Course Management: Under-Clubbing is Hurting Your Score

underclub featured

Poor club selection, particularly under-clubbing, is a widespread issue that can severely impact your golf score. Despite its prevalence, it’s an aspect of the game that often needs to be addressed, leading to unnecessary strokes and missed opportunities on the course.

In this guide, we’ll dissect the problem of under-clubbing from multiple angles—its psychological roots, the environmental factors that exacerbate it, and its consequences for your game. We’ll also provide actionable solutions, backed by data and expert insights, to help you improve your course management skills and lower your scores.

Why Course Management Matters

According to a study by the National Golf Foundation, a leading trade organization specializing in golf market research, poor course management accounts for an average of 4 to 6 extra strokes per round for amateur golfers. That’s the difference between breaking 80 and languishing in the mid-80s—a significant gap for anyone serious about improving their game.

But the impact extends beyond just your score. Poor course management can also increase stress levels and decrease enjoyment. After all, golf is as much a mental game as a physical one, and continuously making poor club choices can wear down even the most enthusiastic players.

golfer mad at his bad decisons

The Psychology Behind Under-Clubbing

Understanding the psychology behind under-clubbing is crucial for breaking the habit. A significant factor is overconfidence, often fueled by ego. Many golfers believe they know how far they can hit each club, but these estimates are usually based on their best shots, not their average performance. The reality is that planning for a center-face, flushed shot every time is unrealistic and sets the stage for under-clubbing.

Television plays a role in perpetuating this issue. Televised matches typically feature players performing at their best, giving viewers a skewed perception of what’s achievable. This distortion is further exacerbated when amateur golfers see certain distances on TV and assume they can hit their 8-iron the same length.

Even pros make mistakes, miss shots, and make poor decisions, leading to bad rounds and “blow-up” holes. These aspects are rarely showcased, setting improper expectations for amateur golfers. Jon Sherman supports this assertion in his book, “The Four Foundations of Golf.”

Peer influence also contributes to poor club selection. Golfers often ask their buddies what they’re hitting on a particular hole and base their choices on that information rather than playing their own game. This herd mentality can be detrimental, causing golfers to play the wrong club.

Another psychological factor is the fear of going over the green. Many golfers, especially amateurs, are so concerned about hitting too far that they choose a club that’s too short for the shot. This paradoxical fear can significantly hinder, leading to more challenging recovery shots and a higher score.

ego, peer pressure,influence

Statistics on Under-Clubbing

Data can be a powerful tool for understanding the extent of a problem. While comprehensive studies specifically focused on under-clubbing are limited, some revealing statistics related to course management and club selection exist. For instance, a survey by Golf Digest found that 75% of amateur golfers overestimate their driving distance, which is a significant contributor to under-clubbing.

Moreover, a report by Arccos Golf, a leader in golf data analytics, showed that amateur golfers miss the green short more than 60% of the time on their approach shots. This statistic alone highlights the prevalence of under-clubbing and its impact on scoring.


Environmental Factors Affecting Club Selection

Club selection is more than knowing your average distances in a bubble; it’s also about adapting to the course’s environmental conditions. Wind, elevation, and lie can significantly impact your club choice.

  1. Wind Conditions: It is crucial to understand how wind affects ball flight. A headwind can shorten your distance, while a tailwind can add extra yards, requiring adjustments in club selection.
  2. Elevated Tees: Playing from an elevated tee can change the dynamics of your shot. The ball will generally travel farther, so taking one less club might be the right move. The opposite is true for uphill tee and approach shots.
  3. Lie: The lie of the ball can also affect your club choice. A ball sitting down in the rough will likely require a more lofted club to ensure clean contact.

For more insights on how course and weather conditions affect your driving distance, check out our articles on Tee Height and Driving Distance and “Tom Watson’s Winning Ways.”

factors on underclubbing

The Consequences: Short Misses and Trouble Spots

The ramifications of under-clubbing extend beyond just missing the green; they often lead to short misses where much of the course’s trouble lies. Whether it’s water hazards, bunkers, or thick rough, these areas are strategically placed to penalize poor club selection.

For example, a study by the PGA showed that amateur golfers are 30% more likely to find a hazard when they miss short than when they miss long. This adds strokes to your score and increases the difficulty of your next shot, making recovery more challenging.

short sided miss

Solutions and Best Practices

Addressing the issue of improper club selection involves a multi-faceted approach that combines mental adjustments, accurate data collection, and situational awareness. Here are some actionable steps you can take:

  • Know Your Distances: Use a launch monitor to measure how far you hit each club accurately. This will provide a more realistic basis for club selection. For an in-depth look at launch monitors, check out our “Best Launch Monitors of 2023.”
  • Use a Rangefinder or GPS: Understand the distance to target before selecting a club. Rangefinders or GPS can provide accurate data that can eliminate one more variable for you.
  • Play Your Own Game: Resist the temptation to emulate professionals or even your playing partners. Focus on your abilities and limitations. If you are a weak bunker player, select clubs and shots that take the bunker out of play and practice that on your own time.
  • Consider Environmental Factors: When selecting a club, consider wind, elevation, and lie. See our post on how Tee Height and Environmental conditions affect ballflight.
  • Practice Risk Management: Weigh the risks and rewards of each shot. Sometimes, it’s better to aim for the center of the green rather than going for a risky pin placement. Don’t pick a club or shot likely to leave you short-sided.
  • Mental Preparation: Work on building a strong mental game to overcome overconfidence and fear. Books like “The Four Foundations of Golf” by Jon Sherman can provide valuable insights.
course map

Further Reading – Books and Audiobooks

four foundations of golf book sherman

The Four Foundations of Golf
by Jon Sherman

Summary: Elevate your golf game by mastering the four foundations outlined by John Sherman. This transformative audiobook covers:

  1. Manage Expectations: Master setting realistic goals and understanding the scoring system. It will improve your golf game and increase your happiness.
  2. Strategy: Strategic thinking is essential in golf. Use a framework to select the best targets for each club and improve your score.
  3. Practice: Receive detailed, step-by-step guidance to enhance your skills and seamlessly transition from range practice to the course. Improve your swing without fixating on technique.
  4. The Mental Game: Mental techniques like staying calm, building routines, and being confident can help golfers improve their performance.

With these four foundations, this audiobook is more than a guide; it’s your roadmap to becoming a more complete golfer.

every shot counts book

Every Shot Counts: Using Golf Analytics to Unlock Your Potential
by Mark Broadie

Summary: Unlock the power of data in your golf game with “Every Stroke Counts.” Penned by Mark Broadie, a pioneer in golf analytics, this audiobook takes a deep dive into how the right kind of stats can revolutionize your game. Forget traditional metrics like fairways hit and greens in regulation—Broadie introduces the groundbreaking “strokes gained” concept, which allows golfers to understand their performance in a whole new light.

This isn’t just about numbers; it’s about actionable insights. Learn how to analyze your game meticulously, from tee to hole, so that every stroke not only counts but also contributes to your continuous improvement.

Whether you’re a casual golfer or aiming for the pro tour, “Every Shot Counts” delivers the analytical edge you’ve been seeking.

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Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect
by Dr. Bob Rotella and Bob Cullen

Summary: Golf is Not a Game of Perfect argues that success in golf comes from adopting the right attitude and thought processes rather than perfect technique, with Rotella providing insights from sports psychology to help golfers build confidence, commitment, and enjoyment on the course. The book examines common mental obstacles faced by players and offers strategies to develop a “trusting mentality,” accept imperfection, and stay focused in pressure situations in order to lower scores and get more fulfillment from the game. With anecdotes from professional players he has coached and practical exercises for amateurs, Rotella aims to improve golfers’ mindsets so they can overcome frustration and realize their potential.

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Fearless Golf: Conquering the Mental Game
by Dr. Gio Valiante

Summary: Fearless Golf provides a detailed plan for overcoming the fear and anxiety that disrupts both physical technique and mental focus in golfers, drawing on insights from sports psychology and interviews with top players to offer practical strategies for cultivating presence, commitment, and mastery on the course. The book examines different manifestations of fear across playing situations and skill levels and gives golfers tools to transform fear into an asset rather than liability, helping them lower scores by learning to embrace uncertainty and remain fully engaged in executing each shot. With anecdotes and advice from Jack Nicklaus, Davis Love III and other champions, Fearless Golf aims to free golfers from paralyzing emotions so they can realize their potential.

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Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game
by Dr. Joseph Parent

Summary: Zen Golf teaches golfers how to prepare mentally, execute shots through mind-body connection, and respond positively to results using insights from Zen Buddhism and sports psychology. The book provides practical strategies to overcome mental obstacles, distractions, and self-sabotage on the course by cultivating clarity, commitment, composure, presence, and equanimity. With techniques for both skills and perspective, Zen Golf aims to help golfers lower scores while increasing enjoyment of the game.





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