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What Worked for You to Get Better at Golf?


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I've taken lessons multiple times, play 2-3x week, plus range sessions, think/read/watch a LOT about golf (read lowest score wins...twice!), but would say my improvement has been slow and I've been getting steadily worse for the past 3 months. Lowest index was 10.1, currently a 14 playing like a 20). There is such a volume of information and opinion on golf instruction, it's overwhelming. 

I'm thrashing around a little right now, and need to rethink my approach to improvement.

What worked for you to get better?  

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I recognize that...when this year started I needed to lower my cap 2.9 to reach my goal, as recently as friday, I only needed to lower it 5.4 to reach my goal for this year...

 

the original improvement for me was lessons. These days, I have all the technical skills, it is more about becoming consistent so I have been matching the practice percentages with the 5 "S"s...both threads you can find on this site. 

 

By practicing the right stuff and successfully I am slowly seeing improvement (where slowly means this past Saturday i shot my best round by 8 strokes this year). The scoreboard doesn't always reflect it yet but I am seeing shots more consistently be closer to what I was trying. 

 

Focused, successful practice I guess is the summary. 

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47 minutes ago, smsparks said:

I've taken lessons multiple times, play 2-3x week, plus range sessions, think/read/watch a LOT about golf (read lowest score wins...twice!), but would say my improvement has been slow and I've been getting steadily worse for the past 3 months. Lowest index was 10.1, currently a 14 playing like a 20). There is such a volume of information and opinion on golf instruction, it's overwhelming. 

I'm thrashing around a little right now, and need to rethink my approach to improvement.

What worked for you to get better?  

Here is what worked for me this year. Eliminate most swing thoughts and just focus on a simple swinging motion to target. Work on driver and 125-150 yd approach shots (i.e. lowest score wins, highest separation value skills). Use more feel for the short game and putting. I was so mechanical and full of specific thoughts like half swing, three quarter swing etc. I was basically just freezing up with all these thoughts in my head. Just eliminated all of that and just focus on doing things by feel and it seems to be working a lot better!

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How well do you practice?  When you hit the range, are you working on something from your lesson, a specific piece to practice, or are you just hitting balls?

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Actually playing more, and playing for something.  
 

Not necessarily big money, but something that made me care if I won or lost…

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39 minutes ago, Shindig said:

How well do you practice?  When you hit the range, are you working on something from your lesson, a specific piece to practice, or are you just hitting balls?

I would say I'm spotty on this. I approach practice with specific things to work on but ultimately it's random WHAT I'm working on, and totally based on my level frustration from the previous round. I'm definitely not systematic right now. Part of the challenge is I've found it difficult to find instructors that are systematic and methodical.

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I play my best when I have a specific plan for each shot. That means a specific target and ball flight. Then after the shot let go of the result and plan for the next one. Its hard to execute consistent shot making without actually planning for it.  Instead of "hit the fairway" it's "hit it at the top palm frond of that tree at the end of the fairway with a small draw."    

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1 hour ago, smsparks said:

I would say I'm spotty on this. I approach practice with specific things to work on but ultimately it's random WHAT I'm working on, and totally based on my level frustration from the previous round. I'm definitely not systematic right now. Part of the challenge is I've found it difficult to find instructors that are systematic and methodical.

This sounds a lot like me when I had a handicap in the high teens.  I went with Evolvr (full disclosure:  they're affiliated with this site, although I personally have no financial interest in the company) and it really helped with my full swing, an aspect of my game where I'm much better than my handicap.   They give me something specific to work on.  I'll admit I had my doubts at first when I was given a lot of practice related to the first half of the backswing, but I trusted they knew what they were doing and I did the practice they prescribed.  Watching my handicap drop and my full swing improve, based largely on having an expert tell me something I could improve and how to do it (and then, of course, doing it) got me sold completely. 

As for last round sort of things, consider taking a longer view.  I used to, especially if I had time after a round, practice just what went wrong last round.  Hit a few bad wedges?  I'd practice wedges.  Now I take a longer view with it, and I look at what went poorly, in aggregate, over the last several rounds (typically 5-10, depending how often I'm playing).  Lately, that's short game inside of 25 yards and putting inside of ten feet.  

Of course, I also work on full swing, which reminds me, I've been having an issue with my priority piece, I just got some video for that, and I need to write that up.

