Bobby Jones
2 22 mins 2 yrs

Many of us who regularly play the game of golf aspire to reach a low handicap by shooting good scores. In this article I want to share some of my golf strategies to achieve single figure scores. To begin with it is immensely useful to examine your own game and identify a few of the things obviously holding you back from reaching the desired target. It might be your technique or lack of it in certain parts of your game. It may be your attitude to the game and in what shape you play, both mental and physical.
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Who You Play With Impacts Upon Your Score

Golf is a sport for all, and the handicap system allows players of all levels to compete. This makes the game of golf unique and wonderfully equitable. Therefore, there exists a mix of approaches to competitive play in clubland golf. Your regular four-ball may contain players of varying abilities and levels of commitment. This can be a challenge to how you perform amid environments of casualness. It may be that extra concentration is required if you play with golfers who cannot be bothered to mark their ball on the green and who chat incessantly. You may have to ask yourself how important is becoming the best golfer you can? You might have to sacrifice the comfort factor of your usual four ball if you want to move beyond mediocrity. Familiarity breeds contempt, as the saying goes. I have observed many four ball groupings where the psychological dynamics via the on-course banter becomes a hindrance to optimum performance. You have to ask yourself, why am I really playing golf? Is it for the socialisation, the camaraderie between mates or to be the best golfer I can be? Of course, there is nothing wrong with playing the game for the enjoyment of friends, as it can be a rich source of human pleasure.

Tiger Woods GofDom
Great golf exemplar Tiger Woods

Golf Strategies & the Mental Game

Your mental state during a round of golf can have a considerable impact upon how your perform. We have identified the influence that group dynamics can have on your game of golf both negatively and positively. Bringing things one step closer to you, how do you present yourself pre-game? Are you a golfer who takes pride in preparation or someone who turns up in whatever state you happen to be in? Golf is a four hour plus examination of our physical and mental prowess. Playing competitive golf hung over, poorly prepared, stressed out, and/or in bad shape for whatever reason is a waste of everyone’s time. I recommend ensuring that you have had plenty of rest, eaten breakfast, and getting to the golf course at least an hour prior to teeing off. You don’t want to be rushing to make your tee time because your swing will reflect that quality to the detriment of your overall score. Make sure that you have the time to warm up by hitting a small bucket of balls on the practice ground or in the nets. Do some chipping and practice putting, as your short game is the last port of call in the scoring pyramid. Remember golf strategies to achieve single figure scores can make a huge difference to the outcome of your round.

Understanding the Time Difference Between Golf & the Modern World

Begin to focus on your breathing and walking at this time to regulate the tempo of your game. One of the key elements to understand in golf is the markedly different timing and rhythm required by this ancient game. Outside of the golf course we live in an instantaneous world, where computers provide instant results to our queries. Golf, in contrast to this, is a process orientated activity involving a stick hitting a ball. If you bring your expectation of rapid results to your game of golf, you will struggle with your tempo during your round. We must consciously slow everything down. Slow your back swing down. Slow your putting stroke. Getting to the course early allows you to process this adjustment to your pace of play. This is a mental and physical preparation to allow your swing to reflect the correct speed and timing required. Don’t waste shots at the beginning of your competitive round because of poor preparation. How will you become a single digit handicap player if you throw away strokes over your first nine holes?

Golf Strategies to Single Figures
GolfDom golf strategies to single figure scores
Pay Attention to the Basics to Achieve Single Figure Scores

One of the things I have observed on my own journey in this game and in those I play with, is the reluctance to pay proper heed to the basics in the game of golf. Good technique in golf is founded upon a vigilant adherence to your set up in every swing. I suspect this is due again to the kind of world we live in today. We live in a modern world where everything is made easy. We reside in a push button/touch screen realm. Golf, in contrast to this, requires a precise action with a tool on the end of a stick. You cannot push a button to send a drive on its way down the fairway. You cannot touch a screen to make a delicate chip to a fast green. You can if you limit yourself to playing golf on a computer screen. However, out on a real course, where the grass grows long in the rough and the wind blows it is a different story. This is where the fundamentals of golf demand the tithes of our obedience and full attention. Pre-shot routines come to the fore here, as a ritual of repetitive movement designed to increase the likelihood of you playing a great shot. So many casual golfers carry an unrealistic expectation that they will hit a good shot without paying the necessary duties to address and set up. I blame the modern high-tech world and all the labour-saving devices we are in thrall to. But whatever the reason if you want to play single figure golf you must focus on all the essential elements of grip, stance, lie, and the tempo of your swing. You need to do this again and again on every shot you are required to play throughout your round of golf. These are the golf strategies to achieve single figure scores more regularly. I suspect many of us hear this message as noise and secretly reckon we can do it our own way. Our civilisation is always on the lookout for shortcuts and hacks. However, in the ancient game of golf the shortcuts are few and far between.

