How do You Play Effective Golf?

A reader of the site named Alex got in touch with me a few days ago with a problem that I think plagues many golfers, and I wanted to share it with all of you.

(By the way, if any one ever wants help with their game, I’m always happy to help! Feel free to email me –

Alex emailed me saying that he struggled with tinkering too much in his game, and having way too many shots to choose from in various situations on the course.

This gets back to a very common issue. Golfers tend to overload themselves with many different techniques, and we often think we should be good at all of them.

We might spend a few minutes practicing them, and can pull off all of these shots when the pressure is not on. But when we get to the golf course, and we are standing over a shot, indecision starts to take over.

“Should I hit a fade here?”

“Maybe I’ll flop this one…oh wait, I did chunk that one on 7, let’s go with the bump and run.”

When we have this kind of thought process before a shot, it usually results in that last-second feeling of doubt that prevents us from properly executing the technique we chose.

I’ve said this many times before, but it’s worth mentioning again:

Just because you can pull off a shot in practice does not mean you should bring it out on the course.

Let’s talk basketball

Alex played basketball in college, and I myself have played a bit, so I decided to make an analogy about his predicament.

When I used to play, (I only have time for golf these days) I usually decided beforehand what kind of game, or set of skills I would be using that day. If I knew I was going to be one of the stronger players I would usually try to be more aggressive. Maybe do a few crossovers and try to get to the basket; get some mid-range jumpers going. Mix it up a bit.

Conversely, if I knew I was one of the weaker players on the floor I would just stick to what I was really good at, which was outside shooting. If I tried any of that other fancy stuff I usually just made a fool of myself, and cost my team turnovers.

My advice to Alex was to treat a round of golf like a basketball game where you are completely outmatched. Stick to what you know you can do, and forget about all of that other fancy stuff.

Play Effective Golf

You’ve heard this before, but the scorecard does not have a section for style points.

At the end of the round you are going to get a score. It doesn’t matter if you achieved that score with flop shots, crazy hooks, or towering iron shots splitting a cluster of trees.

My advice to Alex, and to the rest of you, is to stick to what you are best at, and try and harness those strengths. If you can only hit the ball left to right, work on becoming the best fader of the ball you can be; don’t worry about trying to hit a draw right now.

If your best chance of success around the greens is with a low-running chip shot, stick with that one. Become deadly with that shot, and don’t even bother trying to hit a lofted shot.

For whatever reason, different golfers take to different shots. One technique might be easy for one person to learn and replicate, while it might be impossible for another player. Stop trying to fit square pegs into round holes though!

When I’m on the range or practice green I can pull off all kinds of shots. I used to try and bring all of them out on the course, but I realized that it just wasn’t working for me. I didn’t really have the practice time to solidify my confidence in all of them like pros do.

I’ve tried to simplify my own game, and have seen great results. I know I can hit that cut shot into the pin that is tucked on the right-hand side of the green, but I try to have the discipline to stay away from it because my worst result from that shot will be much more penal than if I just stick with the draw I’m comfortable with.

When I’m around the greens I really only use my lob wedge and hit two different kinds of shots. I could use my PW, GW, SW and try a variety of trajectories but I know I just won’t be as confident standing over those shots either.

Is that right according to the instructional world? Probably not, but it’s right for me.

Start thinking about what are the true strengths of your game. Be honest with what you can and can’t do. Decide what kinds of shots are really right for you, and just try and stick with those. Don’t overcomplicate things.

That to me is how you play effective golf, or as I would call it…Practical Golf.

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