Every golfer hits poor shots. One big difference between good players and average players is that the good player's mistakes tend to follow a predictable pattern, where the lesser golfer is prone to a wide range of miscues.
For example, the better player might have a habit of pushing shots with the driver, or pulling approaches with a wedge. The plus is that he's familiar with the swing flaw which produces his usual miss, and he can focus on avoiding it next time.
The average golfer, on the other hand, might top one drive, then sky the next. Or hit an iron shot thin followed by a fat one. With multiple problems at opposite ends of the spectrum, he's tied in knots trying to repair his swing.
Inconsistency typically plagues beginners or those who play only occasionally. Their swings aren't ingrained in the muscle memory, so each pass at the ball is a little different from the last one. Obviously, the only cure for this is experience, both on the golf course and the driving range.
If you play regularly and still suffer from inconsistent shots, your best bet is a trip to see a PGA teaching pro who can diagnose your issues and offer tips for fixing them.
Otherwise, follow this plan to tackle your errant swings, beginning with the most common:
- Break down the game into segments. For example: tee shots, irons, chipping and putting. Keep track of your bad shots in each category over three or four rounds. If you slice a tee shot, note it on your scorecard. Same for a chunked wedge, or a putt that comes up well short of the hole. After a few rounds, make a list of each type of miss (fat, thin, shank, pulled putt, etc) and patterns will likely begin to emerge.
- Determine your No. 1 mistake in each category and get to work. Attack the problems that pop up most often, starting with your most common miss. If there's a particular fault that happens only occasionally, push it to the back burner.
Golf-Info-Guide.com can help you solve most any issue in any segment. Let's say you discover a tendency to hit your iron shots thin. Type “thin iron shots” into the website's search function and you'll get a list of tips dealing with your problem. Next stop: the driving range.
It may be impossible to eliminate mistakes altogether, but a simple analysis of your game will reveal the areas that need the most work. Fix your most pressing problems, one at a time, and you'll soon narrow down your mishits to a manageable few.
How to Correct Your Inconsistent Golf Shots
It is hard to be consistent on the golf course. Sure, you can probably hit a handful of good shots during the average round, but they are likely mixed in with plenty of other poor shots. While it is fun to hit a few great shots during the day, it would be even more fun to be consistent with your ball striking. Putting the ball in the fairway and on the green time after time is the best way to lower your scores, but you will need to eliminate your inconsistencies to accomplish that goal. As the old saying goes, 'the best shot in golf is the one that you can hit over and over again'.
Many amateur golfers become obsessed with the pursuit of the perfect swing. These players will spend hours and hours on the driving range, never satisfied with the ball flight that they are creating. In reality, there is no such thing as a perfect golf swing, or a perfect ball flight. All golfers have flaws – even the best golfers in the world. The key to gaining consistency and lowering your scores isn't to work toward perfect, but rather to embrace your imperfections. For example, it isn't a problem to play a big draw on most of your shots, as long as you can produce that same shot time after time. Instead of hitting thousands of balls on the range in an effort to straighten out the ball flight, you could simply embrace the draw and work on becoming as consistent as possible when you use it on the course.
Consistency is as much about the mental game as it is your physical technique. If you can produce a specific shot one time, there is no reason you can't do it again – unless you allow your mind to get in the way. It is important to learn how to think effectively on the course so you can live up to your potential as a player. The average golfer has a number of bad mental game habits that they should work on breaking as soon as possible.
Will you ever be able to hit the exact same shot over and over again, all day long? No – golf would be pretty boring if that was possible. However, you can always work on improving your consistency one swing at a time. Golf is not a game that can be mastered, but it is your job as a golfer to continue to work toward an unreachable goal. If you strive for perfect consistency on the course, your game will make great progress even if that ultimate goal is not an achievable one.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
Consistency Starts Early
Golfers tend to focus too much on the actual swinging of the club, and not enough on the preparation that leads up to moving the club back away from the ball. Obviously, the way you swing the club is important, but the pre-shot preparations that you make will have almost as much to do with the final result. A refined pre-shot routine will put you in a great position to strike solid shots all day long.
Next time you watch golf on television, pay careful attention to how the pros get ready to hit a shot. Do they just wander up to the ball and make a swing? Hardly. Instead, they go through a series of preparations in order to set the stage for a quality shot. Golf is a difficult game, and you will never experience much success without sufficient preparation. Professional golfers have high-quality swings, and they still feel the need to go through a detailed pre-shot process – that should tell you all you need to know about how important this part of the game is to your success.
Following are three tips that will help you sharpen your pre-shot process.
- Same process, every single time. There are plenty of distractions on the golf course that can get you out of your normal pre-shot routine. If you allow those distractions to pull your mind away from the task at hand, you might find that you start to skip parts of your routine as the round goes on. Do your best to avoid this bad habit. Ideally, you will go through exactly the same routine each and every time, regardless of the circumstances within the round. Not only will a consistent routine help you make a repeatable swing, but it will also help to calm your nerves when you start to feel the pressure. If you are at a crucial point in the round and your face a difficult shot, lean on your routine to help you relax so you can execute your best swing when it matters most.
- Make it your own. One of the important elements of a pre-shot routine is that it applies specifically to your swing. Don't copy the routine of another golfer, because their approach to each shot might not be suitable to the way you play the game. Take time on the driving range to think about what elements you want to use in your routine. It may take a period of weeks or even months until you settle on your exact routine, but once it is in place, it can start to pay dividends right away.
- A single objective. As you walk up to your ball to hit a shot, there should be just one thought in your mind. If you allow your brain to be crowded by a number of different concerns – things like hazards, wind, your lie, etc. – you will never execute your best swing. During your pre-shot process, you should have weighed all of the different variables involved in the shot. With that work complete, walk up to the ball with a clear picture of your game plan. There is no room for doubt on the golf course, so select a plan of action for each shot and dedicate yourself fully to executing the swing.
A good pre-shot routine will give you a sense of calm prior to starting your swing. Being unprepared is a bad feeling, so don't stand over the ball unsure if you have done everything necessary to prepare for the shot. As long as you execute your pre-shot routine precisely prior to every shot that you hit during a round, you can be sure you are giving yourself the best possible chance at success.
The Basics of Golf Technique
Another way to improve your consistency is to work on the basic fundamentals of your golf swing. It is tempting to get into complicated swing theories and techniques in an effort to lower your scores, but the simple elements of the game are almost always the most important. You don't have to do anything 'fancy' in your swing to play great golf – you just have to repeat the same swing over and over again. By putting all of the basics in place in your swing, it will be possible to hit the ball more consistently than ever before.
The four fundamentals below can be considered the building blocks of a quality golf swing. If you can sharpen your skills on each of these four points, your swing will be ready to handle just about anything the course can throw at you.
- Balance. You will hear this one repeated time and time again if you take a golf lesson from a local professional. Balance is crucial to good golf, and specifically to consistency. If you are off balance during the golf swing, it is nearly impossible to make the same motion shot after shot. Good balance, on the other hand, provides you with a stable platform as you swing your arms down to the ball – meaning you can do it the same way all round long. Whether you are an experienced player or you are just getting started, working on your balance is always a worthwhile endeavor.
- Grip pressure. This fundamental point is overlooked by most players, but it is important in the overall picture of composing a good golf swing. Maintaining a relaxed grip pressure throughout the swing will allow you to move the club quickly through the hitting area. When your grip gets tight, you will harm your tempo and it will be difficult to make the same swing twice in a row. If you are a player who usually uses a tight grip, work on breaking that habit by practicing short game shots using a light grip. Once you are comfortable hitting short shots with a relaxed grip, you can transfer that grip pressure into your full swing.
- Eyes on the ball. Yes, this old golf tip still applies today. If you would like to make the same swing over and over again, it is crucial that you watch the ball from the takeaway all the way through impact. It is hard to hit something that you can't see, so don't allow your eyes to drift away from the ball as you swing the club. This is a fundamental that is easy to execute on the driving range, but it can become difficult when you get onto the course and start to feel nervous or anxious. Prior to each swing, take a deep breath and clear your mind of all distractions – then walk up into your stance, focus your eyes on the ball, and keep them there until after impact.
- Swing through the shot. No matter what else takes place in your golf swing, you need to always remember to swing through the shot confidently. As the club head moves through impact, it should be accelerating down the target line. Unfortunately, due to a lack of confidence, many golfers become tentative at impact and their swing suffers as a result. If you are going to achieve the consistent results you are looking for, it is crucial that you commit to the shot and swing all the way through into a balanced finish.
The fundamentals of the golf swing might not be that exciting, but they certainly can help you make a repeatable swing. Let other golfers worry about complicated swing techniques that they find in books or on the internet – if you can remain disciplined and stick to the fundamentals of the game, your swing will be able to hold up over the long run.
Consistent Decision Making is Important
It is important to make a consistent swing if you wish to achieve consistent results. However, making a good swing alone is not enough to play good golf – you have to make good decisions as well. Consistently making the right decision as you make your way around the course is a major piece of the puzzle you are trying to solve. You probably blame your swing every time you hit a poor shot, but there is a good chance that some of your poor shots are actually caused by bad decision making. Learn how to pick the right shot and the right target and you will find that your ball winds up in a good spot far more frequently.
