How to Really Get Better at Golf

A participant tees off during the 2016 EWGA Cup

For every golf lesson you take, you and your instructor should ask each other what you want the outcome of the lesson to be.  Unsurprisingly, you'll find that the response is usually one of these three answers:

  1. Hit the ball further
  2. Hit the ball straighter, or;
  3. Lower your score

But when is the last time that you really looked at your game and determined how to accomplish any of the above?

Laird Small, PGA Professional and Director of the Pebble Beach Golf Academy shares a few tips on how golfers can improve their scores by reviewing seven key areas of their game.

  1. Start with the Little Victories:  Many of us have a target score in mind that we’d like to shoot.  Is it breaking 100?  Breaking 90?  Shooting a specific score in relationship to par?  Shooting one’s age?  Rather than putting all the focus on a score, try for a simpler goal.  Maybe it’s getting out of the bunker in one shot or hitting a drive around a corner on a dogleg hole.  These “little victories” will help you want to get better and practice.
  2. Take Inventory of Your Game:  If you keep track of your stats, like putts or fairways hit or greens in regulation, it provides a pretty accurate report to help you learn where you are wasting shots.  Most golfers know they waste shots in their short game.  Practice bunker shots, chipping and pitching so when you miss hitting a green, you have confidence to chip or pitch within one-putt range.  Likewise, if you notice more than 36 putts in an 18 hole round, it’s time to practice putting so you can avoid multiple three-putt greens.
  3. Short Game Practice:  More than half of all shots occur within 50-yards of the green.  The quickest way to see scores improve is to spend time practicing your short game shots of chipping, pitching and hitting from the bunker.  Some great drills include:
    • Target Drill – Place a bucket or umbrella (upside down) on the green and practice pitching balls into the target from various distances.  This helps you develop your swing length to the landing area and helps with distance control.|
    • Tee Drill – Place four tees in a square on the putting green about six to eight feet from the edge of the green and hit chip shots to the square box.  Again, this helps with distance control by using different clubs for the chip shot to see the carry vs. roll distance.
  4. Full Swing Practice:  Many golfers make the mistake of going to the practice range and hitting the driver, shot after shot.  If you think that you are likely using this club for 14 or fewer tee shots, it makes sense to practice your time at the range with the clubs you hit on a regular basis.  Practice with fairway woods, hybrids or mid and short irons.  Some full swing drills are:
    • Alignment Drill – Use an alignment stick or golf club to check your set-up including feet, hips and shoulders.  Use two sticks or clubs – one for your feet and the other for your club path.  This helps you visualize the path for the clubhead.
    • Random Club Practice – Rather than hitting the same club ball after ball, practice “playing” your course from the range…hit a driver, then a hybrid or mid iron, then a wedge – hitting your clubs in the order you might use for the first hole on your course.  Do this for nine or 18 holes, including your pre-shot routine, rather than hitting ball after ball with the same club.
  5. Stretching:  Stretching your body and muscles will help your golf swing and prevent soreness after golf.  Some people have physical limitations that prevent them from making a full turn or full swing, but loosening up before playing will help your body.  Starting at your head and working to your feet stretch prior to playing with these exercises:
    • Neck circles – rotate your head clockwise five times and then rotate counter-clockwise five times.
    • Arm circles – rotate your arms in forward circles ten times then rotate in backward circles ten times.
    • Shoulder stretch – cross your right arm across your chest and use your left arm to stretch the right shoulder for 10 seconds.  Then cross your left arm across your chest and use your right arm to stretch for 10 seconds.
    • Toe touching – bending at the waist, lean over and touch your toes or stretch your back by reaching for the ground while counting to 10.
  6. Fuel Your Body:  Be sure to eat and drink properly before, during and after your round.  Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.  Eat healthful snacks like fruit, nuts, granola bars, etc. to help you stay focused and maintain good blood levels during your round.
  7. Survey Your Equipment:  We have discussed in the past being fit for equipment and having the proper set composition in your bag.  Most golfers have replaced harder to hit long irons for hybrids and carry more than one wedge.  Check your grips on your clubs as well – most people replace at the beginning of the season, but forget to replace midway through the season.  Make sure you keep your clubs clean so the groves can perform the way they are intended to and find a favorite golf ball.  Don’t be afraid to pay a bit more for a golf ball with a higher spin rate as it will be a little softer, spin more and will stop a bit faster on the greens. 

So what are you waiting for? Go and incorporate a few of these drills and stretches into your practice and let us know how you improve and lower your score!