It does not matter if you see golf as something to master, an enjoyable way to spend 4 hours a week with friends, your outside office, or even “a good walk ruined”. If you are going to commit to something it is always best to do it to the best of your ability. These 10 simple ideas, methods and philosophies will help you to do just that; they will take your game to the next level and bring your handicap down.
1. Ramp up Your Fitness
Before anything else, if you really want to improve your game, you need to improve your fitness. To give an extreme example, Tiger Woods could barely finish 18 holes never mind win a tournament until he got his injuries sorted and his fitness back up to a level where he could compete without it being an issue. The 15-time major winner achieved one of the greatest sporting come backs by winning the Masters earlier this year, and the 43 year old is favourites with Oddschecker to repeat the feat at the US Open in June.
Improving your fitness will have a dramatic effect on your game too, and in 4 specific ways. Firstly, it will mean that you will not get tired in the latter stages of the round. When we are tired or fatigued, we are unable to focus or make the correct decisions and, of course, our strength and energy levels drop with obvious results on your stroke play.
Improving your strength will also improve your play – as long as your technique does not suffer as a consequence, it will mean you are able to hit the ball further, as well as helping with shots out of the rough.
Flexibility is a large part of health and wellbeing, and as that improves, so will your stroke. Finally, the fitter you are, and the healthier your body, the less likely it is that you will be carrying a niggling injury that will hamper your swing or your game and ruin your focus. We aren’t suggesting you need to spend 3 hours a day at the gym, but there are some simple ways to improve your general health and fitness levels.
2. Check your Fundamentals
If you are serious about improving your game that has been stagnating for a while, maybe it is time to go back to basics and see what bad techniques and habits you have picked up over the years. Deconstruct all aspects of your game, find what you are doing right, what you are doing wrong, and adjust it accordingly.
3. Practice your New Game
Once you have tweaked/evolved/completely revolutionised your game the next thing to do is to ensure that you embed it into your brain so that it becomes second nature and you don’t go back to your previous swing or technique when you get tired or lose focus. The only way to do this is to practice, practice, practice. Go to the range; take your putter and some balls to the office; practice your swing in your yard, your putting in the lounge… A good way of practicing is also to play a round or even just a few holes on your own. The beauty of this is you can hit several balls for each shot, meaning you can really develop a feel for just when you need to go up or down a club.
4. Do you Need to Upgrade Your Clubs?
It is not a case of throwing money at it, and you should definitely not (tempting though it is) shift the blame for a poor shot or round onto your 4 iron. However, if you are still playing with blades handed down from your old man in the seventies it is perhaps time to invest in a new set. Clubs are tailored for different players and different abilities. If you genuinely think a new set or a new couple of clubs could improve aspects of your game, go to a store where you can talk to someone who knows the game and where you can hit some shots.
5. Improve Your Mindset
This is probably the most difficult aspect of your game to change, as our mentalities are pretty much hardwired. If you go into the game or a shot in a negative frame of mind, however, you are instantly putting yourself at a disadvantage. Before you step onto the course, try and discard all negative thoughts, not just about your game, but about life away from golf. Before hitting a shot, envisage what you are going to do, how well you will hit it, as opposed to worrying if your legendary slice is going to make an unwanted reappearance.
6. Play a Variety of Courses
To improve your all round game you need to face different challenges. You could become a very good player at your own course, but as soon as you are faced with holes and shots you are unfamiliar with, your game could go to pieces. Play different courses, more challenging ones than those you would normally try, and courses that are not set up for your strengths. If you are wayward off the tee, play courses where the fairways are tight, where the water hazards and bunkers are unforgiving.
7. Play in Poor Conditions
Attempting a shot in perfect conditions is a completely different ball game to attempting it with a 40 mph cross wind or icy rain peppering your hands and face. Unless you are very fortunate with where you live and play, the weather is unpredictable. A sudden squall could derail a hitherto perfect round unless you are prepared for it, and know how to react and deal with it. Next time you look out of the curtains or check your weather app and conditions are less than ideal, brace yourself and use it as a learning process. You are also likely to have the course to yourself.
8. See How It Should Be Done
We are lucky in that almost every day on television there is free expert tuition available in the form of the best players in the world showing you how it should be done. Watch the professionals, see how they focus, how they manage the course, read the greens, play from the sand etc etc etc.
9. If All Else Fails, Get Help
If you have tried all of the above and it is just not working or you have improved your game as much as you think you can on your own, then there is always professional tuition. This is readily available, but it is often good to try and go to someone off the back of a recommendation. It will also be a lot more beneficial – not to say cheaper – if you are going for help on a particular aspect of your game.
10. Enjoy It
Finally whatever happens, try and see the game for what it is – an enjoyable past-time spent with people whose company you relish. If you are able to have fun on the course, play with a smile as opposed to constantly berating yourself for that missed putt on the 9th, then you will have a far better day, and in all likelihood your game will improve as a result.