I'd bet that ten months out of twelve, Golf Magazine and Golf Digest feature Power Hitting and Long Driving articles on their covers.
If you're a big hitter, God bless you. But statistically, less than ten percent of all golfers ever hit a 300 yard drive in their lifetime. More importantly, unless you are trying to be a touring pro or scratch golfer, long driving is not necessary. Power golf is the most overrated feature of a golfer's game.
In my youth, my standard drive was 225 yards. I played a course that stretched to 7200 yards. I often played played from the longest tees, and usually played the next to longest (about 6800 yards). My scores were almost always between 78 and 82...six to ten over par, no matter which tees I played. Actually, I once scored 73 from the all-the-way-back tees.
"OK, Fred, enough about your glory days. How did you do it?"
I studied the game of golf and how to improve my scores without improving my swing or my distance. Here's what I learned.
1. Most golfers lose strokes by wasting them in woods, water, out of bounds, and other, just plain wasted strokes. So stay in the fairway, and don't risk wasting strokes by trying a shot you may not make. For example: If there is a pond you might not clear between you and the green, lay up short of the pond and hit an easy wedge or 9 iron over it. In other words, give up one stroke to avoid losing 2 or 3.
Don't try to cut the doglegs. Stay in the fairway. Cutting the dogleg can put you in the woods, water, or out of bounds. Stay in the fairway, that's the way the hole was designed to be played, and you won't waste strokes by not attempting the perfect shot.
2. The long game can hurt you, but the short game can kill you. Learn to pitch, chip, and putt. These are the easiest strokes to learn and improve, and they are the most important strokes as far as scoring are concerned. Even touring pros are not always on the green in regulation. They save par by chipping close and one-putting. We amateurs are on the greens in regulation much less often, but with good pitching and chipping, we can be close enough to the hole to one putt, or at worst, two putt. That way we can save a par or, at least keep our losses to a bogies.
3. We learn golf strategy by watching TV, watching the greatest golfers in the world, playing their best golf (on the weekends, when they are close to winning a million dollar tournament, and playing better than the other pros.) And then we go to the course and play as if their strategy should be our strategy! Remember, they DO hit 300 yard drives. They DO hit long, high 3 iron shots over water to greens 240 yards away. These are extremely talented men who hit 5,000 practice balls a week! How talented are you? How many thousand practice balls did you hit last week?
4. Play for bogey, not birdie. Another thing we learn from TV...Bogey is bad. No, it isn't! 18 bogies equal 90 strokes on most golf courses. And in most foursomes, 90 is a good score. 17 bogeys and one lucky par is scoring in the 80's! Bogey is a good score if you're having trouble breaking 100. In fact, unless you are a scratch golfer, your goal should be bogeys and pars. Remember when I said I scored 78 to 82? That's 6 to 10 bogeys and the rest pars. 82 is ten bogies and 8 pars. Would you be happy with that?
And here's how I did it. (1) I didn't waste strokes by playing shots I might miss. (2) I hit short, comfortable shots, staying in the fairway to near the green, and chipped and putted well.
5. Practice your chipping, pitching and putting at home. You can hit chips and pitches in your yard. You can putt on carpet anywhere in your house. The fact is, if you improve your pitching, chipping, and putting, you can play 80's golf with no club longer than a 5 iron. I once shot a 43 for 9 holes, with nothing longer than a 5 iron in my bag. A 5 iron, by the way, which I couldn't hit farther than 150 yards.