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20ish handicap. What should I strive for.

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 

My game right now sits around 20. For me while there are some physical faults in my game I know my biggest issue is making mental mistakes. Now my question is this. 

 

With such a high handicap should I be striving to score lower or try to aim for my handicap of around bogey golf. I've tried playing with both mindsets and I've noticed that when I play with trying to get a low score and I don't some disappointment sets in. When I play for Bogey and I score better then I get excited. I don't notice any differences in my actual game play. I don't really expect to start shooting lower scores either way (that will hopefully just start coming with more practice), but which do you think is the better mindset to be in?

post #2 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dev 0 View Post

My game right now sits around 20. For me while there are some physical faults in my game I know my biggest issue is making mental mistakes. Now my question is this. 

 

With such a high handicap should I be striving to score lower or try to aim for my handicap of around bogey golf. I've tried playing with both mindsets and I've noticed that when I play with trying to get a low score and I don't some disappointment sets in. When I play for Bogey and I score better then I get excited. I don't notice any differences in my actual game play. I don't really expect to start shooting lower scores either way (that will hopefully just start coming with more practice), but which do you think is the better mindset to be in?

You should strive to hit every shot the best that you're capable of, and constantly strive to improve what your best is. Lower scores will follow.

post #3 of 30
At the beggining of this year my handicap was at 20. I am recently retired and have been working on my game more than a "normal" person could be expected to, but I think I have some perspective on your situation.

First, finding a teaching pro that you have some rapport with is hugely important, in my opinion. He/she doesn't have to be a Golf Digest Top 100 or charge big bucks. At this point you are probably still polishing fundamentals, I was (and still am).

You need to spend enough time on the range to develop consistancy. IMHO hating going to the range is one of the greatest faults for many golfers. Eric has a recent thread on practicing either in the instruction or swing thoughts sub-forums.

On the course there are two "mental" mistakes I make far too often. The first and, for me, most troublesome is standing over a shot and thinking too much about swing fundamentals and not enough about the shot at hand. The place to worry about what's happening at the top of you backswing is on the range. Try to focus on what the ball flight should look like and where you want it to land. Sounds simple...

The second ties in with your question of "trying to score lower" since that can cause us to do stupid stuff sometimes. Scenario: The pin is 198 yards out, there is a small creek in front of the green at about 170. To the left and behind the green are thick rough then OB. To the right a deep bunker then cart path and the next tee. You could hit the green with a well hit 3 hybrid (fill in this blank if needed with your 200 yard club) but you know that you sometimes are pretty eratic with that club and a big hook can jump up and surprise you. What are you goIng to do???

Trying to score lower, you might go for it. If it works out you can putt for a birdie! But... If you knock it OB you are looking at the very real possibility of carding a real ugly score. If you lay up with a 7 iron and then wedge into the green you can be putting for at best a par, but since you should be more accurate with a wedge than a 3h there is a good chance your par putt will be shorter than the possible birdie putt. You are a 20 hadicap: a par is good, you will certainly get one stroke on the hole and maybe two! A layup will make a bogie easy. Knocking that 3h OB will make a bogie seem REAL desirable.

Practice smart, then play smart, the scores will follow along.
post #4 of 30
At a 20 handicap, a little bit of game planning can lower your handicap a bit. How well do you know your home course? Where are the scoring opportunities?

For the par-3s, where should you be aiming on each green? Which side should you be avoiding? Which club(s) do you hit on those tees, and do you hit them in warm up, picturing the green? Where are the best places to miss?

How do you play the par-5s? What does it take to hit a short iron you're comfortable with (say, a 9- or 8-iron) into each for your third shot? That is, what is the easiest route to hitting the green in regulation?
At my home course, there's a par-5 where I can hit a 3-hybrid off the tee, a 6-iron down the fairway, and then an 8-iron into the green. There aren't any significant ridges or other impediments to finding the right line to the pin. If I'm smart when I play that hole, I can hit it in regulation (unfortunately for me, I don't get a shot on that hole, as it's the #17 handicap; such is life) and should have a good shot at a short putt for par. Unfortunately, because of the hole's design, a great drive also lets me hit a fairway wood to where I can pitch or chip for my third shot, and I get greedy (one of the hazards of gaining distance, without being a long driver, when you're used to all par-5s being three shot holes: you start to want to try for getting home in two, whereas consistently short hitters don't try for this and consistently long hitters can do this easier)

If you can average a bogey on each par-3, and play your par-5s in +2 total (assuming four of each), you can average a little over bogey on your par-4s and break 90.

