Playing your best golf on new courses has always been a challenge. Unfamiliar surroundings and lack of local knowledge can wreak havoc on your confidence, but there are several strategies I’d like to share to counter this.
Don’t try to perfect your swing before going on a golf trip. Lots of players attempt to work out all the flaws in hopes of having a ball striking nirvana experience. Don’t try: it’s not going to happen. This will have the opposite effect because you’ll be running with too many mechanical thoughts. It’s hard enough on a familiar course to play mechanically and on a strange track you’ll need to fully focus on where to hit the ball, not how to swing.
Do your homework by logging onto the course’s website and noting as much information about course characteristics as possible. Pay specific attention to the type of grass and the structure of the greens. You’ll gain valuable information to allow you to tailor your short game practice to suit course conditions. On my recent trip to Pinehurst, I knew I’d be playing to small elevated greens with significant drop-offs on all sides. Clearly this would require short shots with elevation and spin so I practiced nothing but pitches and lobs with my sand wedge leading up to the trip. In three rounds, I hit all my green side shots with the sand wedge except for one. It’s also a good idea once you arrive to practice at their short game facility to get more comfortable.
Do whatever it takes to keep the ball in play. It’s tough enough at your home course overcoming wayward tee shots early in your round but it’s even more important on a strange course because resort courses are often loaded with hazards not present off the tee on your average municipal course. “Hit the shot you know you can hit, not the shot you think you should be able to hit,” and you’ll give yourself a much better chance to score. Keep it in the fairway even if you need to tee off with a fairway wood, hybrid, or long iron. As you become more relaxed your confidence will grow and allow you to start hitting driver without hesitation.