Contrary to the stories you may hear golfers tell about how skilled they are, the average golfer rarely breaks 100 on a challenging course. This isn't to say golfers are liars or it's impossible to shoot favorable scores on a regular basis. It simply means most players should feel no shame in admitting how they play. However, golf can be a humiliating game. Improving your golf score, also contrary to popular beliefs, isn't as complicated as many make it out to be. The trick to turning in a better score card often relies in improving simple swing mechanics and being smart about shot selection.
Know your abilities and be willing to work around your current skill level. Be honest about every stroke you take and think about each errant shot during your rounds. You will be surprised how many times you count yourself shooting out of trees and bunkers, and attempting shots the world's best wouldn't try. Record how many times you hit a fairway off the tee and reach a green in two shots on par-4 holes; and how many times you reach the green in three on par-5s. Note how many strokes you give up missing the green off the tee on par-3 holes. Jot down these numbers on the back of your score card.
Compile the data from your notes into a journal. Count them and be honest about the number of strokes you give up. When you have these numbers recorded, note the causes of each mistake. This will give an idea of what to improve about your game to start shaving strokes off your score.
Concentrate on hitting fairways off the tee. Sprayed shots almost always result in extra strokes. Don't worry about distance. Make smooth, mechanical golf swings in order to hit fairways. Not everyone can hit the ball 300-plus yards, even some pros.
Think about golf strategy while you play. Remember, golf is not an action sport like hockey or basketball, where fast thinking and knee-jerk decisions often are necessary to execute plays. Golf is a strategic game of skill, thinking and execution. There's nothing wrong with playing boring golf. In fact, it's rewarding. Play it safe and think about your shots before you make them. If you get confused, make the safest shot. Giving up one stroke on a hole is better than giving up four or five and having to card the dreaded snowman (8).
Practice putting as much as possible. There is a significant amount of truth to the old golf phrase "drive for show and putt for dough." Golf matches are often won or lost on the putting green, including some major professional tournaments. Even if you miss a green in two or three shots, you can save yourself by being a strong putter. When practicing, work on lag putts, breaks and short putts. Take your time and find a putter you like and stick with it (see References).
Avoid excessive club purchases and trades to improve your game. Too many players endlessly search for clubs that will revolutionize their games. While some clubs are better than others, the inability to shoot good scores almost always lies with the ability of the player. Find a set of clubs you are comfortable with and stick with them. It's often not the club's fault when you hook a shot into the tall grass and it takes you four hacks to get out. If you need to get fitted for a set of clubs, contact a professional (see References).