Playing Smart Golf

Tee It Up and Let It Rip, Right? Not So Fast…

As I stood on the tee box of the 18th hole at Pebble Beach, driver in hand, I couldn’t help but feel a surge of excitement. The pin was tucked on the right, just begging me to take a rip at it and try to stick it close. My ego was whispering, “Come on, you got this. Just let it eat and go for the green.”

But then a tiny voice of reason spoke up, “Hey dummy, you know you’ve been spraying your driver all day. And that green is guarded by water on the right and a bunker on the left. Are you really gonna risk it all on this one shot?”

Reluctantly, I took a deep breath, grabbed my trusty 8-iron, and laid up short of the trouble. Sure, it wasn’t the most thrilling shot, but I walked away with a comfortable par and a clear conscience, knowing I made the smart play.

Embracing the Boring, Reaping the Rewards

It’s a tale as old as golf itself – the battle between our inner “grip it and rip it” mentality and the more prudent, “play it safe” approach. As much as we all dream of pulling off those epic hero shots, the reality is that smart golf is often the path to lower scores. [1]

I know what you’re thinking – “But Zach, playing it safe is so…boring. Where’s the fun in that?” And look, I get it. We all want to feel like pros, unleashing massive drives and sticking approach shots tight. But the solemn truth is, most of us simply don’t have the game to pull that off consistently. [2]

The mid-handicap golfer I was chatting with earlier? He’s a prime example. He knows deep down that laying up with an 8-iron is the smart play on that 218-yard par 3 at Pebble. But he can’t bring himself to do it, because he’s not confident he can even hit the green from that distance. So instead, he goes for broke, only to end up wet and dispirited.

Gather Intel, Make Better Decisions

The key to playing smarter golf isn’t about swinging softer or being overly cautious. It’s about arming yourself with information and making decisions based on the cold, hard facts of your game. [3]

How far do you really hit your clubs? What’s your typical shot dispersion pattern? Where are your biggest misses coming from? These are the kinds of questions you need to be asking yourself if you want to start plotting your way around the course like a tour pro.

Sure, it might not be as thrilling as trying to drive the green on a reachable par 4. But when you consistently avoid trouble and give yourself easy looks at par, those birdies start to flow a lot more freely. And let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of signing for a low score that you earned through disciplined, intelligent play.

Putting it All Together

So how do you put this “smart golf” thing into practice? It starts with getting real about your game. Ditch the delusions of grandeur and take a long, hard look at your true capabilities. [4]

If you’re struggling to hit your driver straight, don’t be afraid to club down and prioritize accuracy over distance. If you know your 7-iron is a dicey proposition, err on the side of caution and take an extra club. And for heaven’s sake, learn to accept the fact that your 5-wood is really just a less consistent 4-iron.

Once you’ve got a handle on your game’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s time to start making smarter decisions. That could mean laying up short of trouble, taking an extra club into the green, or even just aiming away from the flag to avoid big numbers. It might not be the most thrilling strategy, but it’ll pay dividends in the long run.

And remember, staying committed to your plan is just as important as making the right call in the first place. It’s easy to get lured into hero shots when you’re standing over the ball, but that’s when you have to dig deep and trust the process. [5]

Embrace the Grind, Reap the Rewards

I know, I know – playing “smart golf” isn’t exactly the most exciting prospect. But trust me, once you start seeing those scores drop, you’ll forget all about the lost thrills of reckless swinging. It’s about making the intelligent choice, not the flashy one.

So next time you’re standing on the tee, driver in hand, take a moment to really assess the situation. What are the risks? What are the rewards? And most importantly, what’s the smart play here? It might not be the most fun option, but I can guarantee it’ll be a lot more satisfying when you walk off the green with another par or birdie in the books.

Smart golf might not be the sexiest way to play, but it’s the surest path to lower scores and more enjoyment on the course. So embrace the grind, trust the process, and watch those handicaps start to tumble. Your future self will thank you.


[1] Plugged in Golf. (n.d.). The Keys to Playing Smarter Golf. Retrieved from

[2] The DIY Golfer. (n.d.). Why “Smart Golf” Works. Retrieved from

[3] Golf Digest. (2023, November 3). Collin Morikawa: Seven smart ways to play better tomorrow. Retrieved from

[4] Golf Icity. (n.d.). 5 Ways to Play Smarter Golf. Retrieved from

[5] The Grateful Golfer. (2020, July 6). Playing Smart Golf is Easy. Retrieved from

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