Ah, the everlasting question! I’ve been asking myself this same question (as I imagine every golfer does) since the first time I swung a golf club. Golf is a phenomenon in that it can easily be the most frustrating thing you will do in a weekend, and yet it can also become an addiction; something that requires your full attention and something that you instantly want to be great at. Just ask anyone who’s ever made a long birdie putt and experienced that massive hit of adrenaline and dopamine! It’s something that every weekend warrior golfer strives for – to always be better this time than last time.
With that said, I can only speak to the level of golfer that’s on the same plane as me. At this point, I don’t have much to offer a low handicapper that’s trying to make the tour, outside of a swing thought or rare drill that they maybe haven’t considered. But for those weekend warriors like me that enjoy playing and challenging themselves to be better, but don’t do it every day and don’t have major aspirations to play professionally, I am where you are and/or have been where you are. For the 12–20+ handicappers that want to challenge and break 90 consistently (bogey golf), and would like to be in the top 25% of golfers everywhere (that is breaking 90), I think there are simple, reliable systems that can be put into place to do just that. According to thegolferadvisor.com, only about 25% of golfers can actually break 90 on a regulation 18 hole course. This is a pretty astounding number considering that there are millions of people around the world that play golf. Golf is just a tough game, period.
Honestly, if you’ve played golf for any time at all, tell me this hasn’t happened to you – pissed off, ready to sell the clubs by the 17th, and then you hit the shot of the day on the 18th, stopping it, and spinning it back 10 feet toward the hole, which leaves you with hope and a renewed vigor to come back and conquer worlds the next round. Yea right! But, it is entirely possible to go through a broad range of emotions within a matter of a few hours on the golf course. So to reiterate the very first statement of this post – “Ah, the everlasting question”. Here’s a quick overview of my take on the “how”. For the full breakdown of these Simple Systems, check out www.ibreak90.com.
First and most importantly, putting is the most important thing that you can improve on to lower your score. Tiger Woods’ father and golf coach for years, tells how he taught Tiger to putt first, and that’s all they worked on for the longest time, and then they moved to Wedges. Why? Because he understood, as we should, that you can hit the all 500 yards, but if you still 3 putt, it’s pointless. In other words, the tool that golfers use to put the ball in the actual hole is still the putter. I know that everyone has their own way of measuring certain aspects of their golf game and that systems are important (that’s exactly what we’re talking about right now), but even still, overall golf is a game of feel and touch. If you don’t have a “feel” around the greens for what it takes to get the ball in the hole, then you won’t score well. And that comes from systems yes, but also practice and developing that touch. For some of us, simply cutting out 3 putts in an 18 hole round, would give us 10 strokes back on our scorecard – that’s the difference between shooting 90 and shooting 80. In fact, speaking of the importance of putting, here are some stats for you to check after your next round.
Average Putts per Round:
For a Score of 90 and above = 36+ Putts
For a Score in the 80’s = 32–35 Putts
For a Score in the 70’s = 29–31 Putts
For me, I’ve found myself saying something to this effect often – “wow, I hit 8 greens in regulation this round, and I felt like I was striking the ball great, but I didn’t score great”. Hmm… what does that tell you? Try tracking how many 3 putts you had? Putts are strokes too and more of them, don’t help your score. That’s probably where your problem is – I know that’s often where mine is.
For My “5 Simple Steps that Anyone Can Do to Immediately Improve Their Putting” PLUS my StatTracker Scorecard that will allow you to Track More Stats, Learn Your Game, and Improve Your Score, check out www.ibreak90.com.
Beyond the Importance of Putting, there are plenty of other systems that you should have in place in order to have something to fall back on (like muscle memory) whenever you are on the course. Here is a quick rundown of the 6 Points from my ebook “6 Simple Systems To Score Like the top 26%” (also available at www.ibreak90.com)
Pre-Round Thoughts – Golf is such a mental game and it’s important to be in the right frame of mind before and during a round. There are plenty of ways that you can do this – everything from researching the golf course you will be playing, to thinking about and focusing on your swing thoughts that you’ve been working on/made note of, and more. Getting your head straight and controlling the mental part of the game is so important.
Consistency is Key – Growing up playing basketball, it was always preached to me that you have to practice enough until you develop the muscle memory in your hands/wrists so that you will just remember what to do whenever you get in a big moment during a game. The same is true with golf. Getting on the Driving Range (at least occasionally to stay sharp) will help to keep your swing consistent and will have you thinking through shots like you will be when you play a round. Practice Like You Want to Play, as they say.
Pick Your Spots – One of the best ways to lower your golf score is to play smart. Easier said than done, I know! Pride is probably one of the biggest killers when it comes to the golf score because we want to bow up on one and drive the green on that 300 yard par 4, or we want to execute the spectacular shot with a minimal chance at birdie versus punching out and trying to make par. Visualizing things as you move around the golf course is a great thing to practice. Where do you want to land this shot? Which side of the green slopes away and which side leaves you an uphill putt? These things are important to think about. Plotting your way around the golf course is wise and will lend you a better score, while leaving your game to chance and hopefully great swings can quickly derail a great round.
Pre-Swing Thoughts and Other Factors – What are you thinking? No really, what do you consider before each shot? Lie, Slope, Stance, and Wind are all things that can effect ball flight, distance, and more. Before you try to hack it out, consider if the ball is above or below your feet, if it’s in the fairway or the rough, or if the wind is gusting 15mph in your face. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to think about and it can be overwhelming, but if that’s the case, make a mental (or a physical) checklist to go through in your head before each swing. I think you’ll be glad to have that, and I think it will take strokes off of your game. The professionals have caddies to help with the load of having to think about every possible factor before each and every shot. The least we can do is be aware of a few of the same factors. In the ebook “6 Simple Systems to Score Like the Top 26%”, I break down each of these steps further, including a list of factors to consider per shot.
What, Why, and How of Ball Striking – Hitting the ball square on the club face and making good contact consistently is obviously essential to playing great golf. Beyond the basics, knowing how the club face interacts with the ball to create a draw swing, fade swing, low punch shot, etc will make you a much better ball striker as well. Again, I know it’s a lot, and ultimately, you should stick to what you know. Don’t try to hit the miraculous “low punch draw around the trees and over the bunker, with a soft landing on the green” shot that you saw on tv last night – just take your medicine, punch it out onto the fairway and give yourself a straight, simple pitch shot and save par. As the good book says, “Pride comes before a fall” – like your ball, falling over the cliff… When it comes to Ball Striking, mainly you want to hit ball first, accelerate (Never Decelerate) through the ball, and keep a nice tempo to your swing Always.
Be Present – Lastly, only focus on the shot at hand. Golf is a mental game and can completely frustrate those that let it. Focusing on each shot, and letting the last shot go (whether good or bad) is one of the best qualities that you can have as a golfer. So whatever you gotta do – Deep Breathing, Meditations, Chants, a Long Walk and Talk (my favorite) – do that in order to keep your head in the game. The longer you can do that, the better chance to hold together a good round.
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