How to Play Great Golf on New Courses

Learning to Play Consistent Golf

Golf is a unique game. No two courses are alike. No two holes are alike. Many times, a golf course itself may not be what it was a few months previously.

Think of how those course changes present challenging circumstances for each golfer.

Look at some other sports where field dimensions are constant.

A football field is ALWAYS 100 yards… A marathon is ALWAYS 26.2 miles. A US basketball court is ALWAYS 94 feet long by 50 feet wide.

When field or court dimensions are known, athletes experience less anxiety.

Conversely, a golf course is ALWAYS different, making it difficult to know what to expect from day-to-day and from hole-to-hole. It is the unknown or uncertainty that produces anxiety.

In our Golf Mental Game Survey, one golfer asked:

“How do I maintain consistency from tournament to tournament? I’m especially nervous when I play on a course I’ve never played before. One tournament, I play great but the very next tournament. I can’t make a shot and it makes me feel constantly nervous.”

The unknown can be a formidable obstacle for golfers. When you play a new course, your anxiety increases because you are not familiar of nuances of the course (bunkers, undulations, ponds, trees, rough, distance, greens, etc).

For example, playing the ball from the rough may be more difficult if the unfamiliar new course has higher grass. You are now faced with an unfamiliar shot, in an unfamiliar circumstance, on an unfamiliar course.

As you are trying to figure out, “How am I possibly going to hit this ball out of the rough?”, you feel your body tense and sweat begin to roll down your forehead. You can’t even focus on what you want to do because you’re afraid to mishit the ball… After you finally finish the ball, you are left to play another unfamiliar hole.

To play consistently on an unfamiliar course, you should know three things:

1. Consistency does not mean having the unrealistic expectation of playing mistake-free. Knowing that you are bound to make some mistakes can take a lot of pressure off yourself.

2. Consistent play starts with consistent preparation and a consistent approach to each shot.

3. Consistent play requires a strong focus on your current shot. Reliving a missed 3-foot putt or fearing the outcome of a shot from the rough will only increase anxiety.

LPGA No. 2 Danielle Kang maintains an effective mindset by keeping her focus on one shot at a time, no matter which course she is playing.

After winning the 2020 Drive On Championship, Kang commented on how she approaches each shot.

KANG: “I think you just got to take it one shot at a time, one round at a time. Golf is a silly game where one day you feel like everything is going your way, and the next day you’re like, ‘What am I doing?’ … But I think that’s the great personality of golf itself.”

Even though you have no control over the layout of a course, you can stay in charge of your game by taking control of your mindset.

Playing Great Golf on New Courses

Having consistent routines helps your focus on the execution of the shot. Routines can keep you grounded in the moment instead of worrying about missing shots or putts or the anxiety over course conditions.

Work on using a preshot and post-shot routine. Define the ingredients of your routine so you’re not searching for it on the course.

Focusing on routines will keep your mind occupied in the moment and keep distractions out of your mind during shot-making.

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