Top 3 Ways to Lower Your Golf Scores without Making Swing Changes

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.

If you would like to lower your scores – and of course you would – you probably think first about making changes to your swing.

Best Ways to Lower Your Scores without Making Swing Changes

And that makes sense, of course. Golf is all about making quality swings, so making even better swings should lead to lower scores. Right? Well, it might, but not necessarily. In fact, there is a lot you can do to lower your scores without even making a single adjustment to your swing technique.

This article is all about working toward lower scores without making swing changes. That is an exciting prospect, because you can potentially play better golfer in the near future. Swing changes take time, so you have to keep the long-term picture in mind when going that route. If you work on some of the ideas presented later in this article, however, the timeline is condensed. With any luck, you might even make some progress in your very next round.

The advice we are going to offer up later in this article will take a variety of forms. Some of the tips will be strategic in nature, while others will have to do with your attitude on the course. No matter what it is, you need to consider these ideas with an open mind if they are going to pay off. If you don't think that a tip will work for you, it's destined to fail before you even get started. You certainly don't have to use every tip we are going to offer – it's completely up to you which to try and which to ignore – but be sure to commit yourself fully to those you do employ.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

Avoid Big Strategic Mistakes

Avoid Big Strategic Mistakes

There is a lot of strategy in the game of golf. Unfortunately, this is a part of the game that is largely ignored by amateur players, and countless strokes are lost as a result. Here's the good news – you don't need to be a strategic genius to save strokes in this area. In fact, if you can just avoid making some big mistakes, you should be able to move your scores in the right direction sooner rather than later.

In this section, we are going to highlight a number of big mistakes which are made by many golfers. You may not currently make any of these mistakes – or you may be guilty of all of them. Take a moment to review the list and think about whether or not these points can help you improve.

  • Hitting driver off every tee. When you step up to a par four or par five tee box, do you automatically hit driver? If so, it's almost certain you need to review your strategic decisions. By always hitting driver, you are probably taking on more risk than necessary. Unless you are a particularly short hitter and you need the distance that the driver provides, or you play on an extremely wide course with no hazards in sight, always using your driver is just asking for trouble. There are plenty of other clubs in your bag which can handle some of the tee shots you encounter during the course of a round. Always consider all of your options on each tee and go with the club that provides the best combination of risk and reward. Sometimes that will be the driver, but in other cases it may be a three wood or hybrid club. Moving your tee shot club selection in a more conservative direction should keep your ball in play more frequently, and you will have to take fewer penalty strokes as a result.
  • Looking up. Some golfers are tempted into playing their short game shots as high as possible in most situations. That means instead of hitting a low bump and run from just of the side of the green, the player will try something like a higher chip shot or even a flop shot. The problem with this strategy is that it will almost certainly make you less consistent. Sure, you can hit some nice shots this way from time to time, but there will be some poor ones, as well. As a better option, trying to keep the ball down on the ground. Playing low short game shots tends to be more predictable, especially under pressure. There is nothing wrong with using higher short game shots to your advantage when they are called for, so you should still practice these shots and use them when the time is right. Otherwise, do your best to keep the ball down and your overall play will be improved.
  • Not using enough club. This may be the biggest strategic error in the amateur game. When you determine how far you need to hit the ball in order to reach your target, you should not necessarily use the club that you need to hit perfectly in order to cover that distance. For example, if you have 150-yards to the hole, and your 7-iron is your 150-yard club, you shouldn't automatically grab the seven and swing away. Why not? Simple – you don't hit all of your shots perfectly. By counting on making a perfect swing, you are setting yourself up to leave the ball short on many occasions. The better option is to think about all of the circumstances at play on the shot and then respond accordingly. For instance, if you are playing an approach shot to a green guarded by water in front, using one extra club would be a smart move. You might go a little long if you do hit it perfect, but that's probably better than having a slight miss-hit wind up short in the water. Look at what will happen if you are long and compare that with what will happen if you leave the shot short. In the end, your club selection should not be based so much upon the idea of hitting the ball perfectly, but rather on the idea of optimizing your misses. Give yourself margin for error by using a club that is going to allow you to 'get away' with a less-than-perfect swing.
  • Playing to the high side. The last big mistake on our list has to do with aiming toward the wrong side of the hole. As a general rule of thumb, you should be favoring the low side of the hole, so you can play your next shot uphill. This is almost always a good idea, but it is particularly helpful when playing an approach shot to a sloped green. Let's say the green on a given par four is sloped dramatically down from right to left. You have to hit a long approach shot, so you don't except to be perfectly accurate with the shot. Therefore, you need to decide which half of the green to aim for from back in the fairway. By aiming for the left side, you will have a good opportunity to play your next shot up the slope, assuming you hit your approach shot at least roughly on target. If you hit the green, you will get to putt uphill, which means you can be more aggressive. Should you happen to miss the green, playing uphill will almost always make your chip shot easier to handle. Either way, you will be happy you've made the decision to favor the low side with your approach.

