How many strokes per round does the average golfer waste due to poor decisions? If I told you a 20 handicap player could be a 15 handicap player within a month only by making better decisions would you believe me?

While we all want to improve our golf swings so we can hit longer drives and straighter irons and we all want to chip it close and one putt every green- the truth is a good golf swing and short game is only a part of being a successful golfer. The major area of improvement that is available for ALL golfers is to learn the art of manging themselves better around the golf course. 

Course management. We hear that phrase all the time. Do we listen? We love to quote Sam Snead's famous line "you have to dance with the gal you brought" but how many golfers actually bring those words into context with their actions?

Over my years as a professional golfer plaing in pro am events before the tournaments I have witnessed countless poor decision making from golfers. The shot selection and the things they try to attempt almost always play a much bigger bearing on the disastrous scorecard they hand into the scorers hut at the end of play than their golf swing could ever do.

We all have a standard ability- this is based on our handicap. To go outside this standard or level of ability and attempt shots we have no right in attempting is every golfer's downfall. We compound the mistakes by venturing farther into trouble when trying to escape a predicament.

The practice range is for fine tuning our golf swing. When we hit the first tee our goal should be to play golf and not golf swing. Golf is about scoring. Golf is about minimizing mistakes and keeping big numbers off the scorecard. Big numbers come more often from a bad club selection or a poor choice of shot. Attack or defend? Pitch or chip? Chip or putt? Wood or iron? Even something as simple as how to tee up the ball correctly between the markers can save us strokes throughout the course of a round.

So here are a few guidelines that will help knock strokes off your score:

* Leave the driver in the bag. If a hole has given you trouble in the past or doesn't suit your eye choose a 3 wood or even an iron. The first goal on every hole is to get into a position that makes the next shot possible. Length is not always a determining factor in how we need to play a hole to bring us the lowest score available.

* If you tend to draw your 3 wood and tend to fade your driver play each hole accordingly. Almost every time a hole bends right to left and I need to bend it around the corner I myself still use a 3 wood. My 3 wood normally draws a little. My driver doesn't turn over as much so I play to my abilities. I select a 3 wood on holes that require a right to left tee shot. It allows me to make a confident swing without trying to do something extra with my swing.

* When a hole shapes from left to right tee your ball up over near the right tee marker. This gives you a little more space to start the ball up the left and move it around the dogleg. It is much harder visually from this tee off position to hit a push or over cut the ball as your visual aims you left. The opposite applies for a hole that curves from right to left. If you are on a par 3 hole and feel like you may have too much club in your hand for the shot, move back two club lengths. Give yourself and your mind some extra space to be able to play the shot to the best of your ability. The tee shot is important. We get to have the ball in our hand and can choose where we place it. Use it to your advantage.

* When in trouble being a hero is not always the recommended procedure. They say trees are 90% air but experience tells us otherwise. Do not compound the mistake. Get the ball back in play first and foremost. You can always hit your next shot from the fairway onto the green and make the putt for a solid recovery by playing smart.

* Play to the fat part of the green on approach shots. If the pin is on the left side of the green make it your focus to hit the ball right of the flag. If the pin is tucked on the right side of a green dont be ashamed to aim to the left. A 30 foot putt from the safe area of the green hands down beats having to play a bunker shot or chip from a swale or the rough.

* If a 40 yard pitch shot is not your strength then lay your approach back farther to a distance that is. Closer to the green doesn't necessarily mean better. If you have trouble lofting chips in the air- don't attempt it on the course. Chip around the bunker and give yourself a putt. Wasting shots by taking two or three chips on a hole is a red cross on the card. If you aren't a good chipper and can putt the ball- PUTT it. They only give out prizes for score- not for bravery or how you do it.

* Make your own decisions. Do not expect good results by using the same club as a playing partner. YOU are the one who has to hit the shot. A decisive decision is better than a guess based on outside influences. 

* Know the rules.Understand what your options are in case you do have to take a penalty drop for an unplayable lie or from a water hazard. The rules can actually help us if we know where we can drop the ball and we can use them to our advantage at times to allow ourselves at least an opportunity to salvage a stroke.

Our Goal: Improve our golf swing through toil on the range. Practice the shots we aren't as well equipped to perform on the range. When our technique and confidence in these shots improves then and ONLY then should we attempt them during a round out in the field of play. 

Try taking a few of these pointers out when you next play and the results you are after will be very attainable.