The game of golf is not an easy one to play. Everyone who has played the game knows that but if you don’t want to really suck at golf, then you should probably read this.
This post isn’t for everyone. If you want to go out once or twice a year and play in your friends or a company scramble – go for it. But if it’s time (and you know it) to make a commitment to getter better at golf then read on!
Well, let’s just say here are 7 ways to help you get “less-sucky” at golf.
1. Sound Fundamentals
Let’s face it you need to have some basic understanding of golf fundamentals. Things like grip, stance, takeaway, position at impact, follow-through, balance, etc. Do you know if you have solid fundamentals? Do you have a checklist?
No one wants to hear about golf fundamentals because they’re just not that sexy. They’re not the latest “super cool” tip. They don’t sell enough magazines. But if you’re interested in sucking “less” then you need to adhere to solid fundamentals.
Jack Nicklaus used to be a maniac about these fundamentals and would spend thousand of hours working on his stance. He knew the proper fundamentals would give him the best chance for success because he could control that.
Golf is a precise game so you need to be precise about your fundamentals. Just a an inch or two can get you on the path to some serious swing flaws to compensate for less-than-sound fundamentals.
Maybe you’re just beginning. That’s fine. If I had it my way, I would teach everyone the way announcer and golf professional Bobby Clampett advocates in his book, The Impact Zone. Start small and build.
I see people struggle on the range time after time because they have no clue what they’re doing or why the ball is going this way or that.
Start with the putter, Clampett suggests. Understand that you will be practicing your stance, balance, grip and flat left wrist at impact. Then work with these same fundamentals as you begin learning how to chip the ball. If you can learn to properly chip the ball you’re already most of the way there. It’s one of the soundest ways to learn golf I have ever seen.
2. Not Willing to Get Help
Here’s the good news. It’s probably not everything you need help with in your swing. It’s probably only a few things that make up 80% of your problems. Ah, yes – the old 80-20 rule!
It’s very difficult to be objective about your swing flaws, that’s why you need to get help. I’m not saying hire Hank Haney but get to your local pro and have him take a look.
A pro will immediately be able to see where you will get the most benefit in the shortest amount of time. It maybe something that will be fairly immediate or it might take a little longer to work out. However, you will have the confidence knowing you’re working on the right thing.
What’s even better nowadays is that video is so ubiquitous that you get immediate feedback. I’m not the only one in the world who has seen video of themselves and thought, “You sure that’s ME!” It really can be that eye-opening. The positive side is that *usually* you can almost immediately see the flaw that is causing your issues.
Of course, you can also get help via the internet, books, friends, etc. but going to a pro will be your shortest and most direct route to improving your golf swing.
Note: If you do have some sort of physical ailment or condition it might be worthwhile sharing that with your pro. It might not be immediately obvious to the pro and he can help you work with (or around) it.
3. You’re Not Committed
If you’re not committed to improving your game it’s not likely to happen. What is a commitment? It’s simply a decision you make. In your mind it’s kind of a zero-sum game. This WILL happen. It’s like getting to the airport. You commit to being on that plane on time because you paid for it and you have a place you need to get to. Quite simple actually.
When you put something into “committed” part of your brain, things start to happen. It’s no longer about external feelings or circumstances or anything like that. It’s what needs to be done.
If you have to practice in the rain or stay until (or any number of other things) it’s dark then you’ll do it – because you’re committed to improving your game. You’re “coming from” a place of commitment internally. It’s a new paradigm. It’s the resolve, “I’m finally resolved to get this swing flaw fixed. This is it. No fooling around this time.”
Keep in mind, commitment doesn’t always work perfectly. Sometimes you will slide but commitment involves starting over. Again and again. Over time, you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve traveled in your progress.
4. You Don’t Practice
Let’s face it – you have to practice if you want to become better. I’m not sure why this often comes as a shock to people. If you ask a friend, colleague etc. about what they want to get better at – and it could be anything (golf, public speaking, a new programming language, etc.) – and then ask them, “What is your practice for that?” they might look at you like you have two martian antennae poking out of your head.
Most of the time I would venture to guess that there is no structure to your practice. Once you have a structure then it becomes much easier. By structure I mean you have planned or made an appointment with yourself (just like a Dentist appointment, etc.) that you will, for example, practice 4x this week for 1.5 hours each session.
So that’s the first step, making an appointment with yourself. Next, you need to know *specifically* what to practice. You’re not going to the range to just pound a couple buckets of balls or chat it up with anyone who walks by, you’re going there to work on those specific things your PGA pro has outlined in his plan. (see #2 above)
Bring a sheet of paper with your couple of things you need to work on as defined by your pro or use something like the terrific “Habit Formation Calendar” I mentioned in the post, Secrets of Subconscious Golf. This will really help you be focused in your practice session.
PS: Don’t know what to practice today? Try reading this post: Here’s the Best Golf Drill Ever Invented.
5. It’s a Process
Realize that getting better at anything will cause some kind of disruption in your system. Meaning you’re trying to ingrain new patterns – and that takes time.
You’re going to hit a lot of bad golf shots but you need to know that’s part of the process. One thing that really helped me is the distinction Ed Grant makes in the Subconscious Golf book mentioned above is between “ball focus versus swing focus” – here, when learning a new habit, you are going to be more swing focused.
What that means is you’re not going to care much at all where the ball goes. I mean you don’t want to be hitting people on the range but you’re goal is to be focused on you’re swing mechanic and not so much the ball.
It will take a lot of self-discipline to accomplish (especially when people around you are hitting these, beautiful, crisp shots) this but you want to feel like you followed your plan for this session and you accomplished what you intended to accomplish. Feel good about that! Knowing that (at some point) the tide will begin to turn.
6. You Swing too Hard
This is such a common tendency and I, like a lot of people, struggle with this. How can you tell if you’re swing too hard? Easy – it “feels” effortful. A golf swing should be a pretty smooth, natural motion. Just try taking a swing without any ball present (or just swing with your eyes closed) – easy and effortless, right?!
Somehow you have to recalculate in your brain the feeling of a nice smooth, relaxed swing. Often, many of us carry so much tension in our bodies that we forgot what it feels like to be relaxed. But the key is you have to practice it. But it will take time to recalculate your brains idea of what it feel like to be “relaxed.” Is it worth it? You tell me after you practice for a month or two.
I’m going to generalize and say this is *mostly* a male issue. I’ve mentioned numerous times here that a good idea is to watch Women Tour players. Some really slight stature women can really hit the bajeezers out of the ball because they have a relaxed, tension-free golf swing.
7. Not Fun Anymore
When it becomes a chore and you continually suck at golf then it’s time to re-evaluate what you want out of the game. The good news? The points above can set you in a new, positive direction.
Of course, there are times when you go through stints of playing bad. You just kinda have to accept those. If you’ve been playing for awhile you just “know” this so it’s no big deal.
There were times when I first started playing that I would get so wound up after a bad round I would run to Barnes and Noble and buy golf books to try to figure what I was doing wrong.
Then one day I just realized, “Golf the next day can be totally different then the previous day” – and for no apparent reason. Somehow once I got that, I never really worry too much about a bad round.
Golf (to me anyway) should be a fun experience. You’re out with friends, walking on a beautiful landscape, getting fresh air, playing a game to keep it interesting and hitting some excellent golf shots.
At times maddening, yes, but chances are if you’re not enjoying that then you’re not going to make the commitment to get better and, well, you’ll continue to suck at golf – but that will be YOUR choice.
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