Scratch vs 18 Handicap – Manage the Golf Course

Scratch vs 18 Handicap – Manage the Golf Course

As part May’s Troon Player Development month we decided to run a course strategy clinic to help people understand how an 18 handicap golfer should tackle the golf course compared to a scratch player. Although it is difficult to fake being an 18 handicap golfer, we decided that one of us would play left handed, vs the other who will play as normal. Although I have hit balls on the range from time to time while teaching, I think the last time I have actually been on the golf course playing left handed was when I was 15 years old, trying to beat a friend as part of a bet. Nonetheless I had great intentions of practicing all week and playing on the golf course before the big event, however that was far from what actually happened as work took over. Luckily I managed a few shots and four holes on the golf course with a 6 iron and a wedge before we eventually did play.


Photos by Jonathan Walley Photography (@variablecontrast)

As we left for the first tee I was excited and comfortable, thinking I had a good chance of making some par’s and bogey’s if I could chip and putt well. In my head every par four the goal was to position my second shot short of the green within wedge distance in order to make easy access to the green, with the goal of two putts or possibly one if there was a great chip or a long putt holed. That would force Joe to at least have to par everything and possibly need to make a couple of birdies to beat me in our 5 hole match.


The result of my tee shot on the 1st

However as with so many well laid plans, when you are standing on the first tee often the adrenaline & ambition take over. As I stood ready to go, my brain said “nice easy strike” yet as I pulled back I could not resist trying to impress with a big drive….. Slash… As the ball disappeared into the desert towards the villas. Luckily as I arrived at my ball I managed to get a spot of luck, and have a clear line back to the fairway, al be it not quite in the direction I wanted. My common sense and teaching brain started to kick in and I decided a nice safe 9 iron back towards the fairway was the best option. Although the contact was not fantastic it was clean and in the right direction……Back in play!! From there a slightly mishit iron resulted in a double bogey, which to me was a reasonable start, effectively the equivalent of a bogey for a scratch player although I was one down after 1.


A better tee shot into the Second hole

As I stood on the second tee I knew I could not make any more wild swings and expect to pull off any miracles, I needed to play safe and boring golf. Although I most likely could have made the green with an 8 iron I went two clubs down (6 iron), with the intention of making a half swing where I could control the club face. A nice strike put me in a reasonable position and two putts gave me the par, nett birdie, and more importantly the win!


Luckily my left handed putting was on point

For the next few holes I was pleased with how I handled the golf course, some good shots, some bad shots but more importantly no “destructive shots”, pars and bogeys ensued and playing up our last hole my drive drifted to the left again and found a bunker. Despite trying a safe play with a sand wedge, a poor contact resulted in my not getting the ball out of the bunker. My second double bogey of the day resulted in a one down loss to Joe, but an interesting and enjoyable experience none the less.


The Bunker that got the better of me!


Higher handicap golfers can most certainly save shots if they keep their ego in check, and take their medicine where required

Higher handicap golfers can save A LOT of shots if they learn to pitch the golf ball even reasonable well.

Playing the correct strategy can most certainly save you shots in every single game

Our next course strategy Clinic will be held on May 27th at 5pm