Double Bogey Avoidance – The Key to Successful Golf
Double bogey is defined as scoring two over par on a hole, but that simple definition doesn’t even come close to giving this term justice. No matter what level of golf you are playing, being able to avoid a double bogey is one of the main factors to your success.
Most players are under the assumption that birdies and pars are going to be the path to golf improvement. It makes sense because these are “fun” scores. The truth is that damage control is a more important skill for many players, and avoiding a double bogey or worse is going to help them break 80, 90, or 100.
Golf is a game of mistakes, and you have to take care of those mistakes in order to be successful. On some holes you are going to execute very well, and mark down that birdie or par, but more often than not your goal is really to be fighting for that bogey.
If you want to get rid of those double bogeys, read ahead. These are the key ideas you are going to have to master on the course.
Grit and Resiliency
These two words have to be part of your golf game if you want to get rid of a double bogey on your card. They are the cornerstones of successful golf in my opinion, and I recently spoke to Mark Immelman about this on his PGA Tour podcast (give a listen here).
Here are the quick definitions of what these words mean:
Grit is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective.
Resiliency is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
These are two commitments you must make to yourself as a golfer if you actually want to lower your scores. Being able to control your emotions on the course is one of the most underrated tools for improvement. The golf world loves to talk about the swing, but I believe this is equally as important.
Things are going to go wrong at some point in your round (and potentially for most of it on some days). This is when grit and resiliency come in. If you are truly committed to getting rid of the dreaded double bogey, then when things are going wrong you need to do your best to slow your mind down, and try to avoid compounding your mistakes.
Ryan Chaney put it very well recently. He said you need to “give yourself permission to hit bad shots.”
So if you hit a drive into the trees, chunk an iron, or mangle a pitch shot around the green, you need to do your best to accept this mistake. It was supposed to happen. That exact moment after the mistake occurs is truly what separates golfers who are going to make a double bogey from those who are going to grind it out.
As hard as it is, you need to collect yourself, slow your mind down, and do your best not to let that initial mistake lead to another.
This leads me to my next point about double bogey avoidance…
I talk a lot about strategy on this site, which is another word for course management (you can download my free eBook on the topic here). Having the right strategy on the course can absolutely lead to more birdies and pars, but to me the real benefit of being a smart course manager is limiting bigger mistakes.
Strategy is directly linked to your emotions and the idea of having grit and being resilient as a golfer. It’s really about having the discipline.
Smart course managers have the discipline to evaluate all of their options on the course, be honest about their capabilities, and then make decisions that give them the best chance of being successful and avoiding mistakes.
What do I mean by that specifically?
Let’s give a few examples:
Example #1: You’re on a par three that has all kinds of trouble in front of the green. Deep bunkers, nasty rough…the works. The pin is in front of the green, and you decide you’ll play for that number and take a little less club. That simple decision has brought double bogey into play because now if you don’t strike your iron well, you will likely land in those bunkers or deep rough, and will have short-sided yourself to the pin. Had you taken more club and played for the back of the green, then your mishit would still have a chance of landing safely on the green (even right on the pin).
Example #2: You have hit your drive into a cluster of trees. When you arrive to your ball, you are still angry about your mistake, and aren’t thinking so clearly. There is a small opening in the trees and you desperately want to make par. You decide to go for it and quickly find out that trees are in fact not 90% air. Your ball ends up in a worse position than where you started.
Example #3: Your approach shot misses the green, and you’ve got one of those “in between” lies in the rough where almost anything can happen. You have short sided yourself, and there isn’t much room between the green and the pin. That doesn’t stop you from opening up your lob wedge completely and trying to pull off a Phil Mickelson flop. Your club slides beneath the ball and it lands about 3 feet in front of you, leaving yourself almost the same exact shot.
I think you get where I’m going with all of those examples. In each of those scenarios if the player is honest with themselves, and decides to play a shot they are capable of executing, then they will avoid more double bogeys.
If you can get incrementally better at making smarter decisions on the course in situations like these, I guarantee you will avoid double bogeys and your scores will drop.
For many golfers what is happening inside of 100 yards is contributing to more double bogeys on their scorecards. This is low-hanging fruit you can pick right now.
Being able to execute a variety of wedge shots with moderate success and avoid three putting is a goal that is attainable by every golfer on this planet. You simply need to spend more time practicing, and understand some basic technique that will help make the shots easier to pull off.
Many people would argue that your tee shots and approach shots are the more important ones, because they set you up for more success in your short game. They are absolutely right, but in order to fix those shots you need to fix your swing. That requires more time and effort for most players than the short game.
In my opinion with the limited time that most golfers have to work on their game it makes more sense to tackle problems that aren’t as difficult to solve. Most recreational golfers spend almost no time practicing these shots, and don’t have much direction on how to use proper technique.
Luckily for all of you reading this we have created a library of functional videos, drills, and games you can play during your practice sessions for our Insider Members. We have information from some of the top instructors in the game that can help a player of any level. You can find out more info here.
