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Course Management – How can you play your best golf if you don’t know your distances?

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Golf is a game where you play to a target. This means that to hit that target you need to know how far away you are from it, right? In this article we discuss a simple way for you to determine how far you hit each club and give you our recommendations of the best golf GPS devices.

First things first, you need to know how far you hit each club in your bag, excluding your putter. Our recommendation is to choose a calm day and take a bucket of balls to the practice tee. Hit ten balls starting with your Sand Wedge and pace out the average distance. Discard the furthest two and shortest two balls and mark that distance in a notebook. If you mishit a shot, shank, duff etc. then simply take another. Remember, you are just trying to find your average distances. Next choose your Pitching Wedge and do the same. Complete this task right the way through your bag, pacing out the average distance for each club. After 60 minutes you should have a clear picture of how far you hit each club. This will not only give you a boost in confidence when you are faced with a shot that you know you can easily achieve. It will also help you avoid certain obstacles on the course if you know you can either lay up short or play over them. This exercise should be done two or three times a year just to ensure that your distances are consistent.

So now you know how far you hit the ball with each club. Next you need to find a simple way to establish the distances to the green. Many courses will have the two hundred, one hundred and fifty and one hundred yards marked out with a coloured disc in the fairway. Others will have a distance marked from each sprinkler head on the fairway. Some, just have a post for one hundred and fifty yards. All of these are better than nothing, however they are assuming you are on the fairway. What happens when you find yourself out of position, maybe on another fairway?

A simple and effective device is the golf GPS. This will give you accurate distances around the course, for example to the green and to hazards. But there are so many to choose from. So which is best for you?

Firstly, lets look at the cheapest method which is simply an app on your phone. We have used many of these over the years and the one we would recommend is Golfshot: Golf GPS this is an extremely accurate application with distances to hazards, front, centre and back of the greens. It can also give you a fly over of the hole in the paid version. Which you may find useful if you are playing a course for the first time. The only downside to these types of applications is the hardware that they are on. Not only do they zap your phone battery but there is also the inconvenience of keep getting your phone out of your bag. When I have used these types of apps I can sometimes start checking messages and get distracted. Overall though they are better than nothing and usually have a lite version for free so worth giving it a try.

Next is the GPS watches. This is now a very popular choice for many golfers. Mainly because of their convenience. You simply charge it up, select your course and you are ready to play. A quick glance at your watch will give you distances to hazards, and as before front, middle and back of the green.
These devices are now very affordable and look stylish too. In fact when we have tested GPS watches we couldn’t really find a downside to them.

Another device that is popular amongst golfers is the Laser Rangefinder . These devices as the name suggests use laser technology to return distances to anything that you aim it at. We have found that for distances of two hundred yards and over you may need a few tries to return the distance. Again, they are extremely accurate, relatively inexpensive and very easy to use. Where these devices have the advantage is on your approach to the green. With a laser you can aim it at the pin and get the precise distance. With all the other devices you are aiming to a part of the green where you think the pin is located.

Finally, there are the new handheld devices that not only give you GPS data for your round but also tracks your shots as you play. You place a small disc that fits into the grip of each golf club. Start the device, and before you play each shot you tap the disc onto the device. This will then register your position on the golf course and the club that you are using. When you are ready to play your next shot you tap the device again with the club that you are about to play. The device then knows that this is a new shot and will mark the distance and whether you hit the fairway or green.
When you have finished your round you upload the data and you now have a statistical representation of your game. Including number of shots, fairways hit, greens in regulation and putts. It will also give you the distances that you hit each club. Overtime this will help you build up a picture of your game and where you can improve. We have used this GPS device and it works very well to identify areas for improvement. Mainly for the GT team missing fairways with the driver.

In summary there are lots of choices on the market to fit all budgets, so really there is no reason why you should be guessing your distance to the green. Get your device now and start lowering your scores and improving your game.

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The Golf Talk team