July 25

3 Mistakes on the Golf Course You’re Making, and How to Fix Them

Golf Lessons


I’m going to cut right to the chase; you’re making mistakes on the golf course.

“A lot” could be a good amount to guess.  In short, it’s why you’re not getting better.

Look, it’s not really your fault.  There’s a lot of information floating around.  There’s also people (and teachers) who will preach “THIS IS THE WAY” to sell stuff.

I’m going to give it to you straight.  A full page of mistakes and no-bullshit fixes- no clicking through hundreds of ad pages.  A lightbox might pop up, but if I’ve set it correctly you can disable it after the first time, and it won’t pop up on you for another 30 days.  If you wanna buy something from me, cool; if you don’t, these are still going to help you get better.

Here we go!

Mistake #1: You Leave the Face Open At Impact

This is the reason why you slice.  Not because you come “over-the-top” (which isn’t good, but it isn’t the swing-killer it’s made out to be).

It’s an 80-20 relationship, according to both Dave Tutelman (read about it here) and School of Golf‘s Martin Hall.  The first 20% of the ball’s flight is determined by where your shoulders are pointing (pull, push, straight).  The remaining 80% is determined by the club face’s angle, as it relates to the swing path you’re on.

A couple examples:

  • Your shoulders are open to the target, which creates a pull.  Leaving the face open creates a slice.  An open swing path and open face creates a pull-slice.
  • You shoulders are closed to the target, which creates a push scenario.  The face is closed to that line, which creates a hook.  The closed shoulders and closed face creates a push-hook.

Get it now?  So… what do we do?

Fix #1: Learn to Close the Face Through Impact

Well, duh, right?  Actually, given that approximately 85% of all golfers slice, it might not be a “well, duh” situation.  What, then, should be done?

There’s actually two fixes you can try.  One involves the swing itself, the other relates to your gear.

Fix A: Learn to make a “mirror image” of your backswing.  Ever look at your swing in a mirror?  On the way back, it makes an “L” shape.  Like this:

a fix for the mistakes on the golf course you're making

Take your club back, until your hands are parallel to the ground.  What do you see?  If the face was square at address, when it gets to the position in the (expertly drawn) picture, it’ll point in a direction 90* from the intended target line.

Post-impact, when your hands are parallel to the ground, the face should be pointing in the exact opposite direction.

It’s not exactly a mirror image; it’s more for the benefit of visualization.

Fix B: Get your gear fitted!  I’ve talked about it before (here, here and here), but I’ll say it again: you need to get your clubs fitted to your specific swing style and body type.  The driver especially.

The longer a club is, the harder it is to close through impact.  It’s why a lot of golfers are good with short irons and wedges, but struggle with long irons, hybrids and especially woods.

This is even more true if you’re the type that slices your driver, but not the other 12 clubs (putter excluded).  You cannot hit a 3 hybrid well time after time after time, or a 7 iron time after time after time, but not the driver.  In that scenario it ain’t you, it’s the club.

One quick tip: when you’re out on the course, don’t try to fix your swing.  Take what you’re being given and play that ball flight.  Wait until you can get to the range to work on correcting whatever mistakes you might be making.

Mistake #2: You Don’t Play With a Plan

No, you can’t just go in willy-nilly and expect to shoot a score that’s PGA Tour worthy.  What other sport does that?  None; they all involve some form of strategy.

Fix #2: Formulate a Plan For Every Course You Play

Most scorecards have a simple layout of each hole.  That’s really all you need.  Well, a GPS unit/smartphone app or laser range-finder will be needed, as well.

Take a look at a hole.  What do you see?  Is the fairway narrow in certain spots, most notably, close to the tee box and green?  You want to aim at the “fat” part of the fairway.

If you want, check out this post about shooting par.  It’s a presentation, with no opt-in!  The gist is, no, you do not need to hit driver on every friggin’ hole.  I don’t care if you spent $50 or $500 on that driver; it’s a situational club, not an “I need to use it every time!!!” club.

What you need to do is figure out how long the hole is, then cut it in half.  If it’s 300 yards, that means you need two shots of 150 yards each to get on the green and look at a birdie opportunity.

It can get complicated if you have a longer par 4.  For example, Let’s say it’s 400 yards.  From here, work your way back to the tee box:

  • What’s the club you feel the most comfortable with?  For giggles, let’s say it’s the 7 iron, which you know for sure carries 150 yards.
  • What club will you hit to get you to the 150 yard mark?  400-150= 250.  In this scenario, it’s likely to be the driver.

