4 basic rules of golf strategy to remember, based on a +3 handicap


You don’t have to play perfectly to get a good score, if you play smart.

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OWelcome to Play Smart, a game improvement column and podcast from editor Luke Kerr-Dineen to help you golf smarter and better.

Golf is a game of duds. We’ve all heard that cliché, because it’s true. So why do so many amateur golfers plan for the perfect shot?

You can listen to the full podcast below or keep scrolling. Or, ideally, both!

You can subscribe to the Play Smart podcast on Apple here or on Spotify here.

1. Aim between the goal posts

As I mentioned above, one of the most common mistakes is that they aim for the most obvious place, not necessarily the best place. Rather than aim for the middle of the fairway, Play Smart and +3 Handicap podcast co-host Reed Howard says to use the best practices of the DECADE Golf system and aim between the hazards. Areas on either side of the hole that represent a penalty (such as water or out of bounds) or trees.

“You should be aiming between the dead zones, and that doesn’t necessarily mean the center of the fairway,” says Howard. “People might be surprised to learn that the pros very, very rarely aim for the center of the fairway, and they very rarely aim directly for the pins.”

2. Find a shooting form

Another suggestion from Reed is to find a photo you’re comfortable with. It can be a right-to-left draw or a left-to-right fade. And while ideally the curve isn’t too steep, it’s not the worst thing in the world if it is. It’s more important, as Nick Clearwater, one of GOLF’s Top 100 Teachers, says that you have some level of predictability about where your bad shots will go.

3. Practice backwards from the green

Another piece of advice Howard offers is to work backward green. You might want to hit your shot straight on the pin, but plan ahead where the easiest climbs and descents will be, so that if you miss, you’ll still be in good shape.

“When I was just getting started, I thought, ‘On every green, I’m going to find where my easiest back-and-forth is, and I’m going to aim between the center of the green and over there,'” he said.

4. Pace your distances

The sad reality is that most amateur golfers tend to miss the court. They overestimate how far they hit the ball and get themselves into a bad run because of it.

You could do worse than clubbing yourself every time, but Howard explains one method he used:

“Few amateur gamers can have a Trackman or Foresight like the pros,” he says. “What I used to do was after I hit a shot on the course, I would step back the number of yards it missed or long and then follow.”

So if you hit a 7 iron 155 yards from the middle and it comes up a bit short, walk to the middle of the green and step back the number of yards to your ball. Be mindful of the pace of play, of course, and you don’t need to do this every move. But when you do, you’ll start to get a better sense of how far you’re actually hitting the ball.

Luke Kerr-Dineen


Luke Kerr-Dineen is Game Improvement Editor at GOLF Magazine and In his role, he oversees the brand’s game improvement content covering instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s media platforms.

Alumnus of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina-Beaufort golf team, where he helped them rise to No. 1 in the NAIA National Rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue her Masters in Journalism at Columbia University. . His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek, and The Daily Beast.