How can you be a better golfer in 2023? I asked myself this question a few weeks ago. My last three winter rounds had been totally underwhelming. I had no excuses – except for a bad back, awful weather, bobbly greens and a total lack of fitness compounded by moderate-to-severe pre-season golfing uselessness. It’s time for a reset.
The big list of three things
After an exhaustive analysis of my frustrating golf performances, I made a list of all the aspects of my game that I wanted to improve. Three sheets of A4 later, I got it down to the top three things I most wanted to improve:
- Swing like a pro
- Short game accuracy
- Better putting
Then I did a reality check. Was my short list realistic, practical and achievable, and if I manage to improve each listed item, what impact would each have on my scores?
#1 – Swing like a pro
If my swing looked a lot like Rory’s or Rahm’s or Lydia Ko’s – and I really don’t mind which pro my swing resembles – logic would suggest I would be a better ball striker with super long distance off the tee and pin high accuracy off the fairway. So, what does my swing look like now? Not pretty.
The camera doesn’t lie
After videoing myself thrashing at balls down the local Trackman range and on the course, it came as a total shock that whatever shapes I tried, my swing looked nothing like any of the pros and my data was underwhelming. So what’s the real problem? And can I fix it?
Athletes vs. golfers like us
The obvious issue is physique. Golf pros are athletes – I’m not. They train long and hard and practice with purpose – I really don’t have the time. They have speed, power and flexibility in their body movements – I have back problems, a dodgy left foot and poor balance. A miracle swing transformation looks unlikely. Chances of success < 10%.
#2 – Short game accuracy
If I’m going to level the playing field on physicality, I can rule out driving, fairway irons and woods, and try a less vigorous swing, like chipping around the greens. Getting the ball close to the hole for a single putt sounds like an achievable plan.
Now all I need is a practice green that I can chip onto. If your local course has a short game practice green, you’re lucky. Most club practice greens will have a big sign that tells us that chipping onto the green is strictly forbidden. Obviously, every member just hits the green from the fairway every time.
I could go to the range and practice chipping there. But range mats don’t behave like grassy lies and most ranges don’t have proper mowed greens around the target flags to judge spin and roll-out. Maybe playing a few holes on an empty course at the end of the day and chipping a few balls from around the green might help?
Short game improvement is definitely an option, but it’s time-consuming, weather-dependent, and it won’t be light enough in the evenings until the end of March arrival of BST. Medium tariff on commitment. I might need to try a shorter stroke.
#3 – Better putting
Now this one I like. The physical ability requirements between golfers like us and the pros even out when putting. It’s a level playing field (putting green). If we can make 3-putts a rarity and start holing more of those tricky ones from inside 6 feet, most golfers are going save a lot of putts and improve scores. It just makes sense.
Risk and reward
Putting improvement certainly has greater potential gains and fewer risks than trying to learn an ambitious new Rory swing shape and experiencing card-wrecking duffs and weird shaped shots while the brain rewires itself in the learning phase. Those mishits could destroy confidence for all but the most patient of improvers. Most of us like instant results, but in golf, that’s rare.
The resources needed for putting are more accessible. I have a bit of carpet for indoor practice, I can get to the practice green now and then, and I can try out what I learn during every round and note the results. A few technique lessons would help too.
The reality is . . .
My reality check is that better putting is the most practical and achievable way to be a better golfer this season. If I can find a bit more time to improve my short game too, that will multiply my putting improvement gains.
It’s time to find out what the best putting coaches teach and how the tour pros go about their process. That’ll be my next blog.
Putt better soon
Paul Hart is a co-inventor of the PuttBANDIT ball marker and enthusiastic golf improver.
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