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I hate to say this, but… you suck at golf.
You’re definitely not alone, though; according to the National Golf Foundation, only 26% of all golfers break 90 (shoot 89 or less) on a consistent basis.
But you know what? You shouldn’t have to suffer anymore. Let’s find out how to fix this!
Golf: 5 Reasons Why You Suck At It
If you’re here, it’s most likely because you aren’t very good at golf.
In short, you stink.
Don’t take offense, though, because you’re definitely not alone. Again, according to the NGF (this time via Golf Blogger), 55% of all golfers fail to break 100. And that’s assuming they’re being honest…
As an aside; yes, the article is from 2010. The NGF used to give information away freely, but now it seems they’ve gone to a pay model. Either join (and pay) or buy downloads on a “pay for what you need” method. Regardless, the percentages haven’t changed much since then.
Of the 55%, I’m in agreeance with Golf Blogger, that those numbers are fudged. The NGF relies on surveys for their information, so you should read that as they’re relying on the people to be honest… and not everyone is.
This is part of why I built Green Lantern Golf– it’s not just about the golf clubs; I want to help you get better, as well!
My biggest suggestion is to identify one thing that can truly help you lower your score and work on that one thing first.
I had to start somewhere, just like you.
That’s why I want to give you all that I know as a means to help you improve and up the Fun Level- just like I did!
First, though, you need to define “better”. Is it:
- Wanting to hit higher quality shots?
- Stopping a “leak” in your short game?
- Needing to solidify your putting?
- Increasing your distance?
- Dropping 5 strokes ASAP?
Maybe it’s one, two, or even all five of these things. My biggest suggestion before you do anything, though, is to find the one that really, truly matters and work on that one first. You can always come back to the others when you’re ready.
Now, Time For The What To Do About It Part
Reason #1: You Hit Low-Quality Shots
There’s no magic to it, but you could use a visual guide. Something like this:
I’m sure you’ve seen this a billion times, but you’re gonna see it again.
Any time you hit a slice, you did it because the face was open at impact.
Any time you hit a hook, the face was closed at impact.
The amount and severity of each depend on how much you rotated the face open/closed at impact. What’s more, you can even learn to live with it, depending on how severe each is.
Get a quick-fix by focusing on your alignment.
If you know for sure you’re hitting a slice/fade, aim your shoulders more open to the target line. The opposite is true for draws/hooks: aim your shoulders more closed to the intended target.
If you aim right down the middle, you’re giving up half of the fairway- at least! Assuming your shoulders are aimed straight down the fairway, the ball starts off that way.
When it starts to curve, the amount of good landing space has been reduced to less than half- depending on the severity of the curve, it won’t be in a good spot when you get to it.
But all you need to do is change your aim point. That’s it! Instead of aiming down the middle, find a spot to the left or right edge of the fairway. Something the opposite of the ball’s typical flight.
It also helps to tee the ball in a different location. For example, if you’re a righty fighting a slice, you’ll want to tee the ball on the right side of the box, aim towards the left side of the fairway, and let the ball fly.
It’s not the perfect solution, but it’s something you can do right now to hit better shots.
Wait until after the round to work on correcting your ball flight issue(s).
Don’t try to diagnose/fix issues while playing, because that leads to frustration. Do what you can with what you have, then hit the range (preferably, with a coach) to work out the kinks.
Reason #2: You Have a Leak In Your Short Game
We’re going to talk about it in a bit, but for now, know that as important as putting is, it’s not the be-all-end-all for every situation.
Let me say this plainly: you should be practicing more with a wedge in your hand than you should your driver. That’s saying something, isn’t it?
Why is that? If you’re a typical amateur, you’re not getting many GIR. The worst-performing PGA pro still hits over 50% of their greens in regulation.
If you’re a typical amateur, you’re somewhere around 5 or fewer greens in regulation per round. Put another way, not even 33%.
You have to get the ball very close to the hole with your chip or pitch shot just to give yourself a chance at saving par.
I’ve written an entire article about this, which you can see here.
The “TL;DR” version:
- Use a “Carry to Roll” ratio for chip shots. The PW is 1:1, the GW is 1:2, the 9i is 2:1, etc. YMMV, so practice to find yours.
- Either practice pitching by hitting targets (like towels) in the backyard, or “feel” it by imagining throwing the ball to the hole.
It’s of the utmost importance to get your approach and recovery shots as close to the hole as possible to avoid unnecessary putts
Do you see now why it’s important? Sure, the easy answer to this is “welp, just hit more greens in regulation”. While it’s a good point, stuff is still gonna happen. Even if you get to “worst Tour Pro” level (~50%), there are still about nine opportunities you’ll have to save par with a chip or pitch shot that gets close enough to allow you a makeable putt.
