How to See the Golf Course in a Whole New Way

Golf is a funny game. We’re often tricked into thinking the key to lower scores involves hitting all of these great shots. I've said it before, and now I’ll say it again.

Golf is a game of mistakes, and the more you limit those mistakes, the lower your score will be at the end of the round.

The concept I would like to touch on in this article is reducing your "margin of error." This is a phrase from the statistics world, and refers to the number of acceptable errors in an experiment.

I’m always thinking about this in my own game, and how I can reduce the error in my own experiment, which is my round of golf.

Reducing your margin of error boils down to this extremely detailed picture I have come up with:

What I am trying to show here is the overall dispersion of your shots, or how far left or right you are off target. Your goal is to go from the picture on the left to the picture on the right, plain and simple.

Most golfers approach their shots as one straight line. Instead of thinking about trying to hit your shots straight, you should be considering what you can do to narrow your lines before each shot.

We just watched Jordan Spieth turn in a historical performance at the Masters. I believe one of the true keys to his success was that his lines were extremely narrow. How many times did you hear the broadcasters say “even his misses were in the right spot?”

That’s it right there folks, your misses have to be in the right spots.

When you can miss the ball in a spot that isn’t going to put you out of bounds, or behind an obstruction, that’s how you make more bogeys and pars rather than double and triple bogeys. Most of your shots during a round are not going to be struck perfectly, and you want to make sure that those less than perfect swings aren’t going to be the ones that destroy your round.

How can we narrow these lines, and get our misses landing in the right spots? I believe there are a few ways:

1) Club selection

One thing we can’t escape in golf is physics. Every time you pull out a longer club that has a lower loft, your lines are going to be wider. A driver will bring more “width” of the golf course in play than a 3 iron will.

If you can start to envision these invisible lines on the course, and how your club selection will affect these lines, I believe you can avoid trouble. Every golf hole is different, and you have to understand what spots you want to avoid, and how your club selection will help you do this.

Start thinking about where your lines will be as you approach a shot, and be honest with yourself on how each club will shift those lines.

2) Swing Speed

Here is another thing you can’t avoid no matter how hard you try. Your swing speed, and your club position at impact will determine how far, and what direction the ball is going to go.

Generally speaking, the faster you swing, the harder it will be to get the club square at impact. So if you swing harder, and your club is more open or closed at impact, then the ball will travel further off the line of your desired target. Therefore, your margin of error has increased.


The more aggressive you are with your golf swing, the wider your lines will be. You believe that swinging harder is going to make you hit the ball farther down the fairway, and get you closer to the hole, but you are ignoring the negative affects of this strategy.

It’s great to be able to hit your driver 260+ yards. That can be a huge advantage on any golf course. If you’re 40 yards right of your target that isn’t going to help you out. Swing smoother, rather than harder, and your lines will start to narrow.

3) Target Selection

I’ll use another amazing graphic I have cooked up to get this point across.

The pin on this hole is situated towards the side with trouble. When you take aim towards the left side of the green, your lines are now bringing that area into play.

The more prudent play would be to aim further right, and take the dangerous side of the green out of play. Your goal would be to hit the right-center of the green, and hopefully at worst you have missed to that side of the green, which would offer you a relatively easy pitch/chip.

The next time you are out on a golf course start visualizing these lines. Strategize how to narrow them, and get them over the right parts of the course. If you can do this, you will have conquered one of the most important parts of the game.

Reduce that margin of error, and your scores will drop.

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