Improve Your Golf Scores

Improve your golf scores with these simple and eas to follow tips.

The sport of golf has gained tremendous popularity in the United States over the past three decades. One of the primary reasons for the explosive growth of this national pastime is constant improvement of the level of competition that we can witness among the top professional golfers of the world. During the past 50 years we have seen such greats as Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, and Tiger Woods play the game as no one else before. Just as in all other sports, of course, we must realize that only an elite few can be expected to perform at such a high level with such consistency as these players.

However, with a little wisdom, a little patience, and a little practice, we amateur golfers too can learn to play our best game. If you are like most amateur golfers, you probably only play one time aper week or less, and it is unlikely that you devote much additional time to practicing and developing a high level of fundamental skills. If you are the exception to this rule, though, this article will be of great benefit to you as well.

The first thing you want to keep in mind in order to play an enjoyable round of golf is the limit of your ability. From the amount of time you spend practicing and playing you should know which shots you hit well and which ones you need to practice more. When you are on the course, play your best 'percentage' shots. This means that you should always select a shot that you know you can hit well instead of trying to hit one that you are only successful with a fraction of the time. For example, you may be very confident hitting your short irons, but when you practice with your long irons they only go where you want them to about 30% of the time. The same percentage will apply on you course play as well.

If you are in the fairway on a par 4 hole and you can make it to the green with a 3-iron, but the green is surrounded on 3 sides by sand and water, you should probably chose to lay up short of the water with an 8-iron. In golf terminology this is called 'playing the percentages' and it is one of the greatest stroke saving tools you can have.

On the other hand, you can also increase your percentages on the practice tee. Spending more time working on your fundamentals will help you to play better, but spending time learning what you are able to do will also be of great benefit. The next time you go to a driving range take a pad and paper with you. Then, after hitting a few warm-up shots take ten balls and hit each one carefully with your 9-iron. Be sure to pick a target that has a definite distance and direction (like the 100-yard marker, a small cluster of golf balls, or a tree). On your pad record how many of the 10 shots you hit as you intended to. Allow a little room for error, but be honest. Repeat this process with at least every other club (7-iron, 5-iron, etc.) until you have recorded this information for 5 or 6 clubs. Don't try to assess all of your clubs at one time. Use subsequent visits to the range to fill in the gaps until you have a record for each club.

Next, multiply the number of shots you hit 'correctly' with each club by 10. This will tell you the 'percentage' for each club. Now, when you go out onto the links carry your pad with you and use it to help you select the best club for as many shots as you need to. This may seem a bit tedious at first, but in a very short time you will come to know which clubs you hit the best and you will learn to avoid using a low percentage club to hit difficult shots. Continue to repeat the percentage assessment of each club periodically. You may find that by adding just this little element of discipline to your practice that your shot-making ability will improve as well.

One of the most fundamental mistakes that amateurs make is trying to hit difficult shots like the touring pros. Often, a golfer who is behind a tree or in heavy rough will opt to try a 'miracle' shot that only lands his or her ball in another hazard or difficult lie. When you are in trouble, ALWAYS take the option for the easiest way to get 'back into play'. Do this regardless of where you are, and whether your 'safe' shot will put you on the green, in the fairway, or just in any position better than the one you are currently in. The key is to hit AWAY from trouble at all times. Remember, if you are like most amateurs you spend whatever practice time you take just trying to hit the ball straight. Don't try fancy hooks or slices that will most likely get you into more trouble.

Another much more common mistake that amateurs make in the game of golf is taking unnecessary risks when they are NOT in trouble. As I mentioned in the last paragraph, ALWAYS hit AWAY from trouble. To illustrate the importance of this tactic let us consider a short par-4 hole that I have played many times. The tee is over 100 feet above the green level, and the hole is barely 300 yards long. It looks as if you could easily drive the green. However, the fairway is only 12 yards wide for the last 50 yards approaching the green. There are two bunkers flanking the most narrow portion of the fairway, and the back of the green falls off into rough that is over a foot deep. Also, the green is only about 40 feet in diameter. Most golfers jump at the chance to 'drive the green' and a few do make it. But for most, the end is disasterous. By taking a 5 or 6-iron you can safely hit your tee shot onto the 20-yard wide part of the fairway, landing well short of any trouble. Then, you can use a short iron to hit the ball near or onto the green. Even three more strokes from there still gives you a bogey.

In contrast, most amateurs do not hit trouble shots well. You could easily end up stuck in the sand or the rough for several strokes. Then, as frustration sets in, most will take three or four putts to finish the hole with 8 or more strokes. By the way, on the course I am referring to, this is the first hole! Which leads to my final point on mental attitude.

The most important hole on the course is the one you are currently playing, and the most important shot is the one you are preparing to hit. Don't fuss over what you should have done on the last hole. You can't change the last hole, but you can change this one. Don't get all excited about that 600-yard par 5 coming up next, you're not there yet. Instead, use what you have learned from practice and previous play to hit the current shot safely and correctly.

By utilizing these few simple techniques you can make golf a more enjoyable game for yourself, as well as the other members of your group.

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