Okay you have examined the makeup of your regular four ball and whether it is serving the best interests of your game. You have become aware of the psychological side of these gameday interactions and how they impact upon your performance. Next, you have evaluated your own pre-game preparations to see it you are presenting yourself in the best possible shape to play golf at the highest level you are currently capable of. You have understood how the mental side of things directly affects your physical performance on the golf course. How you think and feel will impact on how you play your shots and their results. In the game of golf, we need to keep changing gears to play the different types of shots required. The big drive off the tee is akin to top gear. The greenside bunker shot is like a low gear moment. Putting is a fluid but delicate action which demands absolute commitment. Chipping is something else again, which can easily be fluffed without excellent technique. Approach shots into greens are another element within the great game of golf. There are recovery shots from a variety of lies and situations. The game of golf requires a diverse range of strokes to achieve a low score relative to par. You are continually being put into circumstances requiring that you execute very different types of shots to the best of your ability. This is one of the reasons, I suspect, that we love this, often, frustrating but challenging sport. Agility and flexibility are demanded, both physical and mental, by the game of golf. Can you change gears with the fluidity required to perform at the optimal level? Do you have the necessary technical prowess to play all the types of shots required?

“This leaves a gaping hole in their game!”

You will not be able to regularly achieve single figure scores if your game is lacking in any important aspect. Playing out of sand in greenside and fairway bunkers is one area of the game I have observed that is sorely neglected in the golf games of many casual golfers. In the instance of greenside sand traps, the concept of taking sand first under the ball is a foreign shore for many golfers. This is counterintuitive to all other swings in the game of golf and strikes a jarring tone in lots of golfers. Bad experiences in this aspect of the game shapes the strategies of these golfers in their abhorrent avoidance of bunkers throughout their round. Cries of, “don’t go in there!” ring out. Unfortunately, many golfers do not regularly practice these shots to achieve mastery over this skill. This leaves a gaping hole in their game and a disaster awaiting their score. Professional golfers excel at sand play and, often, prefer to be in a greenside bunker to get up and down. Find your weaknesses in golf and practice these types of shots to be the very best you can be. This can challenge the level of commitment to your game. Overcoming hard things is achieved through not only hard work but via professional help. Smart golfers work on their games with the assistance of a PGA teaching professional or coach. The thing about golf is that you cannot see yourself swinging the club and another pair of trained eyes can make all the difference to getting better. Golf strategies to achieve single figure scores can be sourced via these professional teachers and coaches.

“Learn to love practice!”

Learn to love practice if you want to become a single figure golfer. Personally, discovering how to correctly play a stroke fills me with a good feeling based on achieving something of beauty. Another of the things that makes golf an obsessive game is watching a golf ball soar through the air over vast distances when correctly struck. The seemingly effortless action resulting in a terrific ball flight is a thing of beauty. It can be a rare experience for many casual golfers and something which hooks them good. To propel a small white sphere toward the desired target and over a vast distance is a very satisfying experience. The aesthetics of golf cannot be underestimated in our love of the game. Perfecting your stroke to be able to perform under pressure at the necessary moment is all part of the journey toward single figure golf. The practice green for putting and chipping must become your best friend. Practice bunkers and driving range or nets similarly are places where you will find single figure golfers honing their games. Turn practice into a love affair rather than a grind if you really want to become the very best golfer you can be. There are fourteen clubs allowed in the bag for a competitive round and they can all do a variety of things. Learn to excel at all of these strokes. Golf is a never-ending journey toward competence at the highest level. Focus on golf strategies to achieve single figure scores to succeed at this great game.

Hideki Matsuyama
Champion Japanese Master Matsuyama
What Clubs Should You Have in the Bag?

Something I have been doing quite recently in answering this question is jotting down every stroke I played in a competitive round. Make a list of how many times you used each of the 14 clubs in your golf bag. Mine looks like this:

  • Driver – 11
  • 3 Fairway -3
  • 3 Hybrid – 1
  • 3 Iron -2
  • 5 Iron – 4
  • 6 Iron -2
  • 7 Iron -2
  • 8 Iron -3
  • 9 Iron -2
  • Pitching Wedge -0
  • Gap Wedge -1
  • Sand Wedge -5
  • Lob Wedge -9
  • Putter -30