If you want to find something to work on, and get some good advice (not to be confused with things I say), consider making a "My Swing" thread.  You'll need to take some video at the range, but it's a lot easier than I thought it would be.  And it's free, so that should at least make it something to consider trying.

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1 minute ago, Shindig said:

This sounds a lot like me when I had a handicap in the high teens.  I went with Evolvr (full disclosure:  they're affiliated with this site, although I personally have no financial interest in the company) and it really helped with my full swing, an aspect of my game where I'm much better than my handicap.   They give me something specific to work on.  I'll admit I had my doubts at first when I was given a lot of practice related to the first half of the backswing, but I trusted they knew what they were doing and I did the practice they prescribed.  Watching my handicap drop and my full swing improve, based largely on having an expert tell me something I could improve and how to do it (and then, of course, doing it) got me sold completely. 

As for last round sort of things, consider taking a longer view.  I used to, especially if I had time after a round, practice just what went wrong last round.  Hit a few bad wedges?  I'd practice wedges.  Now I take a longer view with it, and I look at what went poorly, in aggregate, over the last several rounds (typically 5-10, depending how often I'm playing).  Lately, that's short game inside of 25 yards and putting inside of ten feet.  

Of course, I also work on full swing, which reminds me, I've been having an issue with my priority piece, I just got some video for that, and I need to write that up.

If you want to find something to work on, and get some good advice (not to be confused with things I say), consider making a "My Swing" thread.  You'll need to take some video at the range, but it's a lot easier than I thought it would be.  And it's free, so that should at least make it something to consider trying.

I appreciate this Shindig. I found a thread on Evolvr after I posted this thread and will be signing up today! Glad to hear it's working for you. 

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2 hours ago, David in FL said:

Actually playing more, and playing for something.  
 

Not necessarily big money, but something that made me care if I won or lost…

^^^^This

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6 hours ago, smsparks said:

What worked for you to get better?  

For me, it was a combination of three things that I credit most of my improvement to.

  • Lessons from a good instructor
  • Good practice habits
  • Learning course management

Lessons from a good teacher: By *good*, I mean someone who has enough knowledge/experience of the golf swing to diagnose swing issues and determine the best correction, but also someone who is good at teaching, disseminating information in a way that works for you. There are good instructors who may not be a good match for certain students for whatever reason. Someone who can tell you waht is going wrong, prioritize what needs to change, and explain well how to change it. The important thing, IMO, is to find an instructor that works for you.

Good practice habits: It took me quite awhile to really grasp what good practice is, and it is something I am still working on. I used to just go to the range, get a couple large buckets of balls, and whack them down range until they were all gone; probably a decent workout, but not really good practice. There's a lot of good information on this site about how to practice correctly. Some sort of video feedback setup is really helpful. There is the Mirrorvision app for use with two iOS devices, I use a Live View Pro camera paired with an Amazon Fire tablet, or you can just record swings with cell phone and review each swing.

Learning course management: Course management is somewhat of an ambiguous phrase. I don't mean YouTube-style advice like "just hit 7-iron for every shot". More along the lines of how to take certain risks out of play by understanding your shot patterns and selecting the right club and target for each shot. For me the book Lowest Score Wins nails this, and I don't think there is any comparable set of information that is explained as well as LSW. There is a par-4 hole on my home course that used to totally kick my ass. I think I probably averaged close to double-bogey on this hole, and it was frequently a blowup hole. As soon as I was able to look at it through the lens of LSW, it has become a pretty routine par, and bogey at worst, barring terrible execution on my part.

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7 hours ago, smsparks said:

I've taken lessons multiple times, play 2-3x week, plus range sessions, think/read/watch a LOT about golf (read lowest score wins...twice!), but would say my improvement has been slow and I've been getting steadily worse for the past 3 months. Lowest index was 10.1, currently a 14 playing like a 20). There is such a volume of information and opinion on golf instruction, it's overwhelming. 

I'm thrashing around a little right now, and need to rethink my approach to improvement.

What worked for you to get better?  

You're already better than I am so not sure I'm any help but my handicap is inching downwards and I attribute most of that (believe it or not) to watching the PGA pros on TV. What's been particularly useful for me is watching their play around the greens. I really struggled chipping - stubbing the club into the ground or sending the ball running over the green - but now, mostly, I chip it pretty darn well. I was amazed how fast they moved the wedge through the ball instead of decelerating, as I often did in fear of hitting it too hard.

