Whether you are a seasoned veteran golfer with a near scratch handicap or even a weekend warrior hack who struggles to break 100, we all have the same goal of improving our overall golf game. Golf is incredibly fun, even on days when you are not shooting a great score! However, we must admit that making a few more pars, birdies, and even the rare eagle on your scorecard leads to a more enjoyable experience on the golf course.
Here are 11 tips you can implement in your golf game today to help you shoot lower scores.
1. Develop a Repeatable Pre-Shot Routine
The next time a PGA Tour tournament is on TV, sit down and watch all of the pros before hitting their shots. Though they all have unique swings, what do all the touring pros have in common? They all have a flawless and repeatable pre-shot routine.
I studied a bit of sports psychology in my college days, and one of the key things I learned is that the mind and the body perform at a much higher level with a routine. Let’s face it: we are all creatures of habit. Use that fact to your advantage by developing your own personal pre-shot routine.
Consistency is what all golfers strive for. We don’t always have control over our swing, but if there’s one piece of our game that can be consistent, it’s a pre-shot routine.
Here is an example of a quick but effective pre-shot routine:
- First, walk a few yards behind your ball to study your next shot.
- Pick out your target.
- Visualize hitting the shot you want.
- Take a practice swing if you want.
- Address the ball and line up to your target.
- Take a deep breath, then hit the shot!
2. Take Golf Lessons from an Experienced Teaching Pro
Though a small number of golfers are strictly self-taught, the majority have benefited from expert coaching. Just about every golf course or country club keeps a teaching pro on staff, and there are plenty of other facilities that offer lessons. These coaches can help you learn the golf swing basics and teach you the fundamentals vitally important to playing good golf.
There is a reason why all PGA players still have swing coaches (Heck, Rory McIlroy has two!). You cannot see your own swing flaws, and a second set of eyes is beneficial in correcting those flaws.
Some folks do not want to invest the money necessary for lessons, and I get that. However, I can personally attest that buying a set of six lessons with my club pro was an even better investment than the new set of Ping G’s I bought a few years back. Those six lessons took about ten strokes off my game, and I only wish I would have taken them sooner!
3. Master the Mental Side of Golf
Okay, no one fully masters the mental side of golf. We all struggle at times to maintain the precision type of focus necessary to play great golf. Mastering the mental game comes down to ‘playing within yourself.’
‘Playing within yourself’ means taking an honest look at your golfing abilities and avoiding trying to hit a low percentage heroic shot every time. So much of playing great golf means managing your own personal expectations. Golf is quite possibly the most difficult game on the planet. Remember the line from the popular golfing movie ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’: “it’s a game that can’t be won, only played.”
Another key to mastering the mental aspect of golf is not to take the game so seriously. Keeping things in proper perspective will help you play better golf. The world will not come to an end if you shoot a bad round. Loosen up, chief! This game is supposed to be fun! Learn from the bad shots but quickly laugh them off.
4. Get the Right Golf Equipment
The advances in golf equipment in the last couple of decades have been truly remarkable. Golf club manufacturers are making clubs more forgiving than ever in hopes that more folks will take up this great game. If you want to shoot better scores, consider upgrading your equipment.
This does not mean that you automatically have to spend a boatload of money to play better golf. Many golf shops offer great deals on used clubs that are still in very good shape. If you are taller or shorter than the average person, make sure the clubs you purchase are the correct length for you.
Also, basic golf gear like golf shoes, gloves, and shirts will make you more comfortable on the course and lead to better scores.
If you’re looking for brand new gear, I highly recommend getting fitted for clubs. Getting properly fitted will immediately improve your game and make sure that your clubs work for you and not against you. A custom club fitting is typically free if you commit to purchasing the clubs, and should only take a couple of hours to complete. The improvement you will see in your overall game will be well worth the investment.
5. Practice your Short Game more than your Long Game
While we all love smoking a drive off the tee box right down the center of the fairway, honing your short game can result in the biggest improvement in your scores. Roughly 60% of golf shots are putts and chips around the green.
That means that half of your strokes have been taken with one club: your putter! So, doesn’t it make sense to at least spend half of your practice time on your putting? Also, do not forget about practicing your chipping and pitching, as these are both vital to shooting lower scores.
6. Play the Smart (Higher Percentage) Shot
Sure, all golfers know how breathtaking it feels to pull off some heroic Phil Mickelson type of shot that defies all odds. Although those types of shots are indeed fun, you have to remember that they only work out a small part of the time. In other words, you are choosing to play the low percentage shot, which is not a winning strategy to shoot lower scores.
A better strategy is to aim to play the ‘smart shot’ the majority of the time. For example, let’s say you slice your drive over into the woods. Upon approaching the ball for your second shot, you realize there is a tiny window for a full shot out of the trees.
Instead of putting yourself into the tough position of having to hit a perfect shot that splits between trees, why not consider punching out of the woods instead. No, it’s not as exciting as trying to pull off a miracle shot, but you eliminate the risk of smacking the trees again and losing yet another stroke. The smart shot is often the safest shot.
7. Leave Your Ego at Home
This tip goes along with hitting the smart shot, but we wanted to mention it as its own separate tip to improving your game. An old golf coach of mine always said, “ego is the enemy.” When choosing to hit the smart shot, you often have to ignore your ego that is telling you that you are playing like a sissy!
Leaving your ego at home means choosing to tee off with a 3-wood or a hybrid when the fairway is super tight. No, it’s not as sexy, but it leads to lower scores. Leaving your ego out of your golf game also means going for the center of the green instead of directly at the pin.
8. Know How Far You Hit Each Club
This key tip takes lots of practice at the driving range. It is of immense importance to know what distance you hit each club in your bag. It can be incredibly frustrating to really ‘pure’ an iron shot only to realize you hit the wrong club and flew ten yards past the green. Spend more time on the range dialing in your club distances. Your scorecard will thank you later!
9. Practice with the Right Training Aids
Many swing training aids on the market today can improve your club head speed, increase your hand strength, and help you fix various swing flaws. These products can help you shave a few strokes off your handicap, and most of them are not very expensive. For a list of some of the most effective training aids, check out a previous article I wrote here on the Best Golf Swing Trainers & Training Aids.
10. Buy a Golf GPS or Rangefinder
Gone are the days of yardage markers on sprinkler heads. We’re in the technology age, and we should all take advantage of GPS devices to know your yardage.
Avoid guessing at just how far away the pin is. Consider buying a GPS or Rangefinder that will help you pinpoint the exact distances. Here is a quick list of the best golf GPS products available today: 11 Best Golf GPS Watches & Handheld for 2022.
11. Practice with a Purpose
How many times have you found yourself mindlessly pounding balls down at the local driving range? Do you think that amount of practice time actually helped improve your game? To improve, you must have a game plan for your practice sessions.
Another coach of mine used to say that “practice doesn’t make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect.” While perfection in this crazy game of golf is not a realistic goal, taking the time to think about what you want to accomplish during your range time can make a huge difference to your overall game. Here are some more helpful tips on how to improve your practice sessions: 6 Tips for Improving Your Golf Practice Routine.