For the par-4s, which ones are easy and which ones destroy your score? Are there any that are easy bogeys and tough pars? Maybe take the easy bogey on those. How about the short ones? Back up a short iron you're comfortable with (again, say 9- or 8) and determine the easiest path to there.

One thing I've debated doing, maybe others can chime in: take your last X scorecards from your home course and plot each hole, relative to par, in a spreadsheet. Determine which ones you're playing the worst (again, relative to par). Suppose you're averaging near +2 on a par-4. That may be one to treat as a mental par-5, and see if there's some easier way to play it. Is it long and you're stretching a driver and fairway wood to get there, or is it short and you're trying to do too much off the tee?

Now, one hazard of this: don't get too used to laying up to a full club, because that isn't always the right answer. In many cases, being 50 yards off the green lets you get on the green - and closer to the pin - than being 100 yards away.

Speaking of which: what are your quarter (shaft back to parallel) and half (arm back to parallel) wedge distances? If you're 45 yards away from a green with no hazards in front, what are you hitting and how?
post #5 of 30
To be completely honest if you are invested in improving. Go to the range at least once a week. Practice chipping in your yard. (look up the quickie pitching video) Finally if you can afford it get a lesson. I shot competitive sporting clays for a while and the best advice I got was when you make a change commit to it. Dont revert back to your old way. It may take a week month or even a year but in the long run your going to be better off.
post #6 of 30

If you are a 20, a good round is 92. Typical might be 95. Strive to have your handicap label (last twenty rounds) with only one or two rounds in the 100's. Strive to eliminate eights.

 

"Going low" and trying to hit your best shots every shot (e.g. the 200 yard shot mentioned above) is a sure way to have some good rounds and lots of rounds in the 100's. You're going to hit bad shots. We all do. Make it cost you one shot, not five. I try and remind myself that I can not birdie a par 4 from the tee box. I'm going to need to make a putt, not hit a career drive. One of my good friends and every Saturday playing buddy (a perpetual 24 cap), will often grab a 3-wood from 270 yards out. "You know you can't get there. You could just hit something 150 and have a short iron in, right?" "Yep, but I want to get as far down there as I can. I can hit this about 220 and that would be great." Bang. Yank shot in the junk. Penalty stroke. Now he really needs to go for the pin instead of the middle of the green. Miss green ...After the hole, "Put me down for an eight." At the end of the round, "I've got to find a way to avoided those four eights..."

 

My personal goals include trying to have no rounds in the 90's on my card -- all rounds 89 and under. Not easy. Somedays you have one of those days. Have a 93 on my card right now that will be there for a while.

post #7 of 30
Greens in regulation will set you up with birdie opportunities...dont feel pressure to sink the bird, if you lag it close you have a par..

Chipping..chipping...chipping.... get a hula hoop and try to chip into the circle from various distances and lies.. make it fun..
post #8 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by rustyredcab View Post

If you are a 20, a good round is 92. Typical might be 95. Strive to have your handicap label (last twenty rounds) with only one or two rounds in the 100's. Strive to eliminate eights.

 

"Going low" and trying to hit your best shots every shot (e.g. the 200 yard shot mentioned above) is a sure way to have some good rounds and lots of rounds in the 100's. You're going to hit bad shots. We all do. Make it cost you one shot, not five. I try and remind myself that I can not birdie a par 4 from the tee box. I'm going to need to make a putt, not hit a career drive. One of my good friends and every Saturday playing buddy (a perpetual 24 cap), will often grab a 3-wood from 270 yards out. "You know you can't get there. You could just hit something 150 and have a short iron in, right?" "Yep, but I want to get as far down there as I can. I can hit this about 220 and that would be great." Bang. Yank shot in the junk. Penalty stroke. Now he really needs to go for the pin instead of the middle of the green. Miss green ...After the hole, "Put me down for an eight." At the end of the round, "I've got to find a way to avoided those four eights..."

 

My personal goals include trying to have no rounds in the 90's on my card -- all rounds 89 and under. Not easy. Somedays you have one of those days. Have a 93 on my card right now that will be there for a while.

Great advice................ You're Saturday buddy sounds like me. I have to get my mind back in it.

post #9 of 30

You should play versus your handicap par. Whatever index you are put that in the USGA handicap calculator, get your course handicap and add those strokes to each hole until you run out of extra strokes and then play versus that number. It's much more realistic than playing against course par. You'll find yourself getting 6's and being excited because you had 2 strokes on that par 5 which earned you a stroke.

