It's safe to say that every golfer wants to get better. Everyone who picks up a club would have more fun if they hit the ball better and shot lower scores. The problem is that many golfers are going about it the wrong way. Every day, I talk to frustrated golfers who are stuck in a rut. Many have been shooting the same scores for years, if not even decades. If you want to play better, you need to change what you're doing now. Here are 10 ways to finally break through to shoot lower scores and have more fun.
1. Write Down A Plan: If you're going to play better, you need to get organized. Sit down and plan out your practice and playing schedule. Write down a step- by-step plan. Just like businesses need a business plan, golfers need a game improvement plan.
2. Stop Trying To Buy A Game: Quality equipment is important, but buying a new driver every year will not magically make you hit the ball much better. There is no trick or short cut your wallet can solve.
3. Get Your Equipment Fitted: The most important thing you can do with your equipment is make sure it fits you and your swing. Expensive equipment that's a bad fit might actually hurt your game.
4. Consider The Source: If you want to play better golf, stop taking tips from Golf Digest Magazine and your buddies. Find a Canadian PGA professional and work together on improving your fundamentals and understanding of the swing. Golf is a really precise game and is impossible to learn without some quality help. There's a reason Tiger Woods and every other great player works with a coach.
5. Practice Properly: Most golfers I watch on the practice tee are just hitting balls. If you want to change and improve your swing, you'll need to get your body to move differently and that's done most effectively with smaller swings and drills. If you can, hit balls in front of a mirror and figure out a few teaching aids that will give you positive feedback. Hitting balls will help your timing and relieve a little stress, but it won't make your swing any better.
6. It's All About The Short Strokes: Half of the shots taken on a course are with less than a full swing. Take a cue from Phil Mickelson and develop a short game that can lower your scores, even when you hit it lousy. Get some quality wedges, take a few short game lessons and spend at least a third of your practice time on or around a practice green. A great short game can make up for a lot of bad shots.
7. Prepare To Succeed: Give yourself a chance to play better every time you tee it up by warming up for at least 20 minutes before you play. Jumping on the first tee with a half-eaten sandwich in your mouth and one shoelace untied is a recipe for stress and high scores. You'll play a lot better if you ditch the Blackberry, eliminate distractions and get your body and mind ready to play before every round.
8. Be Reasonable About Your Learning Expectations: Stop expecting a new club, a quick tip or even a three pack of lessons to revolutionize your game in two weeks. Golf is hard and it takes consistent effort and solid information to make long-term progress. Think of learning golf like learning to play a guitar or piano. It takes lots of lessons and practice to really learn a game like golf. So understand that and enjoy long-term improvement, not quick fixes.
9. Make Every Shot Count: Golfers at every level feel pressure when they compete. If you're not used to pressure, it's pretty tough to deal with it. If you want to learn to play better and even succeed in competition, you need to know what pressure feels like first and then figure out how to handle your emotions under the gun. Even when you're playing for fun, try to play for something with your buddies so you get used to pressure and shoot lower scores when it matters most.
10. Play With Better Players: Just playing alongside better players will get you swinging better and raise your standard of play. Watching better players will also teach you how to act and think on the course and even inspire you to keep working on your game.
Kevin Haime is a winner of the PGA Teacher of the Year award for Canada. He hosts Tee It Up, a weekly live radio talk show on the TEAM Radio Network, and owns the Kevin Haime Golf School in Kanata.
Got a problem with your game? Something you want to know? E-mail your golf questions to Kevin Haime at email@example.com and he will answer one with each Sunday's column.