Most golfers think eighteen holes of golf is one game. Actually, every time you step onto the tee you're playing a new game. You start over with a score of zero. Your first shot, the tee shot, determinates in large how that game will come out. Here's how to give yourself the greatest advantage.
In general, choose the club that gives you the best chance of getting the ball in the fairway and which sets up the hole to hit a reliable shot into the green. At times, that will exclude your driver.
Let's talk about the driver, since it looks to be everyone's favorite club. Figure out what club you want to hit into the green in regulation. Use your driver if you need it to be able to hit that club.
Here's an example. On a 480-yard par 5, most recreational golfers can not reach that in two. A driver and a hybrid iron or fairway wood would leave around 50-80 yards to the green. This is an awkward distance to play from. Try hitting your fairway wood off the tee, and iron down the fairway, and a 9-iron into the green.
Or on a short par 4, a driver might leave you with a pitch into the green rather than a full shot. These holes can be narrower, too, with more hazards, so a shorter club off the tee will do the double duty of keeping the ball in play while leaving the ball a comfortable distance from the green.
The side of the tee box you hit from is important. If you tend to hit the ball from left to right, tee up near the right side tee marker and aim left. That gives you the entire width of the fairway to swing the ball back in play. Similarly, if you're a right to left player, tee up near the left tee marker and aim right.
Many players overlook the place where they want to hit the ball towards off the tee. Getting the ball in the fairway means not only hitting it straight, but also straight at the right place. Walk out on a par 4 to the place where you want to play into the green from. Now look ahead on a line from the tee to this spot to find an aiming mark for the next time you play.
On a par 5, you must find out how far the green is from where your tee shots typically end up. Sprinkler heads are not usually marked that far out, so you'll need to step it off from some landmark to the 200- or 150-yard marker. This distance is important to know because you can choose the club that lets you hit your desired distance for your approach into the green.
On a par 3 hole, add seven yards to the listed yardage and choose your club on that basis. This is because the ball is hit from a tee, and you will get more height than normal. The ball will not go as far.
If you build these ideas into your game, you will not see the strokes being saved, but you will not have to wonder why you scores are going down.