Plan for the Elements
Be sure to take into account any weather that could affect your play. Note the wind direction and plan your shots to compensate for how it may carry the ball. This can help you with factors such as deciding whether your driver or another club is better when teeing off.
If you are uncomfortable with approach shots, a good rule of thumb is to hit the ball short instead of long. If you hit the ball too hard, you could find yourself trying to hit out of the woods or another hazard. By hitting the ball short, you can usually avoid trouble, and there is also the possibility of getting a favorable roll onto the green.
You should know your strengths and weaknesses and play accordingly. For example, if you are not strong off the tee, on a long hole you could find yourself in trouble by trying to hit the ball too hard, resulting in an inaccurate drive. If your weakness is your short game and you are faced with a downhill putt, it may be smarter to make a conservative first putt attempt and come up short instead of badly overshooting the hole.
Know the Course
If playing a course for the first time that you think you will be playing again in the future, make written notes at the end of the round. Include information such as the slope of the greens, length of the holes and location of any hazards. This can help you to develop an effective strategy before playing the course again.
While it is important to have a game plan for each hole, it is also important to be flexible if things go wrong. For example, you may need to alter your planned club selection if you hit an errant tee shot or end up in the rough. You may also need to alter your putting strategy if the greens are playing faster or slower than usual on a given day.