 

I have been using this method since I read about it in Zen Golf and it has greatly improved my game. Just last week I played -9 my Handicap par of 95 at Bears Best Las Vegas. It may sound weird but give it at least one shot.
 

post #10 of 30

I usually shoot in thew low 80's but this year I was having a huge mental break down. everytime I hit a bad shot i all i would think about was damm over par on this hole and it would start to add up to the point I would piss the whole round away.ended up being a 13 handicap at league and wanted to quit.

 

 1 trick I used to help with my mental game was forget about scoring par. I went with the mid set of I'm a bogy golfer so shoot for it. I take all holes and add a shot to it. So if I shoot bogy I shot a 90. Now if I get 3-5 regular pars a round or maybe a real birdie  I'm at 87-85. I know it sounds stupid but it takes pressure off of scoring and lets me be relaxed. 

 

After 4 week of this I'm back to shooting in the lower 80's

post #11 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by hammerhead View Post

I usually shoot in thew low 80's but this year I was having a huge mental break down. everytime I hit a bad shot i all i would think about was damm over par on this hole and it would start to add up to the point I would piss the whole round away.ended up being a 13 handicap at league and wanted to quit.

 

 1 trick I used to help with my mental game was forget about scoring par. I went with the mid set of I'm a bogy golfer so shoot for it. I take all holes and add a shot to it. So if I shoot bogy I shot a 90. Now if I get 3-5 regular pars a round or maybe a real birdie  I'm at 87-85. I know it sounds stupid but it takes pressure off of scoring and lets me be relaxed. 

 

After 4 week of this I'm back to shooting in the lower 80's


This sounds generic and funny to a lot of people, but I played with a few seniors who always said they "strive for fives". They said if they could throw in the occasional par or bogey on the 4 Par 3s, they would immediately be in the mid 80s. Throw in an additional par or birdie on good days and you're in the low 80s.

The mental game is something I believe is versatile and not something that someone can "learn". You have to find what positive thoughts work and what your mind can tolerate. For some people, thinking birdie on every hole helps... while for others, it builds pressure and expectations. When these expectations aren't met or exceeded, they start getting pissed and thrown off their game.

To the OP - remember to stay within yourself and take each shot as it comes. This means that even if you catch the occasional fat shot and you're playing your next shot from 10 yards away from where you chunked it, stay relaxed and approach it as your first shot.

When I was a 20 handicap, the thing that helped me the most was just staying relaxed and actually thinking about what happened on my bad shots. You can't disregard a bad shot. You need to simply figure out what happened and why it happened, and then drop it and move on. You can't approach your next shot thinking "Don't chunk it..".

Another thing that you should be doing at a 20, in my opinion, is really learning your distances to promote distance control. It's very important that you can identify your yardage and immediately know which club you're going to play. During my first year of golf, I went to the range 4 times a week after borrowing a friend's laser rangefinder to identify distances to specific targets. From there, I made sure to memorize what my distances were with full and 3/4 swings, as well as full swings with scoring irons and choking up on scoring irons.

Just make sure that your practice is constructive and that you're not setting any unrealistic goals. Once you've established your swing and your distances and your predictable ball flight, you can make tweaks to your game and lower scores will follow.

PS: Additionally, be sure to view the Instruction and Playing Tips thread for some very constructive material on how to practice properly, ball flight laws, etc. The Swing Thoughts thread is also very informative and you can learn how to identify different "feels" in your swing, which promotes more consistency and a better understanding of what you are really doing in your swing.

post #12 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by hammerhead View Post

I usually shoot in thew low 80's but this year I was having a huge mental break down. everytime I hit a bad shot i all i would think about was damm over par on this hole and it would start to add up to the point I would piss the whole round away.

I guess that's the one and only advantage of how I usually play. Ha ha!

 

I hit so many bad shots that I think nothing of it when I do.

 

Yesterday's start was typical:

 

First hole badly hooked tee shot that didn't go very far. Thinned second shot with a 3 iron from 200 yards that came up 15 yards short of the green. Up and down for par.

 

Second hole pulled tee shot into another fairway. Came up a couple yards short of the green from 178 yards on my second. Up and down for par.

 

Third hole (yep) another badly hooked tee shot into another fairway. Pulled 4 iron from 205 yards 30 yards left of green. Up and down for par.

 

Fourth hole (you guessed it) another hooked tee shot into another fairway, but at least I hit it solid. Hit the edge of the green from 110 yards. Two putts for par.

 

So I'm 4 holes in and haven't hit a good shot yet (not even close), but have 4 pars.

