If you have progressed enough in golf to be concerned over consistency then I will assume by now that you've hit at least a few solid golf shots. You know it's a good feeling and like all the rest of us golfers, you'd like it to happen more often, if not every time. So what does it take to become a more consistent ball striker?
The answer, of course, involves more practice but more specifically, intelligent practice. All the best instructors and manuals can't help you improve unless you actually go through a lot of the trial and error process yourself. You have to make the connections come together in your brain. And you have to groove what works well and zap out what doesn't. Don't just go to the range and pound balls without a purpose. Pay attention to the mental notes and cues that seem to lead to your best shots. Write them down so you don't forget them and review them before your next practice session or before you play. Even after your swing has developed enough so that you're hitting the ball consistently well, you still want to always remain focused during the process and routine of hitting a golf shot. As you develop into a better ball striker, hopefully you will be able to gradually think less about your swing thoughts and become more focused on your target.
Another important step to becoming a more consistent ball striker is to optimize your pre shot routine. Especially if you plan on playing tournament golf, having a solid routine to go through can make a nervous situation less uneasy. If you watch professional golf on television, take notice of the similarities in their routines. Before hitting a shot, most all of them stand behind the ball calculating what they need to do and then visualizing it actually happen. They pick a specific target and become fixated with it. This method has been around the game for a long time and there is certainly evidence that it's a helpful process. If you don't have a pre-shot routine yet then develop one and stick with it for more consistency.
If you've having a specific problem in your swing then use the search button here at Golfinfoguide.com as a sort of diagnostic tool. Type in your problem and you'll likely find some helpful information to get your swing back on the right track.
How to Be a Consistent Ball Striker
Consistency is the name of the game in golf. If you are playing a full round you will have to navigate your way around 18 holes, many of them likely protected by water hazards, rough, trees, bunkers, and more. It doesn't do you much good to hit great shots on three or four of these holes if you make a complete mess out of the rest of the round. It is fun to come up with a spectacular shot on the course from time to time, but it is far more important to hit consistent shots from the first hole to the last. As long as you are able to keep your ball in play and in relatively good position on each hole, you can shoot an excellent score – even without hitting any 'amazing' shots.
The problem for most golfers is that consistent golf isn't necessarily 'exciting' golf. While they will love the score that they shoot at the end of the day if they focus on consistency, many players get distracted over the course of a four-hour round, instead choosing to strive for a few incredible shots instead of a lot of decent ones. No one will give you a high five for hitting a decent shot, but it is likely that you will have the lowest score at the end of the day if you make this your focus. Consistent ball striking is what will win the day, as long as you have the patience to stick with it hole after hole.
There is more to consistent ball striking than just good technique, although that is certainly where it starts. Once your technique is in place, you then need to have a great mental approach to the game in order to strike the ball consistently well on the course. There is a big difference between ball striking on the driving range, and ball striking on the golf course. Being a consistent balls striker on the range means that you have good technique and mechanics in your swing, but it doesn't guarantee great scores. In order to translate your ball striking from the range to the course, you have to have the mental skills to go along with your physical capabilities.
If your goal is to become the best all-around golfer that you can be, you should be dedicated to improving both the mental and physical side of your game. Most players think of ball striking as a strictly physical skill, but it is incredibly important to make good decisions and have your mind in a 'good place' while playing your shots. This is especially true under pressure – your physical skills can quickly break down when you get nervous unless you have the mental skills to deal with the pressure and execute your swing. Consistent ball striking might start with learning the basic mechanics of the golf swing, but it goes far beyond that first step.
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.
The Mechanical Elements
The majority of this article will focus on the mental side of being a consistent ball striker, but it is the mechanical side of your swing that lays the groundwork for reaching this goal. After all, if you don't have a solid physical swing, it won't matter how great your mental game is – you won't be able to hit good shots on a regular basis. Before you get too far into learning about the mental side of ball striking, you should first focus getting your swing in order. Once you are happy with your technique and you feel like you can consistently perform on the driving range, you can take the next step and learn how to think your way around the course to complete the puzzle.
Following are a few key fundamentals that need to be present in your golf swing. If you can confidently say that each of these elements is incorporated into your swing technique, you will be well on your way toward solid ball striking.
- Balance. Balance is king in golf, and without good balance throughout your swing, you have very little chance of becoming a good player. Remaining balanced during your swing might seem like an easy task, but it becomes increasingly difficult as your swing picks up speed - especially with the long clubs. Spend plenty of practice time working on the skill of keeping your weight evenly distributed between your two feet and you will find that your ball striking improves automatically. Remember, to make a balanced swing you need to start from a balanced position, so check on your stance before working on your actual swing.
