By Paul Myers

When most amateurs think about playing better golf, they think about hitting it farther off the tee, or making more putts for birdies. Obviously both of those things will help you play better, but hitting more fairways is one of the most powerful ways to lower your score. Often in golf, your score is more dictated by the mistakes you don’t make than the great shots that you hit. Simply by avoiding any serious mistakes, you can put together a rather nice round of golf.

Get Used to the Short Grass

Therefore, you should think about tracking and working to improve your overall fairway hit percentage. Quite simply, this statistic is just the number of fairways you hit divided by the number of fairways that were possible. On a standard 18-hole course with four par threes, you will have 14 chances to hit the fairway during the round. If you can hit at least half of them you are doing pretty well, and anything in double digits is an excellent performance.

Why is this such a powerful statistic for your scores? Because, if your ball is in the fairway, that means it isn’t in the water hazard or out of bounds. Keeping your scorecard clean from penalty shots is crucial in the pursuit of lower scores, and the safety of the middle of the fairway is a great way to avoid those penalties. Not only does this mean that you will be avoiding hazards off the tee, but it will also give you a great chance to hit the green in regulation.

Find Your Patience

To hit more fairways, consider taking a more conservative approach off the tee. You don’t always have to hit driver on the par fours and par fives, so pick and choose your spots to be aggressive and your spots to lay back. As you stand on the tee, visualize the shot you are going to hit and figure out which clue in your bag gives you the best chance of being in the fairway. Even if you have to sacrifice some distance and leave yourself with a longer approach, it will almost always be worth it to get to play your next shot from the short grass.

In addition to using less club off the tee from time to time, you can also pick safer lines for your target. Instead of trying to cut a corner that is guarded by a bunker or a water hazard, aim for the wide side of the fairway and build some margin for error into the shot. Again, this is a strategy that is likely to leave you with longer approach shots, but it will also help you improve your fairway hit percentage and keep those dreaded penalty shots off your card.