It's safe to say every golfer wants to get better.
One of golf's great lures is the promise of improvement. Golfers achieve tiny flashes of greatness that make them believe they are so close to a breakthrough they can taste it.
There’s an entire industry based on that hope. TV pitchmen promise instant improvement with all kinds of gadgets and gizmos, while equipment companies sell the dream of lower scores with tempting new technology and test results that guarantee 20 extra yards.
Unfortunately, getting better is just not that easy.
Day after day, month after month, year after year, I watch golfers try to get better, but very few ever do. Instead, no matter how hard they work, they’re making the same mistakes.
So, in the interest of happier golfers, here are the top 10 mistakes golfers make that prevent them from getting better (In no particular order):
You Have Unrealistic Expectations: Golf is hard. You won’t improve nearly as quickly as you think. You wouldn’t take one lesson to learn to fly a plane or play the guitar, so don’t expect to hit a little ball straight every time after one lesson, or even worse, one tip in a magazine. Expect to take several lessons and hit hundreds of balls to make any kind of positive change. Improve your game at a slow, steady pace.
You Don’t Warm Up: If you care about your game, you need to show up at the course with enough time to hit some balls, short shots and putts. Don’t expect to play better if you’re jumping on the first tee with your shoe laces untied.
You Only Practise In The Spring: Every spring I see the same pattern: Ranges packed with optimistic golfers trying to get a head start on the season. A couple of months later, they have stopped practising altogether. There’s never a bad time to practise. A session or lesson in September is just as valuable as one in April.
You Focus Too Much On Your Long Game: Sixty percent of all golf shots are made with less than a full swing or on the putting green. Visit any PGA Tour practice range and you’ll see great players such as Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker hit balls for an hour or so, then spend the rest of the day on or around the practice greens. Pros understand that you can never perfect your ball striking, and a better short game is critical to lower scores.
You Try To Buy A Game: Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for buying the best equipment you can afford. But a different driver just won’t make over your entire game. There’s more to getting better than pulling out a credit card and buying the newest super-whopper driver.
You Buy Off-The-Rack Clubs: One shoe doesn’t fit all and neither does one set of clubs. You’re making a big mistake if you buy your next clubs without hitting them first and without talking to a pro to make sure they fit. More than half the people I see on my lesson tee have faulty equipment — not because it’s too cheap, but because the clubs don’t fit their body type and swing.
You Don’t Hit Enough Club: Most golfers think they hit it farther than they do. If you spend a couple of hours on a par-3 watching people hit, you’ll see at least 90% of the shots come up short. While half could be mishits, many are the result of poor club selection. If you’re in-between two clubs (i.e., a 7-iron or 8-iron), always take the longer club and swing a little easier. You’ll make better contact, hit more consistent shots and get your ball pin-high more often.
You Think There’s A Trick: There are lots of fads and methods sold to golfers every year. Store shelves are filled with books and magazines that promise secrets and quick fixes to lower scores. That promise doesn’t work in the diet industry and it won’t work with your golf, either. Better players aren’t hiding any tricks or secrets. Better swings and lower scores are built with sound fundamentals, good information and lots of work. So stay the course and be patient. Change is not easy.
You Don’t Practise What You’re Bad At: The greatest bunker player ever was Gary Player. Why? Because he practised a lot. There are stories about Player practising in a bunker when a group teed off. Where do you think he was when they finished the 18th green? You’ve got it ... still in the bunker. If you’re bad at a particular shot, take a lesson, then work at it.
You Hit Too Many Drivers At The Range: If you want a better swing, stop hitting your driver! Hitting your driver will help you time your swing, so you can hit slightly better tee shots, but it won’t change or improve your swing. Positive change is made with drills and smaller, slower swings. At high speed, it’s difficult to make your body move differently. If you want to keep your swing the same, keep hitting your driver. If you want to improve it, put your driver away and practise better motions at lower speeds.
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 at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will answer one with each column.