Golf is one of the most technical sports in the world, and for that reason it can also be one of the most frustrating sports!
Especially when starting out, golf can be challenging with regards to improving technique, as there are so many different ways to swing the club. Most people won’t even make contact with the ball the first time they attempt a swing!
This means developing good technique is even more important, so you can eliminate variables and become more consistent which is the key to improving your handicap and becoming a better golfer.
Added to that, almost no round of golf will ever be quite the same – even at the exact same course. There are so many different variables, shots and obstacles over the course of 18 holes, that it’s almost impossible to know how to deal with every situation.
But fear not!
In this guide, we’re going to give you a run down of the top 10 best tips for improving your game. From simple things to slightly more difficult and demanding ones, if you follow the advice in this guide it will give you the chance to improve and reduce a few strokes off your next round.
1. Get lessons or guidance from a pro
The first tip to getting better at golf is the most obvious one – go and see a professional.
It’s the first thing you’d do in any other walk of life. If you want to get fit, you’d go and see a personal trainer. If you want to be better at finance, you’d book a meeting with a financial advisor. And golf is no different.
As already mentioned, golf can be one of the hardest sports to take up. The first few months can be really frustrating, so do yourself a favour and make your life easier by getting advice from someone qualified to tell you how to improve.
Although these days there are great golf resources on YouTube where you can learn the game, down the line, you’ll be glad you went the extra mile to see a PGA pro as they can give you a really good foundation and help you improve a lot quicker than you would on your own.
The only drawback is the cost. You can expect to pay around £20-£30 ($30-$40) for a private half an hour lesson with certified pro.
2. Practice (with a goal in mind)
If the first step is to get lessons, the second step is to practice what you’re taught! You’re going to see very little payback from your lessons unless you’re going to the driving range regularly to groove in your swing.
A good habit is to take notes (or request a video) from your lesson and revisit this before heading to the range to get a feel for what you need to do.
Even if you’re not having lessons, when you’re at the driving range it’s important to structure your practice to improve your weaknesses. Don’t just mindlessly hit 100 balls. Focus on the areas that are costing you shots (if you don’t know where these are, see tip number 8).
There are also many great training aids available that you can use at home, at the range or even on the course that can help you progress with a certain area of your game.
3. Work on your fitness
While technique is arguably key, a good level of fitness can go a long way.
Granted, you’ll see some professionals on tour who look more like snooker players, but these days it’s widely accepted that the stronger and fitter you are, the better chance you’ll have at being a good golfer.
After all, golf requires you to generate a lot of force, with swing speeds reaching over 100mph. Good strength, flexibility and endurance are key to being able to continually generate this force over a long period of time as well as to avoid injury.
Improving your strength and endurance will also help you hit it further, as long as you maintain good technique and don’t force your shots. And hitting your approach to the green from 20 or 30 yards closer is always going to make the game a little easier.
Linking to the above, making sure you warm-up before every round, whether it’s a bucket of balls at the driving range or a few stretches at home, can go a long way to helping your game.
All sports require your muscles to be firing at full power, and a warm-up ensures they’re well prepared and oxygenated, ready to give it your all on the 1st tee.
It’s not uncommon to hear people in the clubhouse after the round saying that it took them “5 or 6 holes to get into the round”, and it’s usually linked to two reasons – 1. they didn’t warm up properly or 2. they had one too many beers the night before.
Not only can a good warm up help you swing more fluidly, but it can also help prevent common injuries.
Golf requires a rotational action which isn’t always that common in day to day life, particularly if you’re sat at a desk for 8 hours a day. So making sure you warm up properly can help save doing any damage to your lower back and shoulders.
5. Use the right equipment
You can spend all the time in the world practicing the right technique and going for lessons but if you’re using the wrong equipment it’s going to slow you down. Thankfully, there are many ways to find the right gear.
Some might say that the amount of equipment golf requires is a drawback, and certainly, for the beginners or casual golfers on tighter budgets, this may be true. But it’s also a good thing as it allows you plenty of room to improve your game simply by upgrading to better equipment as your game develops.
Starting out with a simple budget set is great (and probably advised) to get started. Everyone should have at least a half set of clubs, some golf shoes and a decent glove even as a total beginner.
These will make your experience much more enjoyable and get you started on the right foot, however, there’s much more to the equipment in golf. Widening the different clubs you can choose from, such as hybrids, different wedges and woods can be a great way to improve your options and improve your game.
It’s also important to ensure your clubs are a good fit for you. That could mean going for a fitting to make sure your golf clubs are the right height for you, or having a putter fitted specifically to your stroke. Both of these can do wonders for your game without changing anything to the way you play.
Equipping yourself properly is key but as well as buying the right gear, it’s also important to pay attention to which club you need to use for a particular situation and choosing the right tool for the job. Combine the two and you’ll accelerate your progress no end!
6. Improve your mental game
Golf is a game that not only relies on equipment, skill and athleticism. It is a hugely strategic game and also very demanding mentally.
Golf isn’t a reactive sport like football or tennis. Whilst out on the course, you have a lot of time to yourself to think and that can create immense pressure and at times be impossibly difficult to overcome mentally, particularly after a very bad shot or hole.
Usually getting upset or angry with yourself on the course isn’t going to do you any favours. So being able to manage your emotions and stay calm and controlled is key to preventing a disastrous tilt that could ruin a whole round of golf.
The best golfers in the world are able to control their emotions at all times during a round. Granted sometimes they lose it a little and give a good “club throw” or even snap them! But they have a knack of forgetting about the bad shot and letting it go before taking their next swing.
You should aspire to this same level of control if you want to improve your game. Accept that your not going to hit every shot as you want and brush it off when it doesn’t quite happen for you.
7. Have an on-course strategy
It can be easy to walk onto every tee at your home course and wack a driver. Or fire at every single flag without giving it a second though. However, have you ever stopped to think if that’s the best play?
Having a good on-course strategy is all about understanding how you’re going to give yourself the best chance of scoring well. That may mean occasionally hitting a 3 wood or iron off the tee instead of a driver to keep some fairway bunkers out of play. Or playing away from the flag to the centre of the green to avoid bringing water or a bunker into play.
Think of the course you play most regularly and map out the danger on each hole, particularly the areas that will destroy your round, and plan a route that will avoid them all together.
If you’re a higher handicapper and have a few shots, even better. Use them! Don’t go for the long par 4 over water if you can reach in three and take a double bogey out of play.
8. Know your stats
You can only really implement the above if you know your game well. Most golfers “think” they know the yardages they hit each club. But just because you hit a 9 iron 150 yards once, wind behind, downhill on a hot summer’s day, doesn’t mean you should hit a 9 iron from 150 yards all the time!
Understanding the distance you hit each club is the first step. But also understanding what your strengths and weaknesses are is also key.
Do you tend to miss your shots to the left? How good are you at getting up and down around the greens? What’s the distance you feel most comfortable with?
If you think about each hole a little more and play to your strengths (e.g. laying up on par 5’s to your favourite yardage) you’ll be amazed how many strokes you can wipe off your round.
If you don’t know your stats, track you scores through a golf app such as GolfShot. Or if you want to go a step further, invest in a GPS that will track your distances such as Arccos Golf or Shot Scope. You can read our full reviews of both here – Arccos Golf Review – Shot Scope V2 Review.
9. Focus on your short game
The saying goes “drive for show, putt for dough” and there’s some merit to it.
Unless you’re hitting every green and boxing every putt, on an average round you’re probably going to hit 60%-70% of your shots from within 100 yards of the pin.
Now I bet you don’t spend 60%-70% of your practice time on shots from 100 yards and in. Sure, chipping and putting isn’t as flash as smashing 300+ yard drives, but the short game is generally where you can quickly save yourself a lot of shots.
It’s easier to practice too, you don’t even need to go to the range as you can practice your putting at home.
If you can become a demon on the greens or from 100 yards and in, you’ll be a nightmare to play against in match play golf and your handicap will come tumbling down.
10. Keep it fun
Last but not least! Regardless of your handicap, golf is supposed to be fun.
Striving for better performance is key to any sport, but don’t get carried away or allow your competitiveness to sap the fun and enjoyment out of your hobby.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably not playing golf for your livelihood, so don’t treat it like you are.
Progress should be rewarding, and while setbacks or issues can be frustrating, don’t allow them to define your experience. As they say, even a bad day on the golf course is better than a good day in the office!
And every bad shot or missed putt is a learning opportunity that will improve your play in the long term.