Know Your Distances With Each Club To Successfully Play A New Course

If you're a mid- to high-handicapper and you play one golf course most of the time -- whether you're a member or you just have a preferred local muni -- you may be a little nervous about playing a new course at a place like The Pointe Golf Club. Even if the new track is a local golf course, you won't know the nuances of scoring well like you do at your familiar layout.

But there's one thing you can do to make playing a new course more enjoyable: know your distances. That means that you know exactly how far you hit each club with a normal swing. Armed with a solid understanding of what club you should hit for each yardage, you can use yardage markers to help you better judge your approach shots and score better. Here's how:

Hit the driving range.

You'll need to take some practice time on a few different days to accurately assess your distances. Pick a driving range with clearly marked yardages or pins at regular 50-yard distances apart. 

A laser range finder can help you pinpoint distances, but if there are no others hitting on the range, you can go the low-tech route of pacing off your yardage. An average stride is about a yard.

Warm up, then start with a short iron, like a 9-iron. The average PGA Tour pro hits a 9-iron 148 yards, but your swing speed will be considerably slower. For example, an average man might hit between 95 and 130 yards, while an average woman should get between 55 and 95 or so. If you're not hitting this far, that's okay; the goal is to find out exactly how far you do hit it.

Work up from your 9-iron to your long irons and hybrids. Take notes on a smartphone or notepad so you can get an idea of your average yardage.

Learn how other factors impact distance.

Several other factors can influence how far you hit. As a mid- to high-handicap player, you don't need an exact understanding of how slope, temperature and wind impact your swing. You should, however, have a basic grasp on concepts like how hitting uphill will give you reduced distance and you should take an extra club, while hitting downhill will increase your yardage and you can take one less club.

For wind and temperature, you may need to get an idea of how much these will influence your game when you arrive at the course. Warm up on the driving range to make sure your distance is close to your average. 

Once you know how far you hit your clubs, you'll be able to use on-course yardage markers more effectively and enjoy your round on any local golf course, even one that's new to you.