- Relaxed grip. One of the common traits that is seen among good ball strikers is light grip pressure. It is tempting to squeeze the grip of the club in order to gain control, but that is actually the last thing that you want to do. You should be gripping the club just tight enough to maintain control throughout the swing, and no tighter. Light grip pressure will allow the club to swing freely, which is particularly important as you approach impact. To learn how to use a light grip pressure, start by hitting some short chip shots while relaxing your grip. Once you are comfortable on the short shots, gradually hit longer and longer shots until you get all the way up to your driver.
- Steady head position. There shouldn't be a lot of movement in your head position during the golf swing, whether that movement is side to side or up and down. Ideally your head will remain relatively still while the rest of your body does the work of swinging the club. Keeping your head still means that your eyes will remain still, so you will have a good look at the ball all the way up until impact. It is much easier to hit something that you can actually see, and that is certainly true in golf. Keep your eyes trained on the ball throughout the swing and your ball striking consistency will certainly take a step forward.
- Engaged lower body. Your hands and arms actually do the work of holding on to the club, but your lower body has just as much to do with the quality of shots that you are able to hit. The lower half of your body should be engaged right from the start of the swing with plenty of knee flex at address. Use your legs effectively by keeping them steady in the backswing and then allowing them to fire through the downswing to strike the ball with power and accuracy.
It will be hard to find much fault with the technical side of your golf swing if you are able to hit on each of these four points above. Of course there are some other fundamentals that you will need to check on before you can hit all of the shots that the game demands, but this list of basics is a great start.
Focus on Results
One of the major hurdles that holds the average golfer back from reaching his or her goals is good old fashioned vanity. For many players, it isn't enough to get the ball close to the hole – they want to hit a shot that looks good along the way. In an effort to impress their friends or playing competitors, some golfers will choose shots based on what they think will look the best flying through the air. Of course this is a bad approach to the game, but it is one that exists nonetheless.
If you wish to score your best, you should care about only one thing – the position of the ball at the end of each shot. After all, that is the only thing that matters when it comes to deciding your score. If the ball is positioned well at the end of each shot, you will have no choice but to shoot a good score at the end of the day. You won't be drawing any pictures on the scorecard, so it makes absolutely no difference at all what the shots looked like in the air or running along the ground. As long as they reach their destination, you have done your job.
What does this line of thinking have to do with the quality of your ball striking? Everything. It is important to understand that the quality of your swings is a direct result of the quality of your choices as you move around the course. It is far more difficult to execute your swing when you are attempting to pull off a difficult approach to a target near the water, for example, than it is to hit the ball safely into the wide side of the green. Before you start each swing, your mind understands the relative difficulty of the shot, and your body will respond accordingly. It is hard to make a free and relaxed swing when you are taking on a scary shot, but free and relaxed is exactly what you need to be if you want to strike the ball cleanly.
The previous paragraphs are basically a long way of saying that you need to pick conservative targets for the vast majority of your shots during any given round. When you are focused only on the results of your shots and now how great they look on their way to the target, you will realize that safe targets are the best way to find good results on a regular basis. The reward for being aggressive on the golf course is rarely worth the risk. For instance, if you decide to aim at every pin no matter what dangers lurk nearby, you will almost certainly lose more strokes than you gain. Sure, you could make an extra birdie or two during a round by using that strategy, but you will make plenty of mistakes to offset those birdies. In the end, the golfer who executes a conservative game plan correctly is the one who will typically have the lowest score.
When you prepare to hit any shot, you should have one thought running through your mind – what is my goal with this shot? That is to say, where do I want the ball to finish? On short putts, the answer to that question is obvious, as you want the ball to finish in the bottom of the hole. However, the answer is a little more complicated on longer shots, as there are a number of variables to consider. After reviewing everything in front of you, pick a very specific target that will serve as your goal for the shot. For example, if you are facing a 150 approach shot into a green that slopes from right to left with the pin located on the right side of the green, you might decide that your target is a spot 20 feet to the left of the hole. If you execute the swing properly, that shot will leave you with an uphill putt from a position that is safely on the putting surface. A golfer who chooses to aim directly at the hole in the same scenario may hit a great shot – or they may miss the green to the right and have an impossible chip. Pick the safe shot and strike the ball cleanly to set up a birdie chance.
