Golf Improvement – A Case Study & Tips

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.

Golf improvement – Practice

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:

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

All round long game – Will’s range challenge

Driving skills games – Dead man’s Cliff

Iron play – Hugo’s range challenge & Mid-iron challenge

Chipping zone challenge & Par 18

Bunker Zone challenge – As above, but from a bunker

Putting – Round the clock

Putting – Indoor drill

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.

You can also find more info on how to build your golf swing here, and key swing principles here.

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

Golf chipping tiger woods

# 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.

  1. Blocked then variable practice with no consequence
  2. Skills games in practice
  3. On the course – practice with more than one ball
  4. Keeping a score on the course
  5. Competitions

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%

My reflection

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.

If you would like a weekly article like this one emailed to your inbox, come join the golf insider weekly post.

Happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider

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A PGA golf professional, with a PhD in Biomedical Science and MSc in Sports Biomechanics & Psychology. I currently spend my time lecturing part-time at Leeds Beckett University and working with elite athletes. In my spare time I build Golf Insider UK.

4 thoughts on “Golf Improvement – A Case Study & Tips”

  1. Gonna get into the 80s consistently. Long way to go but feel I just found a great coach and am learning the right way to swing for the first time.

    Reply
  2. Will –

    Your blog is inspiring, motivational, and extremely educational. I have been trying to improve my game for years but have been going about it the wrong way. After reading and applying some of your strategies, I have made more progress in the last month than I have in the last year. Thank you! I look forward to your future posts.

    My Goal:
    In the month of July, average 78. To achieve this, I need to shoot 11 pars and 7 bogeys. To achieve this, I need to hit:

    Fairways – 8/14 (57%)
    Greens (GIR) – 9/18 (50%)
    Putts – 32
    Up & Down – 4/9 (44%)

    Thanks,
    Derrick B

    Reply
    • Derrick,

      Thank you so much for the kind words. It really makes me smile when I receive a message like this one. Great targets! All the best with your golfing progress in the coming months.

      Will

      Reply
  3. I like how you mentioned that quality practice beats quantity. My brother is wanting to know how he can improve his golf game. I’ll be sure to tell him to focus on the quality of his game.

    Reply

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