12 Ways to Become a Better Golfer This Year
At this time of year, with lighter nights and warmer weather hopefully just around the corner, hope springs eternal for all club golfers.
We all dream of low scores, holing birdie putts, hitting towering drives with a gentle draw and seeing our iron shots nestle next to the pin. And we all start every golf season hoping that it is going to be better than the last one.
But improvement does not happen on its own. So here are a few ideas for each and every one of you, tips that just might help you to trim a shot or two from your handicap.
Don’t Listen to 20-Handicappers
We all know somebody who is happy to give advice about your golf swing. Now if that person is a scratch golfer then he is somebody worth listening to. But he never is - he is always a high handicapper who actually knows nothing about the mechanics of a golf swing. Just look at the way he lunges at the golf ball and then ask yourself why you would ever want to take advice from him. Golfers with a 20-plus handicap play to that standard for a reason! And it has nothing to do with swinging a golf club properly.
Get The Basics Right
There are some things you can do yourself. It is impossible to play decent golf unless you get the fundamentals right and the most basic of these are grip and alignment. Many things have changed in golf over the years but the grip has not. Essentially, you have to choose whether you prefer an interlocking grip or the Vardon grip. If you want to know how to grip the club properly then Google is your friend. And invest in some alignment sticks to make sure that everything is squared up - feet, hips and shoulders.
Book a Series of Lessons
You can hit all the balls you want on the range but if you are doing the wrong things then all you are going to do is to groove your faults. Speak to friends who have had lessons and book a series with a club pro who has a good reputation. He or she may have you doing things that initially feel completely alien but they are a professional for a reason - and that reason is that they know their stuff. So as difficult as it might be to build the right fundamentals into your golf swing, do not be put off if you initially struggle with them. It will come right.
Practice What You Learn
If you have gone to the time and trouble to take lessons, the place to put them into play is the driving range. Take that you have learnt to the range or practice ground and repeat it. Over and over again until it starts to feel natural.
If you are planning to change your equipment in 2024, don’t buy the first set of clubs you see. New clubs are expensive and you don’t want to hand over a small fortune, only to discover that you have bought equipment that is not suited to your game. So take the time to book a custom fitting session. That way you will never again be able to blame your clubs if you play poorly.
Work on Your Putting Stroke
Too many of us take putting for granted but if you can average, say, 30 putts per round then as sure as night follows day, you are going to lower your scores. Practice putting from all sorts of distances, not just the short ones. If you do this often enough you will quickly develop a feel for distance putts - and you will eliminate the three putts that destroy your scorecard.
Keep a Scorecard
It is all too easy to tear up your card after a poor start but stick with it. Get into the habit of keeping score for 18 holes - it is the best way to keep a tab on your progress.
Matthew Fitzpatrick keeps a note of every round of golf he plays. We are not suggesting that you do that, but it will help if you know how many fairways you miss, and where those misses end up. The Golfshake Score Tracker makes this easy to record. If you are missing the fairway to the right (and most of us do), either learn how to eliminate your slice - or learn to play for it. If you struggle to get out of bunkers, your scores are going to improve if you learn how to play those shots properly. Your club pro will happily show you how it is done.
Use Decent Golf Balls
Tour pro use as many as six brand new balls per round. We are not suggesting you do that, but you should start every round with a new golf ball. Struck properly, it will travel further than one you have used for six rounds.
Look After Your Equipment
This may sound obvious, but lots of club golfers do not clean their golf clubs on a regular basis. It makes no sense. Keep your irons clean - make sure there is no dried mud in the grooves. You can do this with soap and water or buy yourself a groove cleaning tool.
Play to Your Strengths
If your natural shot is a fade (slice!), why do you keep aiming for the centre of the fairway? It makes no sense. There is not a single leading tour pro who hits the ball dead straight. They all hit the ball with a fade or a draw. So if you fade the ball, aim to the left. Who knows? Your ball may end up in the middle of the fairway. And golf is a much easier game when you are hitting approach shots from the fairway.
Try to Enjoy The Game
Too many of us get down on ourselves when things start to go wrong. Walter Hagen once said that he always took the time to smell the flowers. What he meant was that he felt privileged and lucky to spend so much of his life playing golf. Take time to enjoy the views, remember that you are not Rory McIlroy and never will be. Remember why you took up the game in the first place. You are out there playing with like-minded people. Enjoy their company. If you hit a poor shot, look forward to the next one.
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