Golf Strategy: “Manage Your Misses” & the 4 Momentum-Killers

manage your misses

Being able to effectively “manage your misses” is an important piece of any golf game.  Even top professional golfers can expect to land in bunkers and miss fairways, greens, and getting up-and-down from tough lies from time to time.  These events don’t have to make a major impact on a round. A strong golfer will be able to navigate these misses and still make par.

However, there are other events that can be true momentum-killers. And these… well, they should be avoided at any cost.

The 4 Biggest Momentum-Killers in Golf

  • 3-Putting: This one doesn’t need much explaining. Look at most guys on tour, 99% of PGA Tour winners do not have a 3-putt in a 72-hole event. This one is a true reflection of putting practice, the right putter,  grip, and sheer confidence.
  • Straight-Forward Chip Misses: If you have a straight chip up the hill and the lie is perfect, you should be able to successfully get up-and-down 9/10 times. I am not counting the times when you have a tough pin location or challenging lie. I’m talking about the ones where you have green to work with and you look at the chip and are licking your chops. Those are the ones. The ones that you need to convert.
  • Par-5 Bogey: Getting that bogey on a par 5 can mean the difference between making or missing the cut. Someone with my length and accuracy should never bogey a par 5. Even if there is water on the hole and you find it, you should still be able to recover and save par. That said, add in some major-tournament nerves… and bogeys happen. It’s something to hone in on during practice rounds and day-to-day training.
  • Penalty Shots:  Keep the ball in play and you have a great chance of winning a golf tournament. Easy, right? I mean, come on, we all hit in the water and lose balls. I am just saying, if you have a penalty shot it can kill any momentum you had in that round. There is a term my amateur buddy always says: “P.B.F.U.”  Post-birdie… well you get the rest. You make a birdie on a hole and then the next one you somehow always happen to find the water. Boom, there goes your momentum.

 If you’re able to minimize these four momentum-killers over the course of a tournament, you’re sure to make the top of the leaderboard or at least increase your chances.

Manage Your Misses: What I Learned From My First Summer of Professional Golf

Managing misses is something that I focused on a great deal this summer and consider a strong part of my game.

What I did well this summer:

  • Speed Control: I worked hard on my putting stroke early on in 2017. For one, I took some lessons from PGA Professional Scott Frisch at Phoenix Country Club. It helped my putting tremendously. My putting stroke was a bit short and jabby. He worked with me on lengthening my stroke and having an abbreviated follow-through. It was all about speed control. Weeks after meeting with him, I shot the course record (62) and won the Tempe Amateur at Ken McDonald Golf Course.  And this summer, I significantly reduced my 3-putting.
  • Getting Up-and-Down:  I have always been a good chipper. I’m confident with these types of chips and, this summer, did well managing and getting up-and-down when I needed to. When the pressure was really on. I was sure to miss in the “right” spot to give myself enough green to work with and increase my chances of a successful up-and-down.
  • Driving the Ball: Keeping the  golf  ball in play off the tee is huge. I did this well over the summer: Par-5 scoring average in most of my events was under par.
  • Golf-ball Goals: This is a mental game I play during my round. I usually start with 6-7 new golf balls. No rhyme or reason as to that number. The goal is to not only finish with all of those balls, but to also be conservative with changing them out.  My personal rules for switching balls? I’ll take out a new one after 9 holes to start (symbolically and mentally) fresh for the second half of my round. Or if I get a scuff on the ball from a wedge shot or a cart path mark. It’s a game to focus on your golf balls and not lose them in penalty-shot type events: water, trees, out-of-bounds, and so on. This mental game works for me, as I usually do finish with most, if not all of the 6-7 balls.
What I am currently working on:
  • Highly Focused Putting: I am still practicing speed control, but taking it to another level. For example, I have been working with sports physiologists and using new meditative-like techniques to stay focused while putting. There are also some great practice routines that you can take from the pros. One that I’m really liking these days is the 3-point drill that Jordan Spieth uses. It helps to match line and speed.
  • Not Forgetting the Easy Shots: I have a tendency to practice difficult chips quite a bit, but you also have to make the easy shots. So, I am working on mixing in some easy chips into my practice sessions. It’s key that I am able to get up-and-down from any easy chip 99% of the time, and all that takes is practice and confidence.
  • Avoiding the Left Side: Committing to one shot, which for me is a fade off of the tee, will help eliminate missing shots to the left. You hear it all the time from professional players: having a one-way miss is better than a two-way miss. This means you’re not missing shots left and right. Eliminating the left side of the course off the tee has helped me manage my misses and become more confident that I can hit fairways. This practice will make me much more consistent.
  • Strategic Ball Striking: My lessons also focus on becoming a better ball striker – something that will help eliminate penalty shots. It’s all about not overpowering a golf course and keeping the ball in play. If a hole does not set up well for me, I am working on doing whatever it takes to hit the fairways. Also, not being distracted by club selection by other players for their tee shots.

When you can effectively manage your misses throughout the full duration of a round, you  significantly increase your chances of making the leaderboard. It’s all about your ball. No one elses.


Sean McWilliams, Professional Golfer from Arizona. Former Division 1 Pitcher and Canandaigua, NY native. Join me on my journey throughout the US and Canada as I go after my professional golf dream, taking on the, PGA TOUR, Mackenzie Tour – PGA Canada events, and mini-tours like the Dakotas Tour. I’ll also be sharing tour travel tips, golf course and gear reviews, and much, much more.

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