As 2017 comes to a close, it’s a great time to sit down and evaluate your golf game and see how you can improve in 2018. Did you reach your goals? Everyone has a different measuring stick for their golf, and for some of my students, it isn’t even about score. Some don’t care about score, they judge it by how much fun they had this year! Regardless of your way to measure it, taking a good look at your year will help you decide what you liked and didn’t like about your golf, and figure out what was holding you back in 2017. So with that in mind, let me give you a few coaching ideas that may make a difference in your game in 2018, whether it’s for better scoring or just more fun.
First off, make a commitment to hitting your driver better than ever. Now hold on, I didn’t say anything about hitting it longer off of the tee, just better. As many of my students know, one of the hardest things to change in golf is a player’s swing speed; some of it is ingrained in their sporting background, some of it is in their movement, and some of it is in their health. So instead of trying to come “out of your shoes” on every swing, develop your club delivery in 2018. What I mean is that you need to find the best YOU out there and make sure the strike on the golf ball is as good as it can be before you go trying to enter the long drive contest. Focus on simple things like center contact, which is a massively underrated skill, or work on delivering the club in a more upward fashion through the ball, which will help with distance but may also help with better strikes. Typically my students who struggle with the driver hit down too much, strike the face with the ball too much on the heel or toe, and don’t have a consistent shot shape. I challenge you to work on your club delivery first, then learn to find a shape, whether a draw or fade, that you KNOW the ball will have on it every time you tee off. Learn to win ugly and get the ball in play! The best players in the world all have a shot that they use in times of pressure, so why don’t you?
In addition, commit some time to learning a basic wedge shot from 50 yards and in and watch your game take off in 2018. As a part of my evaluation process with new students, I will watch them hit some shots from all kinds of distances within 50 yards of the green, and I see a lot of helpless golfers in this area. Stop wasting easy strokes! Getting better at these shots takes a couple of things. First, it takes some understanding of how to set up in a basic manner for shots ranging from a chip shot to 50 yards, and learning that these distances aren’t that much different in technique for a stock shot. Also, the tools you are using are a huge part of it! Getting my students to understand wedges and how important fitting for loft, bounce, and grind is to their success is something I spend a lot of time on early in the process with them. Just because you struggle to break 100 right now doesn’t mean properly fit equipment isn’t important for you; it’s probably even more important than for a better player. I see so many golfers who can hit the ball close to the green in 2 shots, only to take 4 more to get in the hole and make double bogies when an easy bogey and a legitimate chance at par are within their grasp. Get committed to your short game and I promise good things will happen.
Finally, learn to be skillful in 2018. What does this mean? If you take a trip down memory lane to your childhood, you will often come across memories of playing sports with friends, and experimenting with different ways to do things. Shooting baskets underhand, hitting left handed when you normally bat right handed, trying to make a ball curve in fun and different ways, or just trying crazy things with your buddies – these are examples of learning new skills. You didn’t think of it that way as a kid because it was just fun and joyful for you, but these tasks helped your traditional games get better. Yet on a daily basis, I watch golfers try and be robots on the range and on the course, trying to “program” in a swing and make golf less creative. The problem with this is not only is it not much fun, but it doesn’t make you better! In 2018 I want you to throw caution to the wind and play more games to develop skills. For example, and this is something my students all have done from time to time, take white foot powder and spray the face of your driver. In 3 swings, can you hit the toe, the heel, and then the middle? Learning to hit the face in different places is a great skill to have because it heightens your sensitivity to where the middle is on your normal swings. Try to curve the ball left to right and then right to left as much as possible, then hit a normal shot on the next swing and see how simple that movement seems after trying an extreme opposite. Another one is to take 3 balls around the green and hit them all to the same flag with 3 totally different clubs – can you get it close, and what did you do to make it happen? Tap into your inner, joyful child and work on your skills this year to make the game fun and improve your results.
These are just a few things you can do to reach your goals, but remember one thing: the path to better golf isn’t a straight line. You will stumble, you will fall. But failure is the best thing for improvement in the long run, so don’t be afraid to jump in, take a few risks, and dig in on your weaknesses. 2018 is waiting for you…