Each of the four mistakes above can be costly to your game. You might not pay the price each and every time you make one of these mistakes, but they are bound to catch up with you at some point. Think about how you play the game currently and decide if you need to make changes to avoid these errors. It's easy to get caught up in thinking about the technique of your swing but the decisions you make can have just as much of an effect on your results.

Bring the Right Attitude

Bring the Right Attitude

It is hard to write about attitude on the golf course without sounding like a self-help book. However, no matter how cheesy it may come off at times, having the right attitude on the course really can make a difference in your game. The issue at hand is this – golf is a tremendously difficult game. It's one of the most difficult games in the world to play well, and that is due to both the physical and mental challenge presented to players. Even if you have a great swing and solid short game, you can be undone by a weak mental game that lets you down in key moments.

So, what does a great attitude look like on the golf course? Let's take a closer look.

  • Positivity. First and foremost, you have to expect to play well when you step up to the first tee. Countless amateur golfers fall short on this point, and they are fighting an uphill battle right from the very first swing. What's the point of heading out to the course if you think you are destined to fail? Even if you aren't a great golfer, you can be optimistic about your chances to have a good day. And, of course, 'good day' is a relative term. For a professional, a good day is shooting a few under par. For a beginner, making a single par within an 18-hole round might be a success. It doesn't matter what your own personal definition of success may be – it only matters that you believe in yourself each time you tee it up. Not only are you more likely to have success when you carry a positive attitude, but you are probably going to have more fun, as well.
  • Determination. The nature of golf is such that something is going to go wrong along the way during a standard 18-hole round. Maybe you will get a couple of bad bounces that cost you strokes, or maybe you will hit one terrible shot that leads to a triple or quadruple bogey. Whatever the case may be, you need to have the determination to stick with your round through those moments of adversity. Some golfers just pack it in and give up on the round when those moments hit, and those players never do manage to live up to their potential. Don't be the player who throws in the towel after four or five holes just because it has been a bad start. Instead, be the player who works hard on every shot, playing the round out until the final hole is complete. Being determined doesn't mean you'll always play well – everyone has bad days – but it does mean you can be proud of your effort when you are finished.
  • Confidence. This is a point which is not talked about enough in the amateur game. Although similar to positivity, it is something a little different to say you have confidence in your game. When you are truly confident, you stand over the ball knowing that you have the skills necessary to execute the shot at hand. Again, those shots aren't always going to work out, just because of the difficulty of the game. Nevertheless, you still stand over the ball with a confident feeling in the back of your mind. You plan out your shots carefully and you expect to execute them properly a majority of the time. Of course, as any experienced golfer can tell you, true confidence only comes from one place – practice. When you practice consistently, you build up not only your ability to hit certain shots, but also belief in your ability. Many players try to fake confidence on the course, but this is something that has to be legitimate if it is going to have any value at all. Build your confidence on the driving range and take it with you to the first tee.

Having the right mindset on the golf course can make a world of difference. Suddenly, you will feel like anything is possible, and you will be having a great time pursuing your goals. The average golfer thinks far too negatively while on the course, and that negativity manifests itself in high scores and general frustration. Remember, golf is supposed to be fun. It's great to strive for low scores but trying so hard that you make yourself miserable is no way to play. Fine tune your mindset in future rounds and your scores should come down while your enjoyment of the game goes up.

Finally set some goals, we wanted to quickly touch on the importance of goal setting in golf. Believe it or not, setting some goals for yourself in this game might actually help you lower your scores – even if you don't make any changes to your swing. The biggest benefit you are likely to enjoy as a result of goal setting is the motivation that comes with striving for greater and greater accomplishments. Golf is a game that you can never master, as no one has ever played a perfect round. No matter how long you play this game, there will always be new goals to set and strive to reach.

There is an art to setting a good goal. A proper goal is one which is not easy to accomplish, but also is not so lofty that you get discouraged along the way. For instance, if your current low score is an 89, setting a goal of shooting a score in the 70s might be a bit ambitious for now. Instead, think about setting the mark at 85 and working toward that accomplishment. Then, once that is checked off, you can assess your game and set a new target.

If you think that making changes to your swing is necessary to lower your scores, you are sadly mistaken. It is a great thing to improve your swing, but don't limit yourself to improving through that method alone. We hope the content of this article has inspired you to chase down lower scores in a variety of ways. Here's to many low scores in the rounds ahead – good luck!