People who live, eat, sleep, and breathe golf are always on the lookout for ways to improve their game. Is this you? Whether you’re a casual weekend duffer who plays 18 holes on a Saturday morning for relaxation or someone who watches countless videos, spends hours online and makes frequent trips to the local pro shop to ensure that you have the biggest and baddest of Epics/Berthas, you’re always looking for ways to save a few strokes and up your game.
Having taught golf for many years to athletes at all levels, I’m often called upon to make the good even better, the bad pretty good and the ugly beautiful. Unless your name is Brooks or Tiger, you’re probably not going to win the U.S. Open, but I can help you improve your form and your game. And the good news is that it might just mean a few simple changes in how you do things. There are a few comments I note again and again with my students, and I’m glad to share them with you here. Think about them, try them and see if you don’t shave a few strokes off your game.
Are you adequately warming up before you play?
Golf is a great sport for people of all ages and athletic levels, but it’s not so good if you try to smack the ball down the fairway on the first hole without warming up. Think about it; when you go to football or baseball games, you almost always see players limbering themselves up before the game starts. Stretching prepares the body for playing, and to not take that opportunity could encourage injury. Take a few minutes to bend, stretch and move around. Feel your joints loosening and becoming more flexible. Swing your clubs smoothly one by one, from the lightest to the heaviest. Adequate preparation can go a long way toward improving your game.
Use the right club for the job.
Let’s say the perfect Driver shot off the tee box will leave you with a pitching wedge into the green but an average to poor Driver shot will bring a number of hazards (water, bunkers, fescue etc) into play? Put the driver back in the bag and use a utility club or iron instead. This may leave you with an 8 iron into the green but at a lot less risk. Unless you’re Tin Cup that is!
And, for every shot you encounter from the tee to the pin, there’s a club that’s made for that distance. Take the time to learn what types of shots and what distances are served most effectively by which clubs. You wouldn’t use a sand wedge to make a ten-foot putt, would you? Simply educating yourself about when and how to use your clubs can dramatically improve your game. If you taking instruction and they have the technical capability of measuring your shotmaking (ie. Trackman), make the investment and ascertain how far you really hit each club.
Check your form.
It’s often amazing how the slightest modification to your form can help you improve as a golfer. This includes how you hold your club, how much you bend and flex your knees (posture) and how your body lines up (alignment). There are many nuances within your form; for example, how tightly vs. how relaxed your grip is, or how your body is positioned when you’re aiming your shot. Maybe you’ve even developed some not-so-good habits along the way. Improving your form, even in some slight way, might make you a better golfer. And, as above, if your instructor has the tools of the trade, they can illustrate through video and technical data exactly why your shot is going this way or that.
Focus on accuracy.
Sure, you want to pound the ball from the tee for the distance, but let’s make sure there is a high likelyhood of the shot ending up on the fairway. It’s all about getting to the green while avoiding the hazards that lurk on the side, including woods, water and sand. Practice developing a swing and tempo that increases the chances of hitting it straight and doesn’t results in ricochets off tree trunks or getting lost in the rough. If you’re consistently hitting too far right or left, you might want to work with a coach to correct whatever’s causing that to occur. Again, the tools are readily available.
Work on your short game.
This is definitely worth the effort. Today’s oversized driver heads, advanced shaft technologies and golf ball enhancements can help you push the ball farther down the fairway than ever before, if you can generate some swing speed.
But that’s not where the game is often won. No, it’s on the green, mere feet or even inches from the hole. Ever hear the adage “Drive for Show, Putt for Dough”? How many times have you tapped the ball and it headed for the cup, only to loop around the rim and not go in? That tap in of 6 inches counts the same as that majestic 300 yard drive down the middle – 1 stroke.
I advise players to spend time getting comfortable sinking putts and developing good habits whilst chipping. If you can improve your short game, you will place yourself at an advantage.
As a golf instructor and coach, it’s my greatest reward when I see improvement in my students. And they’re always stoked when they realize that their scorecard numbers are going down. Consider these tips. Even small improvements can help you win, and they’ll definitely help you improve as an athlete, even a weekend warrior!