 

Finally on the next hole and for the rest of the round I straightened out my tee shots and played fairly well.

post #13 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by MS256 View Post

I guess that's the one and only advantage of how I usually play. Ha ha!

 

I hit so many bad shots that I think nothing of it when I do.

 

Yesterday's start was typical:

 

First hole badly hooked tee shot that didn't go very far. Thinned second shot with a 3 iron from 200 yards that came up 15 yards short of the green. Up and down for par.

 

Second hole pulled tee shot into another fairway. Came up a couple yards short of the green from 178 yards on my second. Up and down for par.

 

Third hole (yep) another badly hooked tee shot into another fairway. Pulled 4 iron from 205 yards 30 yards left of green. Up and down for par.

 

Fourth hole (you guessed it) another hooked tee shot into another fairway, but at least I hit it solid. Hit the edge of the green from 110 yards. Two putts for par.

 

So I'm 4 holes in and haven't hit a good shot yet (not even close), but have 4 pars.

 

Finally on the next hole and for the rest of the round I straightened out my tee shots and played fairly well.

Fairy tail...........

post #14 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmyc View Post

Fairy tail...........

It's one I play with way too often.

post #15 of 30

I didn't do this myself when I was working my handicap down but I wish I had.  Might have gotten there a lot quicker.

Everytime you play, keep track of fairways hit, greens in regulation, good/bad chips, putts and any other stat you can think of.  It does not take much time to jot it down.  From those I have seen who do this, it gives them an idea of where their game is the weakest and where they gave away strokes.  Most people who are not blowing tee shots OB a lot but still are not scoring...it usually comes down to short game...putting and chipping.  Whatever your weak points are, go practice them.  I see way too many people who could be better players out on the range pounding drive after drive after drive and then hitting full shots with irons.  Most times, that is not where they need to practice. 

Good luck!

post #16 of 30
Thread Starter 

Wow, Some awesome advice here guys. Thank You.

 

Some of the things I already do such as FIR, GIR, and Putts. My Chipping and putting are probably my strong suit, my issues start to come at 110 yards and further. Accuracy with my Driver and all my irons is off a bit. I think if I could be more accurate 150 yards and in with getting on the green I would see much better scores. It would also help if I was more consistent with my Driver. I used to have a fade usually fairly easy to compensate for but would would turn into a slice real quick if I made a mistake. Recently I have started hitting a draw and mistakes can turn into duck hooks or slices which is no fun at all. My iron play is OK. Distances are pretty much dialed, its just mis hits that kill me of which their are plenty. Chunks or topping it happen often in a round. 

As far as my mental game goes the advice given here seems very useful. Some things I found very useful were hammerhead and a couple others saying I should strive for my handicap. I think this will help take the pressure off and I will be more pleased when I score well. Also I have recently started doing this but rustyredcab stating not to go for it every time is always a good reminder. I try to play to my strengths and if that means I am hitting a shot that leaves me 80-90 out on a par 5 then hitting on the green on my third shot instead of going for it on my 2nd then hey I am still putting for birdie and will hopefully have a very realistic par putt if I miss. 

 

A couple people mentioned practice smart and ironically my father said the same thing to me yesterday. I definitely need to work on this. I am able to go to the range multiple times a week, but unless I am chipping I generally just whack at balls as fast as possible trying to fix whatever I did wrong on the last shot. I am going to go again tonight so I will definitely try to slow everything down. Try to hit every ball like I am taking a shot on the course. 

 

Again thanks for the advice. 

post #17 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dev 0 View Post

Wow, Some awesome advice here guys. Thank You.

 

 

Thank you for starting this thread.

post #18 of 30

FWIW, course management can help lower scores also.  I see way too many people drag out their driver on holes where they do not need it.  I like to play to yardages I like.  Short par 4s.  I'm probably not going to drive the green so I hit a club to get me to yardages I like.  I prefer not to be any closer than 115 yards.  If a hybrid or 3 wood gets me there...no reason to hit driver. 

Par 5s that I have no prayer of reaching in 2.  I probably will hit 3 wood off the tee then lay up with something to get me to 115 yards.  One of the courses I play a lot has a tough long par 5.  Too much club on the 2nd shot brings water into play on the right.  Laying up short of that means having a 140 or so yard shot into the green.  Of course, you can play left of the water and bring a fairway bunker into play.  I just lay up short of the water.  A 140 or 150 yard shot from th fairway is a lot easier than 125 to 130 yard shot from the sand or worse yet dropping at 130 after hitting it into the water. 

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