Generally dot Goals dot Club Selection dot Driver dot Gamesmanship

Jack Nicklaus Talks Golf Course Strategy

Jack Nicklaus designs golf courses that give the player choices about where to hit he ball, which allow the player to gamble in certain places to make birdies, and suggest the player plays safe in other spots to avoid making bogeys. He does not try to make every putt he faces, but makes sure to hit his first putt to a place where he has an easy second putt. Every time you 2-putt instead of 3-putt, you save one stroke on the score card.

Golf is a game of strategic positioning of your ball on the golf course. The better strategies you execute, the lower you will score for a round of golf. It does you little good to only hit the ball long and straight. It is crucial to hit the ball into the best position on each hole to give yourself the easiest chance to make birdie or par.

Here is an example swing key from the Strategy chapter of Modern Golf Thoughts:


This increases the percentage of greens you will hit in regulation.

Hitting greens in regulation is a critical ingredient of good golf because the more birdie putts you have, the more birdies you make, and the lower you score.

Hit your approach shot to the middle of the green, not to the pin location. This will increase the percentage of greens you hit in regulation because you will have a greater margin for error.

When considering any approach shot, plan for the possibility of a bad swing of the club. If you play your approach shot to the middle of the green and hit the ball slightly long, short, left, or right, you can still stop the ball somewhere on the green.

If you play your approach shot to the pin when it is located in the front, the back, the left side, or the right side of the green and your shot is slightly miss-hit in the wrong direction, your ball will miss the green. Instead of putting for birdie, you might be playing your next shot from the sand, the deep rough, or taking a penalty stroke after splashing your ball into a water hazard.

Standing on the tee, solve each hole’s puzzle before playing the hole. Study the challenges or opportunities the hole presents, then devise a defensive or aggressive strategy to play it.

Questions to ask yourself when devising a good strategy to play the hole:

  1. Is this a defensive hole, a birdie hole, or a regular hole?
  2. Where in the fairway do I drive the ball for the best angle of approach to the green?
  3. When playing a narrow hole, what is the distance to the widest or flattest part of the fairway?
  4. Dogleg left, dogleg right, or straight hole?

  5. Factors to know about the hole’s design:

  6. Better to miss the fairway slightly left or right?
  7. Know where you cannot miss the green and where you can miss the green to help you on approach shot club selection.
  8. Are the drive and approach shots uphill, downhill, or level?
  9. What distance to drive the ball to the 150 yd. marker—for an easy approach shot?
  10. On par 5’s, what is the easiest distance from which to play your third shot?
  11. Know where the out-of-bounds borders are located.

The Strategy chapter of Modern Golf Thoughts has 27 swing keys in these sections--Generally / Goals / Club Selection / Driver / Gamesmanship.

Some of the key fundamentals of Strategy include--realizing that accuracy is two times more important than distance, attacking the course's easiest holes, and respecting out-of-bounds and all hazards. Play to the middle of the green rather than to the pin, choose the shot you can make 9 of 10 times, and stall at crucial times during the match.

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