Would you rather hear what you need to learn from someone who is already an accomplished golfer? Would a few hours with Jack Nicholas REALLY help your game? “Just do what I do, it's easy!" Or would you rather learn from a beginner, who understands the struggles, the small improvements and remembers those early changes that lead to greater success?
It almost makes sense, doesn't it? The best coaches are often mediocre players, and the worst coaches were stars, who had everything come easy to them. Natural ability is hard to teach to others! As a beginning golfer, I have noticed some dramatic improvements, though, and wanted to pass them along to other beginning golfers.
First, the drive. To many of us starting out, it seems to be all-important. I have had instructors tell me that if you can hit the ball 150 yards, that you can work your way down any length of hole in about 3 shots, chip on and putt in, and play bogie golf without ever hitting a John Daly type 300 yard plus drive. As beginners, all we see is the big drives, the pressure, people watching us tee off, and understandably we want to be able to pound the ball!
What I've learned is that you can cut back on the swing to almost a half swing, hockey slapshot type thing, and increase the accuracy, with a small reduction in distance, until you are more comfortable with the swing. Also, a friend helped me with the description of coming “inside-out" with the swing. While that sounds complicated, imagine holding your back hand (I'm a left handed golfer) tight to your body and swinging through the ball and outwards after contact - straightened out my ball flight and increased distance.
Lessons seemed to boil down to getting into the same position, and swinging smoothly and evenly making sure the club is flat at contact - try swinging at the driving range - not to hammer the ball, but try swinging with virtually NO effort, then 20% 40% 60% etc. Get comfortable with a straight line of whatever distance, and KNOW how far each club will take you. If you need 100 yards, say, it doesn't matter if you get that with a pitching wedge or a 5-wood, as long as you can get it accurately there!
Pitching (from under 100 yards) and putting are the majority of the strokes, the easiest area to improve your game, and if you've ever played with a senior, they can be outdriven from the tee, but play so solidly from there onwards, with straight, accurate shots - you can't beat them!
Makes you rethink the wisdom of working on that booming drive, huh? The majority of time should be spent practicing the 100 yard and shorter shots - which inadvertently improves the overall stroke and technique, and makes the drives better over time!
Practice shooting 10, 20, 30 etc yards, and have the short chip down pat. Then work on putting - NOT trying to sink the putt, just to get the ball to within a club length of the hole - from ANYWHERE on the green. When you have mastered the ability to get the ball close like that, then work on the short 2 footers - almost from the start you'll find that you can get the majority in.
THAT's the secret - the drive doesn't matter, the next shot is OK, but the one that gets the ball TO the green is crucial! Then if you can putt to withing a very close area of the pin, and make THOSE easy putts - you're a bogie golfer - TA DAAA!
Wait, there's one more thing - the mental part of golf. If you have a certain ability, how come you see flashes fo greatness on some days, and flashes of needing to break your clubs on others? Same guy, same equipment, different results? THAT is the mental part of golf - and it becomes more and moe important as you master the basic strokes and techniques.
At the beginning stages of golf, you are thrown off by worrying about what others think - it feels like people are watching your drive, partners are evaluating your game, people are seeing if you can play golf well, etc. The answer to this is that everyone started off as a beginner, and VERY few people can play below 90s golf. Basically, we all suck! Take the pressure off of yourself for the first 20-50 games, and you will have the routine ingrained, the swing will be solid, all will work fairly well - under pressure or not.
Relaxation, and realizing that golf is a game against YOURSELF, are the keys. You can't play a real tournament against another golfer until you shoot in the 70s - so don't let that enter your head - try playing alone - you can - very early or very late - or with total strangers as a walk on.
Over time, you WILL get better - visibly, noticeably. Try playing a few days in a row, or a series of days either playing golf or practicing. Practice makes perfect - especially the short game that is ignored by the majority pounding shots into the darkness at driving ranges - work on the touch, the feel, the magic ability to get 25%, 50% or 75% shots, to control the distance.
Most of all, relax and enjoy the walk, the scenery, remember the things that went WELL - and move on from the ones that were duffed, hooked into the trees, or when you putted back and forth across the green like a madman - they all happen - to ALL of us - even Tiger Woods (every now and then). The trick is to concentrate on making the NEXT shot, the NEXT hole, the NEXT practice or game - be your very best. There's no going back and reshooting that shot that went into the water! Forget about it and calmly, confidently move on.
Your best games, your best shots will occur when you have a calm, confident feeling, feeling that you are just repeating what you've practiced, and easily accomplished in the past. Look at the grin on Tiger's face as he sinks a putt and pumps his fist - this game can be FUN!!
Andrew Larder, Golf Better
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