7 course-management strategies to use when your game is rusty

A golfer takes a swing.

Try these strategies next time your game is showing rust on the course.

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Ed. Note: After a long winter layoff (which has been extended with the various shutdowns in parts of the country) most everyone’s game has some rust. That’s where we come in. Over the next several weeks, we’ll answer the questions every golfer is wondering when it comes to getting their games sharp for the 1st tee. Today, we go over some course-management strategies for when your game is rusty.

Let’s face it, golf is hard even under ideal circumstances, and when you’re out of practice it can feel like you’ll never hit a solid shot again. Rust isn’t easy to get rid of and can make the difficult feel impossible.

But a little bit of rust doesn’t have to come at the expense of your score. There are plenty of strategies you can use to mitigate the layoff-induced struggles that present themselves. Try these seven course-management strategies when your game is a bit rusty.

1. Aim for the center of greens

This might be overused advice for amateurs, but that’s because it holds so much truth — especially when you aren’t at the top of your game. If you hit the ball toward the center of the green, you will typically have no more than 30 feet for your birdie putt if you hit your spot. Push it or pull it a touch and you still have a look at the hole. But the biggest thing aiming for the center of the green does is it helps eliminate a miss on the short side of the hole. These shots are difficult no matter what and when you haven’t practiced in a while they become all the more difficult. So aim for the fattest part of the green, take your two-putt and head to the next tee.

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2. Club up and swing slow for solid contact

As Tom Brady showed us on Sunday, when things start to go sideways your round can get away from you quick. A good way to battle these woes when battling your swing is to take an extra club, slow down your swing and try to make solid contact. Once you start finding the center of the clubface you’ll have a much easier time keeping the ball in front of you.

3. Stop trying to hit the ball straight

This advice might sound counter intuitive but bear with me. Even pros rarely play for the straight ball. Each of their shots is carefully calculated as they shape the ball for the best angles on the course. And while you might not be able to shape the ball on command like them, you can still work with the curve of your shots throughout the round. If you’re hitting a banana slice, aim way the hell left and let the ball work back toward the fairway. You probably can’t hit the ball straight, so stop playing for that shape and manage your curves around the course.

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4. Keep the ball on the ground around the greens

Probably the most difficult aspect of the game to get back after a long layoff is your touch around the greens. Those delicate chips can become knee-knockers when your game isn’t in practice. To mitigate this, try to play the ball on the ground as much as you can around the greens. The Texas wedge is your best friend. And though it may not be sexy, a solid bump-and-run can save you a lot of strokes.

5. Write down a swing thought that works

When you get a swing thought in your head that’s producing results, grab a pen and write it down. In the middle of struggles, it can be difficult to quiet your mind and figure out what you need to do to produce solid contact, but if you have it written down it could save your round. Keep a log of a few checkpoints so next time you have a long layoff you won’t be searching for those old results.

6. Don’t play for the hero shot

Even when you’re in mid-season form, this advice holds true. Don’t be afraid to hit a punch-out and play for bogey. It can be tough to take your medicine when you’re in the woods, but if you learn to think your way around the course your scorecard will thank you.

7. Don’t get frustrated and have fun!

Look, if you haven’t played in months, no one is expecting you to come out firing personal bests, so don’t hold yourself to that standard. Golf is inherently frustrating, but don’t let it ruin your mood. Embrace the good shots, brush off the bad ones and don’t take yourself too seriously.

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Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com.