Lowering your golf handicap is like improving your grade-point-average. It takes practice, practice, practice. Understanding your golf game and your capabilities is much like understanding a school textbook. It doesn't mean anything unless you apply it to the test. Golf's test is your ability to improve your game and lower your handicap. To do so, you'll need to manage the golf course, improve your short game, and display confidence in your game to succeed.
Hit the ball straight. By hitting the ball in the direction you aim, you'll often avoid bunkers and hazards. Whether your shot goes 200 yards airborne or rolls 100 yards, hitting it straight will usually keep it on the fairway and out of trouble. Distance isn't as major of a factor as keeping the ball in play. As you improve your golf mechanics, you'll gain distance on an already straight shot, lowering your handicap.
Manage the golf course. Only you know your capabilities as a golfer. If you don't hit for distance, lay up without trying to hit over a creek or pond. Don't use a driver if you're playing a dogleg hole that may cause you to roll it into the rough. Taking an extra shot to get to the green might save you a penalty shot or two. Also, use the right club to avoid over-hitting the green or coming up short on an approach shot.
Improve your short game. By chipping near the flag stick on a regular basis you're ensuring more one-putts and a lower handicap. Position the ball in the middle of your stance. By placing the ball in the middle you're setting up for maximum impact. Keep your weight on your front foot during your back swing. When you place the majority of your weight (75 percent) on your lead foot, you're more likely to hit down on the ball, creating more lift and less roll.
Improve your putting. Putting is where many golfers, including the pros, leave shots on the course. A major factor of good putting is the ability to read greens. Control your speed. Realize if the putt is going uphill or downhill. Then, bend down on your knees and read the break of the green. Controlling your speed and understanding the green terrain may save you a few shots every round and improve your handicap.