Mental Mondays: Play The Entire Course As Though It Were A Series of Par Threes

At one level, a golf course is nothing more than a series of par threes.

The par four first on my home course measures 395. Most players hit driver off the tee, with the intention of following with iron into the green. A typical drive of 225 yards (statistics show that the average golfer hits the ball 200 yards, but let us give the benefit of the doubt) leaves 170 yards—probably a long iron into the green. So much can go wrong with this scenario, though. An inaccurate driver will get the ball stuck behind a tree, adding an extra shot. Drivers are the hardest club in your bag to hit well, so topped shots, pop ups and other miscues are likely. Assuming the tee shots finds the fairway, there is still the matter of the long iron. Those are hard to hit and hold a green, so a chip or pitch back is likely. In all, the likelihood is that—for the average weekender—the driver-long iron strategy will not result in a green in regulation and par.

There’s another way to think about it, though. Dividing the hole into a pair of 200 yard par threes would call for a three wood – three wood strategy. For many, the three wood is significantly more accurate than a driver, and thus less likely to get a player into trouble. It’ll still be difficult to hold a green, though. That will result in a chip on and at best a one-putt for par.  If you struggle with pitches and chips, however, double may be in the works.

Here’s another way of approaching it: divide the par 4 into three par 3s: At that point, it’s just three 131 yard shots. For many players, that’s an eight iron—a club in which all but the worst hackers has some confidence. Play the first shot to an imaginary green in the fairway. Do the same on the second. On the third, hit to the real green. Staying out of trouble, a decent player should be able to get on the green in three. From there, it’s a putt for par, or two for bogey.

If all you’re trying to do is break 90 (and that’s all the vast majority of players are trying to do—the average score is 100), then this is a good strategy. Seventeen bogeys and one par breaks 90.

When I coached high school golf, I would occasionally send my players out to practice with just a seven iron and a putter. It taught them to think differently about how to get around a course.

For more on thinking your way to better scores, read The GolfBlogger’s book:

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