The vast majority of golfers are going to hit less than 30% of their greens during a round. That means more often than not they will have to hit a wedge shot onto the green and two putt to avoid making a double bogey. You absolutely have to become more proficient with your wedges and learn how to control your speed on the green to achieve those two goals.
Double Bogey Avoidance – Wrapping it Up
I’ve given you a lot of information, and hopefully it is easy to understand.
If you truly want to improve at golf and lower your scores, you have to commit to removing a double bogey (or worse) from your scorecard.
I believe you can achieve that goal by:
- Controlling your emotions on the course, and becoming grittier and more resilient
- Making smarter decisions with the kinds of shots you play
- Committing to becoming more efficient with a wedge or putter in your hand
In theory it’s very simple, but pulling it off will require some effort on your part. It all starts with understanding that.
Great article. I really put this into play at the weekend.
Every time I found trouble, I took my medicine & banked on my game with short irons & it really paid off. Also, when i had an option of a distance between 2 clubs, I went up every time. Had my best 18 holes is quite a while & most importantly had no 3-putts and nothing worse than a bogey on any hole.
I think most handicap golfers would seriously improve if they could implement these ideas into their game.
Great reading, as always.
Emmet – thanks for sharing, that is the way to do it!
Very well done Jon! Controlling emotions and hitting the shot you’re actually capable of is SO IMPORTANT! But, not easy 😉
Bill – Thanks! certainly easier said than done.
Golf is Mental says
Great read, Jon. It took me a while to learn that playing for bogey (to take double or worse out of play) after a mistake or bad break isn’t weak or giving up, it’s just being smart and resilient.
In my club champs last year, I lost my 2nd shot into a par 5 left of the green side bunkers and it ended up at the base of a tree on a bare, hard lie. I could have tried a hero shot to get it on the green, but it had a low percentage for upside and a high percentage for downside, so I had to let go of feeling entitled to having a birdie putt on that hole. Instead I chipped it backwards, wrong handed, back into the fairway. I had confidence in my pitching and knew this would take double out of play and still give me a chance at par. I missed my par putt but in hindsight it was still a moment that held my round and tournament together. A bogey on the 12th hole in the 2nd of 3 rounds is never going to kill you, but a double or worse could have derailed my round/tournament. I went on to my best ever finish and that was one of the holes I was most proud of because I was able to think clearly under pressure and after a bad break.
Articles like this are a good reminder headed into this season.
Thanks Josh – you bring up a good point, some players might interpret it as giving up by not “going for it”. This is definitely one of the hardest lessons to learn, and you never get it completely right either.
Good article, will put into action this season.
Have you reviewed the Secret Grip? If so, may I have a link to the review?
Thanks for reading! Unfortunately I have not reviewed the Secret Grip
andy miller says
Jon, good stuff here. I am usually a very conservative and safe golfer, but what are your thoughts on striking an ideal balance between playing safe and knowing when to take a calculated risk? Obviously skill level plays a role in that decision but at a basic level, how should you weigh aggressiveness vs safe play?
Thanks Andy! It’s tough to make a distinct rule because golf throws so many different scenarios at you. Typically I think the best strategy is “conservative aggressiveness”
You have to have the discipline to know when a shot outmatches your skill level, and the possible scenarios of failure could be extremely damaging to your round. However, if you play too safe all of the time you are likely going to be giving up scoring opportunities in the long run. Knowing the difference between these two takes a lot of time to figure out because each shot is unique, and each player’s skill level is different. Your number one goal is always to keep the ball in play, and make sure you are doing your best to avoid the most penal parts of the golf course.
Kerry Flitter says
I’m pretty good at 2 and 3 but absolutely terrible at no.1.
We had our monthly club stableford yesterday, I was mentally out of it after 3 holes and physically out of after 7 when I missed a short putt and picked up instead of tapping in for a point. If I start well I can keep going and have a better chance of putting bad shots aside, but not if I start badly. So my club scores tend to be 36-40, or ‘No Return’ nothing in between.
Every week I resolve that I will play one shot at a time to the best of my ability then add up the score at the end and accept it, but I just can’t.
Basically, if I can’t do something well, I won’t do it at all. Knowing that this is precisely the wrong mindset for golf doesn’t stop me doing it.
Kerry Flitter says
Just done it again. All over after three holes, walked off the course after 9, only played the rest of the front 9 for something to do on the way back to the clubhouse.
What if my wedge game is poor? Second thing I have signed up a couple of times and am not getting the guide. I’ve checked my trash.
How to Make a Double Bogey:
1) Tee shot that results in a blocked shot or penalty
2) Approach shot that results in a penalty
3) Missed Green from inside 80 yards
4) 3 Putt from inside 30 feet
5) Hitting out of Trouble into more Trouble
6) Bad Course Management, Wrong Club at the Wrong Time