And, watching the pros rotate their bodies and work their arms and hands on the approach shots has made a big difference for me as well. Seeing how they finish and where their club in at finish has been a good thing.

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3 hours ago, Darkfrog said:

There is a par-4 hole on my home course that used to totally kick my ass. I think I probably averaged close to double-bogey on this hole, and it was frequently a blowup hole. As soon as I was able to look at it through the lens of LSW, it has become a pretty routine par, and bogey at worst, barring terrible execution on my part.

Would you mind elaborating on this, such as describing the hole, your former strategy, and what you do currently?  I have a few nemesis holes at my home course and I've tried applying some decision maps to them, but seeing an example of how someone made a change like that would be informative to me.  

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18 hours ago, David in FL said:

Actually playing more, and playing for something.

Not necessarily big money, but something that made me care if I won or lost…

No, not that. Sets a very low ceiling. Yes, you’ll get better as you get your timing down and ingrain your swing but you’re also further ingraining bad habits and when your game does go off the rails a bit you’ll have no touchstones for reference.

Find a qualified instructor. It can be inexpensive because you don’t have to see them all that often. Learn your bugaboos. Learn your frequent issues and learn how to practice.

If you do sign up for Evolvr it’s inexpensive but it does depend on you to practice well. The students who do well dedicate some time to practice. It doesn’t have to be even thirty minutes a day, but it has to be dedicated and done properly.

Good luck.

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2 hours ago, iacas said:

No, not that. Sets a very low ceiling. Yes, you’ll get better as you get your timing down and ingrain your swing but you’re also further ingraining bad habits and when your game does go off the rails a bit you’ll have no touchstones for reference.

Find a qualified instructor. It can be inexpensive because you don’t have to see them all that often. Learn your bugaboos. Learn your frequent issues and learn how to practice.

If you do sign up for Evolvr it’s inexpensive but it does depend on you to practice well. The students who do well dedicate some time to practice. It doesn’t have to be even thirty minutes a day, but it has to be dedicated and done properly.

Good luck.

The question was “What worked for you?”.  
 

If the question were “What would you recommend?”, I would agree 100%.

 

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22 hours ago, smsparks said:

There is such a volume of information and opinion on golf instruction, it's overwhelming. 

My biggest advice, in addition to getting an instructor (or not!) and practicing regularly on the right things, would be to commit. It’s far too easy to leave the things that are helping you once you hit a bad shot or have a bad round. If you have a good instructor, then commit. Don’t go chasing YouTube videos or quick tips; buy into what they’re saying and put the blinders on. Block out all exterior noise and work on the things YOU need to work on. After all, you’re paying money for lessons, why not commit? Otherwise, you’re throwing away money and wasting the instructor’s time. 
 

Don’t over analyze every bad shot either. It’s not about the result of the shot at first. Instead, focus on whether you executed what you and your instructor are trying to accomplish. This is hard to do because you want to play good golf right away, but you gotta train the right things, and eventually, it’ll bear fruit. If you see on video that you’re doing it right, then show it to your instructor and re-evaluate. Maybe you’re overdoing it or maybe you’re not doing it enough. 

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8 minutes ago, ncates00 said:

My biggest advice, in addition to getting an instructor (or not!) and practicing regularly on the right things, would be to commit. It’s far too easy to leave the things that are helping you once you hit a bad shot or have a bad round. If you have a good instructor, then commit. Don’t go chasing YouTube videos or quick tips; buy into what they’re saying and put the blinders on. Block out all exterior noise and work on the things YOU need to work on. After all, you’re paying money for lessons, why not commit? Otherwise, you’re throwing away money and wasting the instructor’s time. 
 

Don’t over analyze every bad shot either. It’s not about the result of the shot at first. Instead, focus on whether you executed what you and your instructor are trying to accomplish. This is hard to do because you want to play good golf right away, but you gotta train the right things, and eventually, it’ll bear fruit. If you see on video that you’re doing it right, then show it to your instructor and re-evaluate. Maybe you’re overdoing it or maybe you’re not doing it enough. 

Great point. When we have a bad day ago the course or range, we chase the next hotness rather than figuring out what was slightly off in what we were trying to do. I am guilty of this for sure. Trying to commit to some simple basic ideas this year without all the noise ... 

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