Mental Mondays: Develop A Game Plan

The Five Inch CourseWhile there certainly is a thrill in waiting for the holes to unveil themselves on an unexplored course, you can improve your scores by developing a game plan before approaching the first tee.

The purpose of a game plan is to help manage expectations and emotions. A player with a game plan will not let mounting pressure force him into bad decisions. He will not compound the mistakes of one hole with angry and impulsive decisions on the next.

If the course is a familiar one, creating a game plan is not terribly difficult. Using a spare scorecard, mark the holes on which bogey would be a good score, and which you can reasonably expect par.

For each par 4 or par 5, note what club you will use off the tee. On the most basic of holes, think about the hole in reverse: First decide the club and distance for your shot into the green, then subtract that from the hole’s total to determine the needed tee shot length.

More problematic holes—doglegs or holes with fairway hazards—require you to think about distance to specific landing zones. If the card offers illustrations of the holes, mark these areas. In addition, for each green note which side is an acceptable miss. That can affect the plan for a landing zone and tee shot.

And in doing all of this, think about what the prevailing wind and known conditions will do to your game.

You can still create a game plan on unfamiliar courses, but it will take a closer analysis of the score card which hopefully has some clear illustrations. You also might check for a yardage book in the clubhouse. I like to buy the yardage books not only for the information, but also as souvenirs.

Stick to the plan unless you run across unexpected yardages or conditions. A game plan will save strokes only if you are able stay focused. Don’t let anger over a double on an easy par three push aside the plan for the next hole. If the original plan on the following tee was to hit a five wood, hit a five wood. Don’t try to get those shots back by making a heroic drive. More often than not, it will turn out badly and you’ll be even further behind.

This tip is an excerpt from The Five Inch Course: Thinking Your Way To Better Golf. The complete book is available in Kindle format at


1 thought on “Mental Mondays: Develop A Game Plan”

  1. Last week, I played in a local Amateur tourney.  It was a 3-day event and it was played at a different course each day.  Not only had I never played the courses, but they were at the 66-6900 yardage tees, and I usually play in the 6200 range with my 13 handicap.  I was the second highest handicap (one of only 3 in the event with 10+). 

    My game plan was simple, take it slow and easy.  Don’t try and kill the ball, don’t try and make up for a short drive with a killer 3-wood.  Accept (and expect) bogey, and pars and birdies would be icing.  I played two days from the tips at my own course to get acclimated, scoring 88 and then 95.  Both days I had blowup holes but overall was pretty happy with my performance (the second day was the worst day so far this year, with a 104 on the temp, 125 heat index- I really thought about quitting that day).

    My goal was simple, I knew that coming in last was very likely, and would be very hard not to do.  So my goal was break 100 each day – not to have blowups, and really was to get to +80 for the tournament.  I didn’t quite do the +80, but I did pretty well on blowups.  The first day, I had a 9 early, trying to overcome a bad drive and then scramble.  Then I got things together and manged 6 pars for the day.  The second day was the most intimidating of the courses and the longest.  A Nicklaus Signature course – and I had some bad holes, but nothing worse than a triple.  The last day, on the shortest course, I felt I played the best, but I had the least pars, but the most bogeys.  Unlike the distance of day 2, what got me on day 3 was the super tiny greens which were rolling at a 15. 

    Having the plan from the start really worked well for me.  I came over my +80 (+89) – but I did beat 100 on two of the days.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: