We’ve all had a situation before – standing on the tee where there is a water hazard to the left or the right or water hazard you need to carry your shot over. You take a few practice swings and say to yourself, “Don’t go in the water” and sure enough, you hit your shot into the water. Golf psychologists have written books about how to keep your mind clear and in the present. Rather than saying, “Don’t go in the water,” you should be thinking, “I have to hit my shot 75 yards to clear the water – so I’ll use my 3-wood that I hit 125 yards, just to make sure I clear the hazard.”
In her book, From Birdies to Bunkers noted golf course architect Alice Dye says, “Don’t go from trouble to trouble.” What this means is if you are in a bunker, hit away from another bunker (down the fairway or around the green) – so you don’t hit out of one bunker into another bunker. Also it means try not to hit from a bunker into a water hazard. It’s a common fact that most Tour Professionals would rather hit a shot from a bunker, than the grass – but most amateur golfers would prefer most any shot other than one from a sand bunker.
The best way to achieve that constant quest of a lower golf score, is to avoid trouble on the golf course. The most obvious are bunkers and water hazards, but it also means avoiding hitting out of bounds, into trees and thick bushes. On that occasion that you do hit into trouble, how do you respond? Do you swing away and still try to hit the green with a wonder shot or do you play smart – taking a club you have confidence in and playing a smart shot back into the fairway? Playing away from trouble also applies to hitting a shot down the fairway. If you don’t reach a green in regulation, do you leave yourself a yardage into the green that you excel with or do you hit the ball to a distance 75 yards from the green, then fret over the ball since you can’t hit your club that 75-yard distance? If you love a 100-yard distance, leave yourself a shot with the 100-yard distance vs. the 75-yard distance.
Next time you play, take a minute on each tee to quickly assess where the trouble might be on the hole. If a bunker, water hazard or out of bounds could be in your landing area, take a club you have great confidence hitting and swing with ease – you don’t have to hit driver from each tee area if you might reach trouble. By avoiding trouble, you just may save a stroke or two during your next round.