during the tournament he would always know the safe quadrant on each hole to play his approach shots into. He only went pin hunting when the pin was in a safe quadrant.

Now I know Bob Estes is not one of the all-time greats, but he has won millions of dollars during his playing career playing the safe shot more often than not. Being on the green is always better than having a difficult chip shot.

My final word is always hit the low-risk shot; in the end, you will lower your scores!

Les Miller was a longtime Golf Writers of America member who covered golf instruction for several newspapers and golf publications. His many years of experience as a golf professional, director of product development and tour relations for several major golf companies gave him a unique background and ability to help golfers increase their enjoyment of the game.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Response

    Dave wrote on: Mar 25, 2013

    Yeah I hear ya... but isn't it fun driving a green? No one ever talked about the sweet 4i they hit on a 280yd par 4 to lay-up... but you'll talk about driving the green forever.
    That being said, the counter to this argument is that you'll def talk about a really low score for a long time and maybe laying up will help obtain that. Either way, just enjoy the game.


  • Response

    Amanda wrote on: Jan 27, 2010

    Good tips. I'll have to remember these the next time I'm on the course. By the way, if anyone needs new clubs for this season, www.grayfoxgolf.com has an excellent selection. I recommend this site!


  • lower your golf scores without changing your swing

    mike wrote on: Jan 18, 2010

    Great advice for any golfer. Especially for a golfer just starting out. Common sense seems to go a long way. Why make something more difficult then it needs to be.
    Thank you.