Reason #3: You’re a Bad Putter
Since I talked about it up there, might as well really dig into it here, right?
Putting is something you can practice anywhere, even inside. There’s no real excuse not to work on it, really.
The biggest thing is to learn to hit the ball with a square clubface. This isn’t like the earlier tip, where you can get around that by changing your aim point. So, how do you do it?
Practice like this:
The goal’s to get both balls rolling straight ahead. Do that and you’ll know the face is square to the target line.
You need to learn how to control your speed, as well. I talk about it in the “pitching” section, but I use it for putting, too. Imagining you’re rolling the ball to the hole with your dominant hand (right hand, if you’re a righty) will help you “feel” the distance.
You’re probably wondering “Why? How does that even work”? It’s a fair question.
The reason it works is, your mind and body will work together- if you allow it.
Think about playing catch in the backyard. You see your catch partner, and your body just knows how to get the ball to him/her. You don’t think about it; you just do it.
Pitching and putting is no different. There’s more pressure because you’re trying to make a score, but you don’t have to let that affect you. See the hole, “feel” the distance, then let it happen.
Now, to tie this into what we talked about just a bit ago about pitching and chipping:
No matter how much time you spend on putting, on putts longer than 10 feet, your miss rate will increase. PGA pros only make 31% of them. It’s not much better at eight feet, with slightly more than half (54%) of those putts being made.
It’s safe to say that, as an amateur, you’re even worse. That means that it’s of the utmost importance to get your approach and recovery shots as close to the hole as possible, to avoid three-putting.
The reality is, these two go together, to help you make lower scores. Work on your putting, for sure, but don’t neglect your recovery game.
Reason #4: You Don’t Have Any Driver Distance
There’s no real easy way to do this.
Well, there kinda is, but it’s not hard on your body… it’s hard on your wallet.
The first option is to work on you. Flexibility, core strength, that sort of thing. Stretching the back and hamstrings are a must. The shoulders would be a good idea, too.
Ideally, just starting a yoga routine would be the best bet. It takes care of all of that.
The more flexibility you have, the bigger backswing you can create. When that happens, you naturally create more swing speed. Plus, it’s just good for you.
The other option, that I eluded to earlier, is to get clubs that are better suited to your swing. I’ve talked at length about this, so why not take a look here, at my custom-fitting page, for (a lot) more info?
The short version: if there’s an issue (or issues) with the driver, you’ll struggle. What I mean is, if:
- it’s too long
- it has too little loft (or, in rare instances, too much)
- there’s not enough (or too much) head-heft
You’ll struggle to hit quality shots with it. If that’s the issue, you can either get with a local club fitter, or, contact me and I’ll help you.
Reason #5: You Lose Way Too Many Balls
This goes back to #1, with the quality shots thing. But it’s something you should focus on. For example, a lost ball on a par 5 will almost always lead to no better than double bogey, but that’s if you get the other parts of your game firing on all cylinders.
It’s even worse on a par 3, as you have no “extra” shots to make a spectacular recovery. Your hole in one- if you were to pull it off- counts as a par.
You can help yourself a lot by starting off on the driving range before your round. Don’t try to fix anything; just see what your ball flight’s doing that particular day.
If it’s a fade, use it. If it’s a hook, play with it.
It’s not much different than a baseball pitcher; sometimes, he just doesn’t have his normal 95mph fastball. The good pitchers know that they can make alterations to their approach to get batters out.
- They focus more on placement than speed
- They rely more on their other pitches, like a slider
- They “work” batters more, going high-inside, low-outside
Not having what you consider an “ideal” shot shape doesn’t mean you’re relegated to poor scores. Play to land the ball on the fairway, play to hit approach shots onto the “fat” (biggest) part of the green. As the quote goes: “dance with the shot shape you brought”.
How You Can Drop 5 Strokes NOW
OK, I get it… that’s kind of a tall order.
Or is it?
How could you drop five strokes right now? You might be surprised at what it takes. Here’s a couple more quick-tips:
Ditch the driver. If you struggle with this club, why use it? Tee off with a 3W, or even a hybrid. Keeping your ball in play- read: not out-of-bounds- will easily help you drop strokes from your score.
Club up. You should be finding out how far you carry each club on average. If that’s too much work (…), take one more club than what you think you need and just use a smooth, controlled swing.
Instead of always coming up short and needing to scramble, you’ll find more chances to walk away with a better score.
Follow the advice in this post. If you can’t hit the green, get the ball close to the hole on your chip/pitch shot. Ensure you putt with your best effort- and avoid three-putts like the plague. Play to your strengths; don’t try to always compensate for weaknesses.
Good luck, and as always “Fairways and Greens”!