Good course management will save you strokes. The more you know about the course you are playing, the better equipped you will be to score.
Keep in mind, though, not every hole is a driver hole. Some holes are more position holes, meaning position off the tee is more important than length. If a hole is very narrow from the tee, you should focus on getting the ball in play first and then plan the approach shot. If the hole doesn't fit your eye from the tee, don't fight it; just put the ball in play.
Most courses have yardage markers, which are usually visible from the tee. Try and use them (such as the 150-yard markers) as aiming points. Your goal should be to get inside the 150s; the hole will be more manageable from there. The more you play any given course, the more local knowledge you have, such as which way the fairway drops or how the greens break. These are all things that you should use to your advantage.
If you know the course, it will allow you to position the ball so you will have a better angle into the green. The more you know the greens and how they roll and break, the better you will be able to try and put the ball in the best position to make a putt.
Try to play to the strong parts of your game. If you are better with mid-irons than with short irons, put the ball where you will use a mid-iron. If you are better at a full wedge than a pitch shot or half shot, lay the ball back for a full shot. Always try to put yourself in a position to play a shot that you are comfortable with.
If you hit a shot in to the rough or trees, don't try to hit a miracle recovery shot (even the pros don't always succeed). Take your lumps and get the ball back in play. It's called damage control. Try to take the big number out of the equation. Use common sense, play smart and your score will get better.
Tim Peightal is a PGA pro, general manager and director of golf at Pelican Bay Country Club - north and south courses in Daytona Beach. He also owns Summit Driving Range in Port Orange. Mr. Peightal can be reached at (386) 304-4774 or by sending an e-mail to GypsyPro12@ aol.com.