Dr. Tom Dorsel, Ph.D.

Eliminate High Scores

        There are few things anyone can say for sure about golf.  But one thing for sure is that the fastest way to lower your scoring average is to eliminate, or reduce, your higher scores.
        “Duh,” you say, but consider this:  For most players the first thing they think about in lowering their scoring average is, “I’ve got to start shooting some lights-out low scores.”
        What is being overlooked is that whether you cut strokes off the highest scores or the lowest scores in your range of scores, it impacts your average the same way.  And it would seem to be a bit easier to keep an 83 from becoming an 86 due to carelessness at the end of a bad day, than to turn a stellar 72 that is unfolding, suddenly into a miraculous 69 by going birdie-eagle on the last two holes.
        So, keep those high scores from getting away from you on bad days, and your scoring average will benefit more quickly than waiting each day for some miraculous best-ever to materialize.

Keep the Ball in Play

        A second way to lower your scoring average is to keep the ball in play, even if it means giving up some distance.  Shots into the gnarly rough, thick bushes, overhanging trees, or, Lord forbid, OB, are score-killers.  Consider that a triple instead of a bogey on a given hole requires you to make two birdies over the rest of the round to recoup the lost strokes.
        Take the safest club off the tee, safest route to the green, safest approach to the safest side of the green, and your scores will settle into a narrower and lower range, where a great score won’t get offset by some wild high score in calculating your average.

Long and Short Putts

        Getting long putts closer to the hole is another way to consistently lower your scores and scoring average, and the best way to do that is to learn how to make putts inside 10 feet.  If you know you can make 3 to 10 footers, you will be more relaxed on 40-foot putts and likely get them closer to the hole.
        And if you happen to occasionally fail to get the long putt close, then just go ahead and make the 7 footer you have been practicing.  Either way, scores will be lower and so will your resulting scoring average.

Reach for the Putter

        Lastly, unless you are already a very low handicapper, get the putter in your hands as soon as possible.  Like Ken Venturi used to say, “A bad putt is usually better than a bad chip.” So, if you are on the fringe, take the putter instead of one of your chipping irons.
        As with any putt, control your distance with the length of your backstroke, adding a few inches to the backstroke you would have used if you were on the green, in order to compensate for the heavier fringe.  Just a few inches is all that is necessary — you don’t need to make a full-swing!  Try an extra inch for every 5 feet of fringe and see how that works.
        Of course, if you are a chipping wizard like the Tour Pros, by all means — chip!  Raymond Floyd said he would rather chip than putt.  But he was a major champion 4 times over, who, by the way, chipped just like he putted.  If, on the other hand, you are a mere mortal like the rest of us, take the higher score out of play by rolling the ball to the hole with the flat stick.

        Dr. Tom Dorsel is a clinical/sport psychologist on Hilton Head Island.  He works with junior golfers, who are all lowering their scores and competing strongly in junior and/or adult tournaments. His best selling book is “GOLF: The Mental Game.”  Visit him at dorsel.com or on Facebook at “Sport Psychology of Hilton Head.”