I’ve listed 5 ways to improve your scores below. You may be able to benefit from all 5 of these or just a couple. I have a feeling there a lot of golfers who could benefit from #2 (gentle nudge).
- Practice with more intensity and focus.
- Learn to let go
- Identify the weakest link in your game
- Think ahead – have a plan
- Find a good coach
#1 – Practice with More Intensity and Focus
This one is pretty obvious as most of the golfers I see on the putting green or driving range are just going through the motions. The best is when I see someone hitting chips before they play and they are already hitting their next shot before the previous shot is even close to stopping. I’m not sure exactly what the goal is but I don’t think it’s helping them get better at golf.
I know most people who read this don’t have a lot of time to practice. That’s even more reason to make the time you have as productive as you can. Play a game and track your scores. Have a competition with a friend for a couple bucks or a drink. Do SOMETHING that engages your mind to hit a shot with purpose. If you’re a good golfer try and it make your practice MORE difficult than the course.
As competitive players get closer to competition there is often and increase in intensity but a shorter duration of practice. I’m assuming you don’t have much time anyways between your job and family or other hobbies…but if you are a golf nut I also know you’d love to break 70,80, or 90. So step up your practice. Play one of the games I’ve posted about or make up your own. Find a way to increase the intensity a bit so there is a consequence if you don’t pull off the shot.
#2 – Learn to Let Go
Hitting bad golf shots or having bad holes isn’t much fun. Especially when you’ve been playing well and feeling good. But guess what…it’s part of the game and you’re never going to get away from that. The sooner you realize this the better. If you watched every shot Tour Pros hit you’d see it for yourself. Unfortunately on TV we only are seeing the best shots as we watch the guys who are playing the best that week. I would love to watch an event where they only showed the guys at the BOTTOM half of the leaderboard. Better yet, show only the bottom 10% of the field but show me all of their shots. I’d watch that.
If you can stop trying to be perfect on the course and just be more accepting of the ups and downs that any round will bring, I think you’ll be in a better position to shoot lower scores and enjoy the round even when you don’t play your best. Look up at the trees as you walk. Listen to the sounds around you. It’s peaceful and it should be enjoyed.
Next time you hit a bad shot or have a bad hole do your best to stay neutral or positive. Eliminate the self-defeating complaining or self-loathing. You’ll only be imprinting that shot or hole in your memory anyhow. Ideally you’d like to be more emotional over the great shots and try to imprint those in your memory.
#3 – Identify the Weakest Link
If you aren’t sure how to go about doing this you can start keeping some stats. I use shotbyshot.com because it’s pretty quick (less than 5 minutes) to plug in the data and there’s lots of feedback. Figure out the skill in which you lose most of your shots (for me it’s approach shots) and put in some extra focus on improving that skill.
For example,I know many people that struggle out of the bunkers, sometimes taking 2 or 3 shots to get out. This is one skill that really helps to have a PGA Coach to work with. At the very least just learn how to get it out 80% of the time and on the putting surface.
After some time you can re-assess your skills and put some extra focus into the new weakest link.
#4 – Think Ahead and Have a Plan
When you step onto the tee are you taking a look at the shape of the hole? Checking to see where the pin is located today? Is there an easier angle on your approach shot to that pin? What’s around the green? If I miss it left of the pin will I have an easy or hard pitch? Where is the best spot to putt from?
Do you ask yourself any of these questions? Every time you are in a new position the problem changes and it’s good to be able to think of the next shot you’ll be hitting too. Start doing that and your golf IQ will increase and you’ll start to play a little more strategically with ease. I’ve seen way too many bogey’s become triple bogey’s just because players aren’t thinking ahead.
Remember, sometimes making bogey is good. If you’re in a tough position you can accept that bogey from there is actually quite good and you don’t have to be some hero and try to make par. Pitch it to 20 feet if you’re short sided and maybe you’ll make the putt anyhow. At least you won’t leave the shot short and have to pitch again and bring double into play.
#5 – Find a Good Coach
A good coach can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and give you a plan to improve. If you develop a relationship with your coach it makes it easier in the following years to make adjustments because both of you will know your tendencies pretty well. What you “feel” in your swing often isn’t what is actually happening and a good coach will be able to interpret your feels and understand you better as a golfer.
I especially think this is true for junior golfers. If you find a good coach, and you develop a healthy relationship, I encourage you to stay with that coach during those formative years. You are going to have ups and downs no matter who you work with, and you are responsible for your success. I remember Sean Foley once said: “I’m not responsible for your failures or your success”. I believe that as well. You are the one putting in the work or not putting in the work. Finding a good coach is more about the relationship and support and less about the actual technical pieces of the swing.
Hopefully one of these strategies will work for you.
Have fun and play well,