Believe it or not, making more pars is one of the most hotly debated topics among golfers of every level; however, one group of golfers that seem to really struggle to make enough pars are mid to high handicappers.
After another frustrating round of golf where things just didn’t seem to go their way, the question that most amateur golfers ask themselves is not, how can I make more birdies?; it’s how can I make more pars? While PGA Tour pros have the envious problem of trying to make more birdies and eagles, the low handicapper is doing everything in their might to save par.
Let’s be honest, though, making par for any club golfer is their primary objective because, in their mind, they equate making par on every hole to finishing even for the day. But here’s the thing, although their calculations are correct, the one factor they haven’t considered is it’s nearly impossible to par every hole on the course.
So let’s take an in-depth look at some easy-to-implement and straightforward strategies to help the average golfer achieve their golfing dream; making more pars.
Two critical shots to help you make par
In reality, there are two critical shots that you should be focusing your attention on if you’re trying to make more pars; your drive and your lag putt.
Obviously, to give yourself the best chance of making par, you need to get the hole off to a good start, and the only way to do that is by hitting the fairway. Remember, there’s no rule in golf requiring you to hit the driver off every tee; instead, your best option is to take the longest club you feel most confident with.
Have you heard of the saying “drive for show putt for dough?” did you know that the number one reason most mid to high handicappers don’t make par is because of the frustrating three-putt? The cause of the three-putt is almost always due to a poor first putt, or what we call a “lag putt.” Instead of lagging their putt 3-5 ft from the hole, amateur golfers either come up too short or 10 ft past.
Clearly, working on improving your long game and your lag putting will go a long way in helping you make pars, but let’s be honest, there’s a lot more to making pars than hitting fairways and greens.
You’ll never make par without a plan
There are many factors that separate pro golfers from club golfers; factors such as skill and fitness levels, the ability to hit any number of shots, and their ability to get out of trouble, but there’s one aspect of the game most club golfers completely neglect; the importance of having a game plan.
Most golfers throw their golf bag in the trunk, drive to the course, and tee off without giving any thought whatsoever to the course setup and conditions. If you’re planning on making more pars, then you’re going to have to take the time before each round to sit down and develop a game plan. Otherwise, you’ll end up like a boat with no rudder; you might reach your final destination, but it’ll take blind luck getting there.
Having a game plan in place gives golfers confidence because they know which hole they have chances to make par on. Knowing this, golfers can then take it a step further and start planning each shot on those specific holes. Now I’m not saying just tee off blindly on the holes you’ll struggle on; you still need to focus on those, but a game plan helps to “pin-point” your focus on holes that give you your best chance to make par.
Developing a solid game plan starts by examining your own strengths and weaknesses; the important thing here is honest self-appraisal. Time and time again, I’ve seen amateur golfers overestimate their strengths, leading to disastrous round after disastrous round. Analyzing every hole’s shape will help you identify holes you have a chance to make par. For example, if you’re a right-handed golfer who hits a natural fade, then identify holes that dog-leg right and mark them down as potential par holes.
One of the most critical parts of analyzing each hole is identifying areas that we call “safe landing spots.” You can swing freely and confidently if you know exactly where your safe landing spot is. Your tee shot will either make or break your chance of making par; stripe it down the middle, and you’re looking good; miss the fairway, and you can kiss your chance to make par goodbye.
Continually re-evaluate your plan
After you’ve made your game plan, you need to continually re-evaluate it to check for any areas in which you’re falling short or areas you might be completely overlooking.
First and foremost, you need to analyze whether you actually made more pars with your plan than you did without. Obviously, if you didn’t make more pars, then you’ll need to look at areas within the plan that are working and areas that aren’t. To accurately assess whether you made more pars with your new plan, you should’ve had a baseline number of past pars made before developing your new game plan.
There is an adage that goes, ” don’t fix what ain’t broken,” so if you find areas in your plan that worked well, don’t change them; once you find a winning formula, stick with it; in pro sports, we have a saying, “keep going to the well, until the well is dry.”
Holes you had trouble with, try to identify what exactly went awry? Did you hit the wrong club off the tee? Did you leave your approach shot in a difficult spot? Answering these questions is essential if you’re going to revamp your game plan.
After the round, head to the clubhouse and analyze your game while it’s still fresh in your mind. Sit down and identify what areas worked and what didn’t; wait too long, and it’s easy to forget precisely what happened; Oh, and while sitting down at the clubhouse, order a sandwich and a drink to help support your club.
The importance of setting realistic goals
The importance of setting goals when it comes to making more pars cannot be underestimated. Most amateur golfers know what goals are, but many golfers have no idea how to set them and, more importantly, make them achievable.
Setting goals is a very individual process and depends largely on factors like your current level of play, how many times a week you play, and how much time you’re prepared to dedicate to your goals? Golf is like a marathon rather than a 100-meter sprint, so setting incremental goals means they’re more achievable and will help keep your motivation levels high. Long-term goals are great, but it’s very easy to get off track and lose motivation if you only have long-term goals.
An example of incremental or “short-term” goals might be something as simple as parring two more holes in your next round than your previous round. Like weight training, once you achieve that goal, maintain it for another few rounds before taking the next step to three more pars and so on.
One of my favorite sayings is from Confucius: “the man who moves mountains begins by moving small stones;” setting big goals is no different. Little by little, you can slowly start to make more pars; even if you only make one extra par on average each month, you’ve lowered your handicap by 12 strokes over a year; not bad at all.
For example, if you’re an amateur golfer who currently averages 3 pars for each round you play, I would set the following 8 round plan to help increase your overall average.
Eight round example to make more pars
- 1st rd goal of 4 pars
- 2nd rd goal of 5 pars
- 3rd rd goal of 5 pars
- 4th rd goal of 6 pars
- 5th rd goal of 6 pars
- 6th rd goal of 7 pars
- 7th rd goal of 7 pars
- 8th rd goal of 8 pars
Remember, this is just a guide to help you get an idea of how you can make more pars. By all means, use this proven method but be sure to use your own specific numbers and goals and continually reevaluate.
The importance of practice in making more pars
As we’ve seen, setting goals is an integral part of making more pars and goes a long way in building your confidence level and strengthening your mental resolve. But let’s be honest; goals aren’t a silver bullet, and without putting in some serious practice time, you’re never going to achieve them.
The type of practice you’ll be doing will depend largely on the goals you’ve set yourself and the areas of your game most important for you to make more pars.
With that being said, as I mentioned at the start of this guide, two areas of the game that are crucial in making more pars are driving and putting. Spending time on both of these areas is paramount, and when push comes to shove and you’re forced to choose where to spend your time, putting, and the short game always win out.; after all, what’s the point of hitting Laser-like bombs down the middle of the fairway if your short game sucks?
The short game is an area where the pros spend the vast majority of their practice time, and so should you. Practicing from 150 yards in, will have enormous benefits for your game and, most importantly, improve your overall score. A great short game is what separates the 5 handicappers from the 10 handicappers.
How often should I practice my short game?
There aren’t many areas in sport or life where you can make blanket generalizations, but I think I’m going to break that rule here.
When it comes to your short game, I would recommend doubling the amount of time you spend on hitting your driver, fairway woods, and long irons. The majority of that time should be spent on the putting green, working on different types of putts like lag putting from 15 meters and finishing off 3 footers.
The short game is so important because for most mid to high handicappers, at least 60% of their shots land within 150 yards of the green; that’s why it’s essential you don’t waste time spending hours on the driving range. By simply reducing the number of times you three-putt, you’ll be amazed at the difference it can make on your scorecard.
I would recommend starting with 100 putts from between 10-15 meters and 100 putts from three feet out. Once your skill level improves, you can make it more challenging; for example, maybe you have to make 100 consecutive three-footers without missing; I can still remember the first time I tried this and made 99 straight putts only to miss the last one.
The next area of your short game is to focus on chipping. Most golf clubs allow chipping around the putting green, and many have dedicated “chipping greens.” Improving your chipping around the greens will significantly reduce your three-putts because it’ll leave you much closer to the hole.
At the end of the day, if you’re serious about wanting to make more pars, you need to be spending every working hour either chipping or putting.
Remember; It’s only a game
Everyone who plays golf knows that it’s undoubtedly the most frustrating game on the face of the earth; just as you think you’ve got your swing and putting worked out, along comes the inevitable catastrophic round.
Emotions can not only ruin your round, but they can make it a very uncomfortable playing experience for your partners too. The number of times I’ve seen athletes of all levels place unrealistic expectations on themselves is simply flabergasting. Unrealistic expectations lead to anger, frustration, and ultimately disappointment. All of these emotions are negative and result in tense muscles that play havoc with your swing mechanics.
Negative emotions also adversely affect your mental state and lead to poor decision-making, increasing your chance of playing a bad shot and an even worse round. Give yourself some slack; ask yourself, if I play poorly today, is it really that big of a problem? Hopefully, the answer is no; if you answered yes, golf might not be the game for you.
Remember, even the best players in the world make double and even triple bogey; the only difference is their ability to put the disappointment behind them and bounce back quickly. Tiger Woods, in his prime, led the PGA Tour year in year out in the “bounce-back” stats. A bounce-back simply refers to making a birdie immediately after making a bogey. Tiger’s ability to lead this stat led to him dominating the tour.
Another excellent strategy, along with setting goals to make pars, is setting goals to enjoy the game; after all, you obviously love golf; otherwise, you wouldn’t be playing.
For most amateur golfers making more pars is the ultimate goal, and so it should be. Setting goals, consistent practice, and developing a solid game plan are sure-fire ways to lower your handicap. The short game is the area in which you should be spending most of your time, particularly putting and chipping around the greens.
Ensuring you set realistic goals and keep your emotions under control is also critical for making more pars. Continually re-evaluating your plan will help you identify areas that may need tweaking and remember never to fix anything that isn’t broken.
The best players in the world make double and triple bogeys just like the rest of us, so take a note out of Tiger’s book and don’t let those bad swings affect the rest of the round.