There are many things amateur and novice golfers need to improve on of course, but it isn’t always swing related or something technical from a lesson. A lot of the decisions you make on the course contribute to a high score just as much as a bad fundamental. Here are the top 5 things you can improve on to shave some strokes from that handicap. 

Thinking negative thoughts Have you ever stood over the ball and told yourself “Don’t hook it in the water” only to proceed to do just that? Instead, stand behind the ball during your pre-shot routine and look at all that beautiful fairway right of the lake. Visualize the flight of the ball and it landing exactly where you want it to. Then tell yourself “Hit it right down the middle” and execute. Put yourself in a positive frame of mind that allows you to better control the outcome. Avoid using words like “don’t” and instead tell yourself to “do.” This will set you up for success rather than put you into conflict with your brain. 

Using too much loft around the green When I see a mid to high handicapper with a 60°, or worse yet a 64° wedge, I want to take it and throw it in the woods. The combination of that high of loft and very little technique brings too much error into play. My highest wedge is a 58°. Depending on my day of ball striking I may only hit it a few times around. I’ll play it out of a greenside bunker or on a rarely needed flop shot when I short-side myself. I will also hit a pitch shot with it from the fairway about 50 or 60 yards out on an approach. But I can do the same thing with a 54°. And I’ll certainly never chip with it. Unless you absolutely must get the ball high quickly then land very soft with little roll out, you should always look to play the bump-and-run with an 8 iron or even your gap wedge if you insist. You can even use your putter from the fringe or fairway when all you have between your ball and the pin is a whole lot of ground. Remember, a bad putt gets closer to the hole than a bad chip. 

Telling yourself or anyone to keep their head down This is the worst advice in golf yet it’s a tip I hear players say the most. You’ll never hear a good instructor tell any of their players to keep their head down. This thought restricts your mobility, rotation, and you’ll look dumb doing it. The mistaken thought here is that the player is looking up and at their target before impact thus topping the ball or hitting it fat. What is really happening is the player is either coming up and out of their spine angle or leaving weight on their back foot. Maintain your spine angle or a “tilt” through impact and you could hit the ball with your eyes closed. Nobody ever told Annika Sorenstam or David Duval to keep their head down. They are two players who notoriously had their head turning towards the target at impact. 

Focusing on line and forgetting about speed Golf is not a game of perfection, but putting requires you to be damn close. You need the perfect marriage of speed and line to roll a good putt and have a chance at making it. I see players of all levels reading their putt from different angles and squatting down both behind their ball and the hole. Then they setup and hit it so hard the ball rolls right through the break without so much of an inkling of turning to the hole, or the complete opposite in the ball isn’t struck hard enough and it falls offline immediately. Lee Trevino said he couldn’t bend down and read greens due to a bad back during the last 3rd of his career, yet he finished in the top-10 in putting every season. He could feel the break with his feet and get a good idea by observing the contours of the green and his surroundings. Plus, you can see the direction of the grain without getting down on your hands and knees. I’m a good putter and I read the putt from behind the ball only. I don’t circle the putt like a buzzard in the desert. Be a student, an observer. Watch how your playing partner’s ball rolled and reacted. With good speed you will always be around the hole for a tap-in on your misses. 

Not hitting enough club On a good shot, not blading it, how many times have you overshot the green with an iron in the last year. I bet you can count the times on one hand. Now, how many times have you come up short? I bet the number is exceptionally larger. Because you hit your 7 iron 172 yards one time at the member-guest back in 2014 does not mean that is your stock yardage with that club. A range finder has helped me, and should help a lot of us, in this regard. I was right next to the 150 yard marker the other day. If I wouldn’t have shot my laser or didn’t really think about it, I would have grabbed my 8 iron and swung away. And I would have come up significantly short and swore at myself all the way to the green. I pulled out my laser and shot the pin at 168. Even though I was 6 feet from the 150 yard marker I actually had 18 more yards. That marker, which has probably been there for years, is measured to the center…and the pin was in the back of a relatively large green. I then took into consideration that the shot played uphill. I quickly settled on the shot playing about 175 yards and I hit a 6 iron pin-high. An  8 iron wouldn’t have sniffed the flag. Take this tip one step further When you are between clubs, hit the longer one, especially if there is trouble short of the green. 

Ancer had the answer Abraham Ancer was a ball-striking machine at Hilton Head last week finishing just one stroke behind the winner, another guy who was on fire, Webb Simpson. Ancer hit all 18 greens in regulation on Sunday and only missed 7 greens of the entire tournament. If it wasn’t for Simpson’s hot putter down the stretch, Abe would have been sporting the tartan jacket. Such is life on the PGA Tour. It is so hard to win. On to the next one… 

WITB: Webb Simpson

Driver: Titleist TS3 (10.5°, Mitsubishi Tensei Blue AV 65 TX shaft) – Shop Now>

Fairway woods: Titleist TS2 (15°, Mitsubishi Tensei Blue CK 70TX), Titleist 913 (18°, UST Mamiya Proforce VTS 8TX shaft) – Shop Now>

Hybrids: Titleist 913 (20°, Graphite Design Tour AD-DI 105X shaft), Titleist 915 (23.5°, True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 shaft)

Irons: Titleist 620 MB (5-PW, True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 shafts)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 (54°), Titleist Vokey SM5, (60°, True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts) – Shop Now ~> $30 OFF

Putter: Odyssey Tank Cruiser V-Line

Ball: Titleist Pro V1 – Shop Now>

Shoes: FootJoy – Shop Now>

Apparel: FootJoy – Shop Now>

Fantasy Picks Travelers’ Championship

Bryson DeChambeau nabbed another top-10 last week at Hilton Head but Im and Luke List missed the cut. We now head to a tour-favorite stop, the Travelers’ Championship in Connecticut. Winner Brooks Koepka He’s trending in the right direction and his younger brother Chase Monday-qualified for the event. That’s good mojo. Will contend Bubba Watson He’s been playing well and has won here 3 times. Sleeper Max Homa He’s been a leaderboard darling as of late, and finished 6th last week in ball-striking, but his short game let him down. 

Enjoy the game and each other,

Written by Seth Zipay – Head Golf Professional
Design and Published by Craig Walton