It can be a stark insight to see how few times you actually use certain clubs in your bag. Obviously, this can change depending on your round, and different courses you play. I have been having a bit of dance with whether I play a 3 driving Iron or a 4 iron or a 3 Hybrid. Understanding how often you play a club and what variety of shots you play with that club can impact upon your ability to shoot the best score you can. Personally, I play a sand-based course where the rough is largely sand dune and I use my 3 Hybrid to play recovery shots. I have been dabbling with introducing a driving iron, as my alternative to driver on certain holes. However, after analysing a bunch of these lists of clubs used in a round, I arrived at the fact that I could use the 3 Hybrid as that alternative, so I dropped the driving iron and have now included a fifth wedge in its place. I carry both a 60- and 64-degree wedge, with the 64 being full faced with grooves and this has provided some excellent results around the green recently. Getting as much relevant data about how you play the game of golf can help you make the right decisions about the makeup of your bag. I have been waiting for a 7 Fairway that I ordered over 5 months ago but due to the shipping glut worldwide it still has not arrived. This is another possible club option I want to explore in the quest for the best possible round of golf at the course I regularly play. Understanding the tools in your golf bag and what you can do with them is an important part of the golfing puzzle.

Golfers Craft Their Rounds Via Their Tools

Golf clubs are tools with a variety of lofts, club shaft lengths, bounces, grooves, and other features. Manoeuvring a golf ball around a course is achieved via these tools and so you better have an intimate relationship with them if you want to play good golf. Your scoring clubs, the putter and the wedges, are most important, as they provide the latter strokes on each hole. A good putt or chip in can cover a host of earlier sins. The scoring clubs must become your close friends in terms of what you can make them do around the green. Scrambling is an integral part of the single figure golfer’s arsenal. On those days when you are not striking your approach shots well getting up and down from afar or off the green is paramount. Good golfers do not compound problems after poor shots, rather they save the round via scrambling. Single digit golfers maintain their scores to par by their ability to chip it close and sink the putt time after time. The short game is the closest thing to the cold hearts of low handicap golfers. Steely nerves holding up in the face of missing greens and fairways on those days when things are out of kilter on the links. A short game master will beat a golfer who may have a better long game but lacks short game skills. A round of golf is crafted via a golfer’s skill with his or her tools. Learn to appreciate what your tools can do and practice the shots, especially your short game. Confidence is built through familiarity with your clubs and what they can do in your hands.

Okay, you know that the game of golf demands that you can play a bunch of different strokes and that you are continually changing gears throughout a round of golf. You have examined your own game and identified the areas of the game where you are weakest. You have a plan to practice these types of shots and get professional help to improve in these areas. Regular coaching will accelerate your journey toward single figure performance. Practice will take you from mediocrity to the higher realms of golf. Learning to love practice, especially of your short game will shoot you from also ran to the winner’s circle. You know that there are no shortcuts in golf when it comes to grooving the basic set up of your swing. You will apply yourself to the fundamentals laid down by your PGA teaching professional and understand that this is the foundation of good golf. Developing a pre-shot routine that you can effectively repeat throughout your round will take you to the promised land of single figure golf. Get inside your swing. Feel it in every muscle and fibre of your body. Embrace the tempo of your swing. Good golf is your bread and butter and not an outlier experience. To play frequent rounds of single figure golf it must be your default position. Know your clubs and find the right mix of tools in your bag to take to battle with the course.  The mental side of the game can assist you in executing the necessary shots. Banish doubt and indecision because these things can never help you get the job done. Once you have pulled a club commit fully to playing this shot to the very best of your ability. Being in-between things is a killer on course, especially putting on greens. There is only one way at any one time to make a putt with the right speed and amount of break. Committing to this line and speed is vital to your success and putts matter more than any other stroke because they come at the end of a hole. Focus more on your ability to get that ball in the hole than any other single part of your game. Afterall the whole aim of the game of golf is getting that small ball into that smallish hole eighteen times in the least number of strokes. Putting is the most important aspect of this sport. Practice putting to the hole wherever and whenever you can. Golf is a very frustrating game if you keep missing putts. Single figure golfers make putts. These low handicap players get the ball close to the hole, so that they make more putts. Whether that be in regulation with two putts or by chipping it close, they don’t three putt. These are the golf strategies to achieve single figure scores more often than not.

Points to Remember

  • Single Figure Golfers Make Putts
  • Putting is the Single Most Important Element
  • Good Golfers Don’t Three Putt
  • Indecision is a Killer
  • Low Handicap Golfers Scramble Really Well
  • Application of Golf’s Fundamentals is Everything
  • Practice Makes Perfect
  • Getting a Coach is a Smart Move
  • Raising Your Standards Via Diligence Works

Robert Sudha Hamilton is the author of The Golf Book: Green Cathedral Dreams.


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