Being a results-focused golfer is a great way to lower your scores and improve your ball striking consistency. You will be amazed at how comfortable and easy the game can seem when you stop taking on unnecessary risk with your target selection. Pick out a logical position for your ball to finish prior to each shot and then focus in on executing the swing technique that you have mastered on the range.
Stay within Your Rhythm
Rhythm is an important element of good ball striking, but it is one that is more mental than physical. While your swing rhythm will appear in the tempo and timing of your swing, the way your approach your shots from a mental perspective will determine the quality of that rhythm. Are you rushing into your shots, taking only a quick moment to pick a club before swinging away? If so, it is unlikely that you will be able to carry a smooth rhythm throughout the round. The same can be said for playing slow. If you take too long as you are getting ready to hit a shot, you can 'freeze' yourself and your body will have trouble producing a smooth swing once you finally get started.
The correct rhythm for your game is somewhere in the middle. You need to take enough time to weigh all of the variables and pick a shot, but you don't want to take so long that you are unable to make a quality swing. The ideal pace is going to be a little bit different for each golfer, so you need to work out your own tempo on the range before heading to the course. While practicing, go through your entire pre-shot routine on every swing so you can master the right speed of play to allow yourself to strike the ball solidly.
When golfers complain about being inconsistent with their swings during a round, it is usually rhythm that is to blame. Rarely will you have dramatic mechanical changes from shot to shot – your technique is going to hold steady throughout the round almost every time. Instead, what changes is the pace with which you swing the club. Producing a consistent ball flight requires a consistent rhythm, and that is a challenge that many golfers are unable to meet. It is easy to allow your rhythm to change throughout the course of the day as you experience different emotions such as excitement or frustration. In order to even out your performance and hit solid shots from start to finish, it is key to keep your temperament steady throughout the day. Focus only on the execution of one shot at a time, and try to leave any emotions out of it until the end of the round.
Solid ball striking without good rhythm is nearly impossible, yet most golfers ignore the importance of this point – instead focusing only on the positions that they put their body in during the swing. By contrast, the average professional golfer clearly understands the importance of rhythm in the golf swing, and most pros work on this element of their game constantly. Take your cue from the best players in the world and make rhythm a top priority in your golf swing.
Understanding the Lie of the Ball
Striking the ball cleanly of a perfect driving range lie is one thing – doing so from various different lies around the golf course is another challenge entirely. Plenty of golfers are able to hit the ball solidly when they have a perfect lie, but the good players are those who can deal with a poor lie and still generate a quality shot. For your ball striking to have the level of consistency that you desire, it is important to understand how to create shots from bad lies.
Below is a list of three types of bad lies that you can find on the course, along with some instruction on how to deal with these situations.
- Deep rough. This is probably the kind of like when you think about getting a bad lie on the golf course. If you miss the fairway, you might find your ball in some deep grass, depending on the style and condition of the course you are playing. When the ball is sitting down in the grass, it is important to use a steep angle of attack to strike the ball cleanly. You want to avoid having your club head get caught in the grass behind the ball, so swing down rather steeply and attempt to catch the ball before hitting much of the grass. You may need to use a higher lofted club to get the ball out of the grass, even if that means laying up short of the target.
- Bare lie. Some courses, instead of having deep rough, will simply have bare spots off the fairway where little grass is growing. If you encounter this type of lie, you want to take the opposite approach from above. In this case, you want to use a shallow angle of attack so you can pick the ball off the top of the ground while taking very little divot. A steep swing when your ball is sitting on a bare lie will likely lead to fat contact and a shot that comes up short. Move the ball slightly forward in your stance and shallow out your swing to pick the ball off the ground and send it on its way.
- Spongy lie. This can be one of the trickiest lies in the game. A 'spongy' lie is one where the ball is sitting up on top of the grass, with a cushion of thicker grass hiding below the ball. If your ball looks like it is sitting up on a tee on top of the grass, you probably have a spongy lie. While many golfers think this is a great lie, it can actually be a big problem. If you hit down on the ball when you have a spongy lie, the sweet spot will go under the ball and you will make contact high on the face. That means poor contact quality, and a shot that will come up short. For the best chance at a solid strike from a spongy lie, try to use a shallow swing and pick the ball off the top of the grass.
Consistent ball striking can lead you to the best golf of your life, but you will have to have both the mental and physical components in place in order to reach that goal. While no golfer is able to hit the ball solidly with every single swing, putting good fundamentals in place is a great start. Combine those fundamentals with solid decision making and you just may become the consistent ball striker that you wish to be.