In this article we’ll cover actionable points to improve your golf. I’ve broken them down into three sections – practice, coaching and performance. They are my learnings from applying coaching and skill acquisition research into my own practice routines.
Table of Contents
- 1 Golf improvement – Practice
- 2 Golf Improvement – Coaching
- 3 Golf improvement – Performance
- 4 # 5 Keeping stats makes life simple
- 5 My golf improvement to date
- 6 My reflection
- 7 Golf improve plan – summary
Golf improvement – Practice
#1 Quality practice beats quantity, but you need both to get really good
When I’ve practiced I’ve been really disciplined with:
- Setting clear practice goals (I use my little performance diary)
- Effectively thinking to max out my learning
- Making practice optimally challenging
- Mixing up technique practice with skills games
However, I just haven’t put in enough time to really move the needle and get back to a ‘plus standard’ of golf.
Finishing my PhD, lecturing, building Golf Insider and life have taken the forefront. My 8 hours a week target for practice has actually become 2-5 hours of total golf (playing and practice) a week.
For the next 6-months I have the following plan:
- Up range sessions from 50 quality balls to 100.
- Build mini sessions of practice at home twice a week – focus on putting and swing changes (15 – 20 minutes each).
- Play with 2-3 balls, rather than 1 when I can fit in an evening’s 9 holes golf.
I will also aim to make more time, but these three simple ideas should really up my number of repetitions per week with a small amount of extra time.
#2 Skills games are great
I’ve been a fan of skills games for a long time. Their key uses are:
- A fun way to practice
- A focus on performance rather than technique
- A measurable way to see progress in practice
The biggest issue with skills games is making the time for them. They often require a little more thought and set up time. It is far easier to just work on your technique, but playing skills games and trying to score as highly as possible will also refine your technique in a more implicit manner.
After 6-months of practice I feel skills games are the number one way to transfer practice ability onto the golf course.
Skills games start packs
Bunker Zone challenge – As above, but from a bunker
Golf Improvement – Coaching
# 3 Focus on ball flight and your performance
It’s really easy to get lost in the weeds when it comes to building a great golf swing. The golf ball only cares about impact, and you should only refine your swing based on improving your ball flight and golfing performance.
“The golf ball only cares about impact”
Making swing changes because things don’t match a textbook should be avoided at all costs.
Instead, be really clear on what you need to work on – improving strike, improving distance, improving accuracy (start direction and ball curvature). Work backwards from a clear aim and drill down to the 1 – 2 clear things that need to be altered to improve your impact and consistency.
I would advise finding a great golf pro to help you on your golfing quest (not me – I’m a tad too busy currently). Find a pro who you can chat to when you need them and work towards a clear swing plan (and practice too). They should also educate you as a player and performer, rather than just making technical changes.
Golf Insider case study: If you look at my full stats below you’ll see that my main hurdle is hitting the dam fairway more often. Based on my shot distribution and swing analysis this is due to a general trend of pushes and hooks. This comes from an out-to-in swing path and a closed club face. I currently require too much timing to consistently square up my club face. My aim has been to refine my backswing and downswing so that I have a more neutral swing path through impact and can keep my club face squarer for longer. I had 1 backswing change and 2 downswing changes to achieve this. I feel I’m 70% of the way there (still working on the downswing). I’ve tried to fight the urge of changing stuff that doesn’t link with my outcome aim, but boy it is hard! I video my swing every 4 weeks – more than this can really get you bogged down. Instead, use ball flight as your feedback tool.
Golf improvement – Performance
# 4 Manage your swing changes from practice to play
Swing changes always take way longer than you think!
The quickest way to better golf (more consistency) is through better fundamentals – aim, grip, posture. These take some time to get consistent with, but generally make a near instant improvement to ball flight.
In-swing changes are hard! When you need to make swing changes below is the order to work through.
- Blocked then variable practice with no consequence
- Skills games in practice
- On the course – practice with more than one ball
- Keeping a score on the course
Aim to get the hang of them at one stage (70 – 80% success rate) before you move onto the next. It’s fine to leave swing changes on the range and just focus on scoring and competing on the golf course when you’re in early stages of swing changes.
Golf Insider tip – I’ve made this mistake three times in competitive rounds (so far…). Aiming to perfect my swing on the golf course reduced my focus on playing and scoring. In one round I was +7 after 9 holes and in a deep hole of swing thoughts. I had a serious chat with myself after 9 holes and decided to focused on getting the ball to a target – nothing else. This resulted in -1 for the following 9 holes.
# 5 Keeping stats makes life simple
If I wasn’t keeping simple stats of score average and FIR, GIR, putts etc. I would feel that I’m miles away from my goals. I would also wonder if I’ve improved my golf at all.
However, looking at my stats below and reflecting keeps things simple, and allows me to focus my efforts for improving my golf.
My putting and chipping is almost up to scratch. I’m ahead of my targets, but this is in-part due to just missing many greens and leaving easy up and downs. My key issue in improving my golf is getting the ball onto the fairway. When i do hit the fairway my GIR jumps up to around 65%.
My key goal to take into the second six months:
Find a method (swing technique, playing strategies, way of thinking) to hit over 65% of fairways in regulation when it counts.
My golf improvement to date
Before this challenge I had been out of practice for 5 years (3 years injured and 2 years working in elite sport) it’s fun to take on this challenge to see how good I can get. My main aim was to see how good I can get, but also learn the lessons of what it takes to share with others.
Below is my progress, I’ve got far better at nudging the ball round in level par, and have carded a few rounds under par. But when I’m off form I’m really off (I shot 82 just before Christmas…)
1st 3 month score average + 3.37 (5 rounds)
2nd 3 month score average +1.25 (5 rounds)
12 month aim: Attempt to qualify for the British Open..requiring score average of -2.0.
Score average: – 2 ~ currently +1.25
Fairways hit – 10/14 (71%) ~ currently 40%
Greens hit – 13/18 (72%) ~ currently 51%
Putts – 29 ~ currently 28.0
Up & downs – 3/5 (60%) ~ currently 61%
I have one major hurdle, hitting the ball far more accurately off the tee, and into the greens.
Some days golf feels easy, other days it feels like I’ve never picked up a golf club. I think I need 6 – 8 more weeks focused 50% technique and 50% on skills games. Then I need to accept where my swing gets to, keep the basics in place and get very good at performing and scoring for the summer.
Golf improve plan – summary
These five points may seem a little disjointed, but I feel they are five major road-blocks that stop golfers getting better. Improving your golf is far more than a set of swing positions. It is a set of systems and processes that you follow each and every week. I hope these five points help you improve your golf quicker over the coming season.
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Happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider
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