It’s hard to believe we’re already halfway through 2018. Congratulations to everyone whose New Year’s resolutions are still going strong. But if you’re like me and your goals for the year never really got out of the planning stage, you’re probably hoping for some sort of mid year rebound to boost your spirits and have you feeling like you haven’t totally abandoned what you set out to accomplish. If you’re a golfer you probably immediately wrote down “lower my handicap,” on your list of resolutions. We all do it on December 31st, fooling ourself that we’re going to get up early before work to hit balls or play on our one day off no matter the weather. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have nearly the amount of determination all of that takes. That’s why when I was thinking of some ways to get your goals for your game back on track I wanted to make sure to only include practices and drills easily implemented into an already existing regimen. None of what I’m about to tell you is going to require a range membership or a Trackman on a tripod. These are simply a no name club pro’s five tips to lower your scores.
Slow Down: I’ve been blessed this year to do around triple the number of lessons I was doing last year, and I can tell you the near universal I’m noticing people struggling with is swinging too hard. They take the club back way too far to try to generate more speed on the way down, they nearly pull the club out of their own hands in the backswing, and their backswing is so fast it’s a miracle they’re able to stop the club on the way back at all. All of this will easily and quickly go away if you will just commit to not hitting any harder than 70%. That’s it, that’s all it takes. Let a hundred years of innovation and technology do the job for you, and you just put that club down that swing path at a speed you can remain balanced with.
Quality vs Quantity Practice Swings: Another common habit I see is golfers believing they need to take a dozen or more practice swings before they’re ready to hit the ball. I promise, the odds of you pulling that hero shot out of the bag are about 100K to 1. Minimize the variables in your swing necessary to hit a good shot so that you’re hitting the easiest, straightest shot you can. That way you won’t feel pressured to take a dozen practice swings, searching for that perfect feeling that’ll divine you what the shot requires. If you do that you can limit yourself to just two practice swings. The first one should be about finding the correct swing path, so pay attention to where you’re taking the club back to and if you’re making a full follow through. The last practice swing is all about tempo. Is my tempo smooth, am I accelerating at the correct parts of the swing, and am I swinging at a speed I can control. As soon as you take your second practice swing commit to stepping up to the ball and hitting your shot. It may not be the most glamorous style of play, but it’ll definitely keep you out of the woods and keep the doubt from creeping in that comes with this sort of habit.
Putt As Much As Possible: Too often I see guys cost themselves valuable strokes trying to feather a wedge from just off the green. If a putter in your hand gives you a sure bogey, go with the putter. No matter what the result, even if you duff it, it’s still going to be better than the worst shot you could hit with a wedge. Suppose you do duff it, you’re still on line, you’ve got the same read you just had, and, more importantly, you’ve got the same club in your hand, which is an invaluable advantage. Next time you go play opt for the putter in every situation you would normally grab a chipping wedge and I guarantee you’ll see at least three strokes lower on your score.
Forego the Driving Range: I can’t tell you how often I’ll check a guy in and when I ask him if he needs anything else he says, “yeah I’ve got about 20mins before I tee off why don’t you throw a medium bucket on there as well.” I don’t know who told all these people that sprinting to the range to rapid fire a dozen drivers is a necessary warmup to a round, but they need to be slapped. If you don’t have at least half an hour before you tee off, don’t go to the range. All you’re going to do is rush yourself through your warmup routine and set a tone for your tempo and your swing to be jerky, too fast, and inconsistent the entire day. Instead, go to the putting green and hit about a dozen two footers. Or, find somewhere and play some wedge poison. Hell even swinging at air is better than barreling through a bucket of balls like you’re trying to break a world record.
Take Your Medicine: I can sympathize with not wanting to bail out. No one’s going to spend an hour after their round telling all their buddies about the sweet bogey they made because they hit the ball backwards and out onto the fairway after their drive stopped up against a tree. But if you go for the hero shot and get burned you might spend an hour talking about how you were 120 yards out and carded a 9 because you couldn’t swallow your pride and punch a 6 iron short of the green. As much as we love watching the pros pull off the impossible we need to understand it’s only impossible because we’re equating ourselves with that situation. I once heard really poignant advice that we don’t rise to the occasion when we’re under pressure, we sink to the level of our preparation. That’s why the pros can make those spectacular shots, they’ve prepared for those scenarios. We have not. We’ve prepared for hitting a fairway, that’s as far as most people’s practice will take them. Next time you’re in a hairy situation, find a shot you could pull off 90% of the time and go with that one. It might not be as exciting but it’ll keep that sub 90 in your sights.
I know most of this is repetitive, but that’s the thing about golf. We’re not reinventing the wheel, we’re just trying to keep ourselves in check, restrained just enough so as not to let all the worst of our arrogance and insecurity and desperation take over the round. All of what I’ve suggested can be implemented without adding anything to your game. You don’t need to deconstruct your swing or drop bills on instruction (though if you want to hit ya boy up). Put these tips in play and you’ll be well on your way to that lower handicap you promised yourself in 2017. See you on the tee.