I should point out that, if you’re only capable of driving the ball 200 yards, do yourself a favor and move up a tee box or two.  That alone will drop your scores and increase your enjoyment.

Remember, though, that all this time you’re looking for the “fat” (widest) part of the fairway.  The object of golf is to manage your misses; the fat part of the fairway gives you more leeway in the event you miss-hit the ball.

Same goes for greens: if you’re not a Tour Pro, don’t go pin-seeking.  Take a look at most greens; where are the bunkers?

If you said “In the Front” and/or “The sides”, you get a (metaphorical) gold star.

Photo taken by John Haslem, courtesy of Creative Commons. See it on Flickr HERE.

Golf designers know golfers have big egos.  They see a 150 yard par three and think “hell yeah, I can reach this with a 9 iron!”.  For the vast majority, no, you can’t.  Hell, even I can’t…

Ever hear of a “sucker pin”?  That’s when they place the pin in what appears to be a good spot, closer to the tee box.  But then it’s usually guarded by bunkers.

People see it, pull out the 9 iron and wind up in the bunker.  Not you- not anymore.

You’re going to use your GPS unit to find out exactly how far it is to the “fat” part of the green.  You’re going to then use one more club than you think you need.  This way, if you do screw up, your miss will still be manageable.

Jon Sherman of Practical Golf has an excellent book on Amazon about this subject, entitled The Complete Guide to Course Management.  You can buy it on Amazon for less than $3!

Mistake #3: You Don’t Play With Confidence

It’s evident when you get around the green.  Imagine this scenario: you have a simple pitch shot, but you hit a weak pop-up that doesn’t even make it to the green.

What happened?  You lost your confidence.

Fix #3: Play With Confidence!

You were afraid of skying the ball clear across the green, so you “throttled back” as you were coming into impact.  You need a system to help you here.  I have a solution: GLG’s Field Guide!

Essential On-Course Field Guide Cover
Click the picture to go to the offer page, or, just click HERE!

Yes, there’s a sign-up for it. It’s OK, though; I offer an easy unsubscribe method, and you get to keep the free download!

Part of the freebie is what I call the Wedge Matrix, which will help you improve your short game.  So, how does the it work?

Easy: there are spreadsheets for each wedge you might carry. You hit 12 shots with each wedge four different ways: full, 3/4, 1/2, and 1/4.  Write them all down, throw out the best and worst shot, add the remainder up and divide that by 10. That’s the average carry distance for each type of shot with that particular wedge!

With this information, you can step up to every pitch shot knowing what club and what type of swing to use.

What about chip shots?  Ever stub a chip shot?  Again, that’s a lack of confidence, similar to when you flub a pitch shot.

Picture this: you’re off the green, about 12 yards from the hole.  What do you use?  A 7 iron?  Now you’re afraid of blowing the ball by the hole.

It’s actually a simple fix.  Each club has a carry to roll ratio.  For me, my PW is a 1:1 ratio; the amount of carry and the amount of roll is equal for my chip swing.  The GW is a 2:1 ratio; I get two times the amount of carry.  Let’s use an example:

For the 12 yard pitch, I can use the PW.  It’ll carry 6 yards in the air, then roll for another six.  If I use the GW, it’ll carry 8 yards, and roll 4.

It’s about situations.  Ideally, you want the ball to land just on the green and roll to the hole in chipping situations.  The sooner you get the ball on the ground, the better.  Figure out how far from the hole you are, then find a landing spot just on the green.

Now, if we’re still 12 yards out, but our landing area is 3 yards from me, what happens?  For me, I use an 8 iron; it has a 1:3 carry to roll ratio.  That means, I want to land the ball on the green 3 yards from me, then let it roll the remaining 9.

I need to mention that this is a “YMMV” thing.  You need to practice to find out exactly what your carry-to-roll ratio is.

That’s it!  Hope these help.  If you have any you can think of and need a fix for, let me know in the comments below!

About the author 

Justin Blair

Justin Blair is the founder of Green Lantern Golf. When he isn't bringing his 10+ years of excellent craftsmanship experience to golf club fitting, building, and repair, he's geeking out about Star Wars (he's watched them all about 8,437 times!) and things like the MCU and LOTR, he's drinking mead and craft brews. If you wanna know more, check out my About Page!

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