How do you become great at golf or even a scratch golfer? If you are reading this and are currently a single figure golfer (or close) then congratulations. Swinging a lump of metal around your body to hit a tiny white ball across a field into a hole is tough. You’re already better than most people will ever be.
However, you’re here for the next step. How do you go from good, to becoming a seriously epic scratch golfer? Many have that dream of becoming a scratch golfer. In this post I’ll talk through my experience of doing it (the hard way) and the great time I’ve had helping the players I’ve coached achieve this goal. Grab a pad and pen, I hope this helps.
“One small step in scoring, one giant leap in golfing ability”
Mindset to become a scratch golfer
The first step to consider is to your approach and prep for golf. The mindset of ‘great – another par’ or ‘I try to birdie the par 5’s’ is good, but can be improved. After many years talking with elite players here is the best advice I can give you.
Aim to birdie every hole, or at least give yourself a birdie chance. This goes for when you come up with a game plan, but also if you’re 9 holes in and -5 or +5 to par. Your mindset should be that every hole is a new start, and your aim is to have a birdie putt.
Similarly, if you have a birdie putt you’re not just trying to get the ball close. Without being reckless, your aim is to hole that putt. If you’re just off the green, a tap in is good, but your mindset should be to give this chip or putt a chance to go in.
This same mindset needs to be reflected in your practice routine to become a scratch golfer. You can’t expect to go out tomorrow with the thought of holing a 15-yard pitch shot and truly believe it will happen.
However, the next 20 minutes you spend practicing that shot on the chipping green aim to vividly focus on holing each one. To start off with, it may throw you, but stick with this mindset and find the focus you need to achieve that level of performance in practice.
Be clear – focus on the big picture of scratch golf
How are you achieving your current score? Your recollection of how you think you hit the ball and putted during the round isn’t good enough. Instead, keep some high level stats. Here is a freebie stat template you can use in excel, if not grab an app; Gamebook and Golf stats tracker are two I have used in the past.
A step further is to focus on the direction of your misses, and when they occur. I spend a lot of time building custom stats for pros I work with.
This type of analysis should be completed after each round. It allows you to sit down and reflect. More importantly, it should shape your practice for the following weeks/months.
Where should you be spending time? Are you progressing? The image above would tell me I’m favouring the left side off the tee (but have a big miss right ), and into the greens. It also suggests my distance control with shorter clubs is limited, and that I need to tidy up my chipping and putting.
If you would like this tied up in a snazzy book, along with some practice games you can check out the performance diary below.
Practice to become scratch
I firmly believe that if you put in 2 hours of specific, high-quality practise and play 18 holes a week you can get to scratch or better.
It won’t happen over night, but you can keep improving your golf each month. Use the data above to divide your time between long game, short game and putting. 30 minutes of this should be used to keep your putting and long game fundamentals in check (that is your grip, posture and alignment).
The rest should be put into skills games, like range challenges and par 18 for chipping and putting.
If you’re unsure what skills games are, they are challenging games, where the focus is on getting the highest score possible. You’re aim is to focus on the outcome, not your technique.
Ideally you keep track of the scores you have in these games, so you can see your progress. below is a list of articles to get you going with some great skills games:
Your practice needs to be specific to your specific weaknesses, but here are 3 areas that will always help your scoring. Develop skills games to refine the areas below and complete them as much as you can.
- Reduce the size of big misses off the tee.
- Improve your strike and distance control from 50 – 150 yards.
- Become a chipping wizard from 10 – 30 yards.
- Become excellent at putting inside 6 ft and 10-25ft.
With the above in mind, consider how much highly effortful practise you do each week on these areas? I’m sure you’ll currently be neglecting at least 2 of them.
Many people feel they need to re-invent what they do to get to scratch. This is rarely the case. Nail the basics of grip and posture. If you basics are sound, the rest will start to fall into place. Here is an article to ensure your grip is optimal.
On this point, find a very good coach you trust. There are many great coaches, and some less so. A key gauge is that when you leave a lesson, things should be much simpler and clearer than they were before.
At the same time you will have to learn more about your own swing and what makes it tick. This internalised knowledge is critical, when you suddenly hit two hooks in the 1st three holes…
Shooting under par on the course
At your home course it is easy to not even think when you pull out a club out on the tee. That’s what you’ve always done. Well it’s time to clean the slate and start from scratch (I had to get that terrible pun in there). If you are on a par 4, say of 370 yards, what is your aim?
Do you wish to get to 80, 125, or 150 yards, and why? Remember your aim is to consistently give yourself a birdie putt. Too frequently I see 5 handicappers pull out a Driver when there are some seriously tough bunkers in range. An iron off the tee that guarantees your 155 yards in the green 95% of the time is a great play.
Think conservative strategy, cocky swing
Into the green the same philosophy applies. Middle of the green, 20 foot away is a great target. I can’t tell you how many times after attempting this I’ve pulled/pushed it straight at the flag (and not said a thing to my playing partners, HA!). Along with this, really dial in on distance with your irons. You’ll be amazed how short your birdie putts are from the middle of the green if you are near pin high.
This is true for both practice and play. I bought a Bushnell range finder (V2 back in the day) when I was a 4 handicap. It changed my decision making and distance control on the course, but allowed me to dial in to the exact yardage in every practice session also.
Lastly, enjoy. It will be a rocky ride, you should find it hard. However, you’re one lucky person if this is how you get to spend some of your free time.
I hope this has been helpful. It’s genuinely the best advice I can give without being there to coach you in person. If you would like more articles like this one sent to your inbox come join the golf insider post.
Happy golfing – Will
This post includes affiliate links to products I’ve used. If you click and purchase the product through the link it does not cost you any extra, but I do earn a small commission. Please feel free not to use the links if you wish. Thanks and happy golfing, Will.Get more golf on the go: