Every golf tip, and there must be millions of them, is intended to achieve the same goal: lowering your scores. Because at the end of the day, the number on the card is our primary concern.
To that end, most golfers focus on improving their physical skills. Curing a slice or shank, hitting longer drives, making more putts… Worthy pursuits, no doubt. But too many of us ignore the game’s mental side, where improvement can be achieved rapidly without a single swing or stroke change.
Follow these three tips and you’ll shoot lower scores:
1. Think process, not outcome
How’s this for irony: The more you think about your score, the less likely you are to score well.
It always sounds trite when pro golfers talk about taking things “one shot at a time,” but they’re not just spewing clichés. Concerning yourself with the outcome of a hole or round is putting the cart before the horse. Your score merely reflects the results of a series of individual shots, with many uncontrollable factors – wind, odd bounces, deceptive pin placements – playing a role.
Instead of focusing on what might happen if you hit a great shot (or a poor one), concentrate only on the aspects that are under your control -- in other words, everything that happens up to the instant of impact. After that, it’s out of your hands.
The key to succeeding with a process-vs.-outcome approach is a sound pre-shot routine. Take the same steps before each and every shot, emphasizing fundamentals like alignment, stance, ball position and tempo, and you’ll smooth out the ups and downs.
PGA Tour star Steve Stricker makes a great role model if you’re looking for a pre-shot system to emulate.
2. Play it safe
It may seem boring, but hitting hybrid rather than driver off the tee and aiming for the center of the green will help eliminate ugly holes and boost your number of pars per round.
Few amateurs are skilled enough to hit long, accurate drives on narrow holes, or to loft high, soft iron shots to flagsticks cut behind hazards. A conservative approach to course management is your best avenue to consistency.
3. Track your stats
You may think putting is the weakest part of your game, but are you sure? If you’re judging subjectively, you could be wrong.
Good, solid data is extremely helpful in pinpointing the areas where you need work. During every round, record key statistics including fairways hit, greens in regulation and putts per hole. Enter them in a database or online golf stat-tracking program and after a few rounds, patterns will emerge.
Use your stats to find your true strengths and weaknesses, and build your practice around these findings.