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Manage course better to lower your score

By: Shawn Kelly, Journal Golf Columnist
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Is it sometimes a struggle to score well when you play golf? You may feel confident on the range hitting the ball and imagine yourself making all kinds of pars, birdies and eagles, only to get on the course and start making all those dreaded other shots. Hitting the ball is the easiest part of the game of golf. Playing the game on the course and maneuvering your ball around the hazards to score is the toughest part. Effective course management is an important concept to be able to score well because golf is not a game of how far, but of how many. Here are some of the things I work on to help me with my course management. n Distance control — You may be able to hit it straight on the range, but if you don’t know how far you consistently hit with certain clubs, it is impossible to score well. The first step is to go to a range and get the approximate distances you hit with each club. I have a 10-yard zone for each club — for instance, my 7-iron zone is 155 to 165 yards, so 160 yards is my effective distance. When you are on the course, there may be yardage markers to tell you how far you are from the middle of the green. You will then need to do some adding or subtracting of distance depending on the pin placement, wind conditions, or if the shot is uphill or downhill to decide which club to use to hit your shot. Don’t bite off more than you can swallow, however. Some players simply feel that the further it goes, the better, but this is not the case. Don’t force a risky shot over a hazard. Instead, lay the ball up to a comfortable distance before the hazard. This can help to get rid of those score-killing penalty shots. n Aiming — Obviously, where you aim is important to where the ball ends up on the course. When I play, I am constantly aiming for the widest part of the fairway and always away from hazards. When I hit to the greens, I may not always hit toward the flagstick. Make it a practice to aim at the fattest part of the green to just get the ball on the putting surface. This is the real key to scoring. n Controlling your emotions — Keeping an even temperament will help your scoring and help you have more fun. You will not hit all of your shots perfectly or get all the good bounces or breaks, and when you accept this, you will score better. Try not to analyze your swing on every shot — we don’t want “paralysis by analysis” setting in during the middle of your round. Having good pre- and post-shot routines is the key to staying consistent on the course and maintaining your cool. n Swing du jour — You dance with the one you came with, so don’t try to swing for a hook when you’re slicing it like a banana. Some days the ball seems to have a mind of its own and you will just have a natural draw or fade, so try to stay with the ball flight of the day and then go to the range after the round to straighten out your ball flight. Course management is the toughest part of playing the game of golf, but when you can control your play around the course, you will see lower scores and have more fun. Women’s Clinic & Wine Tasting The Ridge is having a clinic and wine tasting for women wanting to learn or improve their golf game. The clinic will be from 6-8 p.m. Aug. 20. Attendees will receive a bucket of range balls for practice and then enjoy wine tasting from local winery Vina Castellano. Cost is $25. Call The Ridge’s golf shop at (530) 888-7888 to sign up. Shawn Kelly is the head golf pro at The Ridge Golf Club.