So what goes into good decision making? The first element is understanding your strengths and weaknesses as a golfer. A good decision for you might be a bad decision for another player, based on your individual abilities. For example, if you are a long hitter off the tee, choosing a target that requires a 250 yard carry might be a smart choice. However, if you don't possess very much power, picking that same line could be a disaster. It is impossible to make good decisions without knowing exactly what kind of shots you are capable of hitting.
On this point, you need to be brutally honest with yourself regarding your capabilities. All golfers would love to be able to hit every shot in the game, but that just isn't realistic. Instead, you have certain shots that you are comfortable with, and others that give you problems. Picking shots that suit your capabilities – and avoiding the ones that don't – is a key ingredient to playing consistent golf. Use your time on the practice range to get a good sense of your strengths and weaknesses as a golfer, and use that information to guide your decision making throughout a round.
Another key element to good decision making is choosing a general game plan and then sticking with that plan throughout the day. For example, you may decide that you are going to take a conservative approach to a given round, perhaps due to windy conditions. Once that choice has been made prior to the round, all of your decisions during the round should fall in line with that theme. This approach to decision making will allow you to be more confident because you will have some basis for your choices. Knowing that you are going to take a conservative approach throughout the day, you can pick targets that are on the safe side of the hole and simply focus on executing that plan. Of course, this applies with any game plan that you devise, so the story is the same if you are thinking of being aggressive on a day with easy scoring conditions.
One final point that should be made regarding your decision making on the course is simply that you have to trust your instincts whenever possible. On any given shot, you have a long list of options available to you. Those options include hitting a draw, hitting a fade, hitting the ball high, hitting the ball low, and more. It is easy to be overwhelmed when you start thinking about all of the various options you can consider. However, the final choice that you make should be based on what 'feels' right to you in that moment. If you are standing over the ball and you aren't 100% convinced in the decision that you have made, you have probably made the wrong choice. There should be no doubt in your mind when you take your stance – it is crucial that you are completely satisfied with the plan you have for the shot in question.
The Round Starts Before You Reach the First Tee
How long before your round to you arrive at the golf course? 15 minutes? 30 minutes? If you would like to start playing the best golf of your life, it would be a great idea to get in the habit of showing up at the course a full hour prior to starting your round. While that might seem like a long time, it is just about right for going through all of the necessary preparations. Playing consistent golf doesn't happen by accident – it takes practice ahead of time, and a good warm up on the day of the round.
When you get to the course, you should first do whatever you need to do to check in for the round. At a public golf course, that means heading into the pro shop to pay the greens fee. Also, if you are going to buy a bucket of range balls to warm up with, you can do so at the same time. Once checked in, head directly to the putting green to start your warm up. While most golfers begin their warm up on the driving range, visiting the putting green first is a better option. Your number one goal during a warm up session is to learn the speed of the greens, so you want to get started on that task as quickly as possible. Once you have hit a handful of long putts across the green to gauge the speed, go ahead and head over to the driving range.
Most golfers get off-track during their warm-up session when they head to the driving range. What do they do wrong? They treat it as a practice session instead of a warm-up. You are not trying to do anything to change or improve your swing at this point – it is too late for that. Instead, you are simply trying to get your muscles warmed-up and create a good rhythm for your swing. With that in mind, start by hitting a few soft wedge shots that only fly 40 or 50 yards. Gradually work your way up from there, hitting longer and longer clubs until you reach the driver. You don't need to hit every club in the bag during your warm-up, but you should hit at least a couple of your short irons, one mid-iron, one long iron, a fairway metal, and your driver. To finish, hit two or three balls with whichever club you plan on using on the first tee.
To complete your warm-up, head back to the short game area and hit more putts. This time, focus on short putts to build your confidence. It is a great feeling to see a few short putts roll into the back of the hole before you start the round. If the course offers a chipping area, take a few moments to hit some short chips and pitches and well. With both your short game and long game properly prepared, it will be time to head to the first tee to get started.
A good warm-up is key to consistency. The warm-up period lets you get the 'kinks' out of your game for the day, and it allows you to hit a few poor shots with no consequences. By the time the round starts, you will have hopefully found a rhythm that you can use for all 18 holes. It may not be possible to arrive a full hour ahead of your tee time for every round, but do so as often as possible and your game will improve.
Hitting consistent golf shots requires solid technique along with a sharp mental game and a proper warm-up session. Golf is one of the hardest games in the world, but you can make it a little bit easier by focusing on the points highlighted in the content above. You don't need to be flashy to play good golf, you just need to be consistent. Focus on the simple things and learn how to repeat your swing over and over again to reach new levels on the golf course.