What simple things can ordinary players actually do to make the most dramatic difference to our golf game?
Golf is essentially a simple game. No, bear with me – it really is, despite how complex we seem to make it in our heads as we struggle our way through a round. Think of those days when it seems to come easily – when our swing is just right, when our bodies and minds work naturally together to send the ball exactly to where we need it to be.
OK, I’ll admit, it doesn’t happen very often (for me at least!) but hopefully you take my point – golf, at its best, is pretty straightforward. I’m a firm believer that actually much of the complexity is in our own heads – we start worrying about the wind speed, our club choice, doubt starts creeping in about our swing, we adjust, and adjust and adjust – and of course, we’re setting ourselves up to fail. When we’re feeling confident and happy, our play feels natural, and we see the game of golf for the simple activity it is. So how do we get there? Are there any simple tricks for making a big difference to our game? Here are a few of my favourites.
- Slow it down.
This is a piece of advice that runs through everything in golf – from your swing to your mental approach to the game. Your body shape is essential in making sure your swing works effectively – but the key to maintaining this form is to go slower – it gives your hands and your body the time they need to get the club face square to the line you’re after. You’re also not rushing through the various body movements that a good swing requires – your balance will be just right and you’ll hit the ball with all the power you need.
But this idea of slowing down goes beyond just the mechanics of your swing. It’s also an important tip for your approach to any shot. Don’t rush into it – take a breath and think about what you’re trying to do. Of course, don’t over-think things either, as this can be just as damaging as not thinking at all, but do give yourself that space to forget about your last shot and concentrate fully, in the moment, on this one.
- Cut back on the Hollywood shots
It happens in any sport – you see the pros doing it (think Beckham in his heyday pinging a 60-yard cross-field pass to the opposite wing, or Rory McIlroy chipping onto the green with perfect backspin), and you try and do it yourself. The sad truth of the matter – and it’s something we all have to face sometime as amateur players – is that most of us are simply not good enough to pull off these kinds of controlled aerial shots on a regular basis. Sure, we might do it once (hopefully with plenty of people watching) but the chances of making these sorts of shots a standard part of our game are extremely low.
And in actual fact, the pros don’t do this either – they do the basic stuff exceptionally well – but they can also pull something special out of the bag when they really need to. So, try a crazy shot once in a while (it is supposed to be fun, after all), but concentrate on the other 99 per cent of your game that will get you round with a good score. Focus on keeping the ball on the ground whenever you can.
- Practice, practice, practice
There’s no getting away from it – the single most important thing you can do as an amateur to improve your golf game is to practice. It might sound boring – and it can be – but it is essential, especially in a game where repetition and muscle memory are so crucial. The aforementioned Mr Beckham spent many an hour on the training ground practicing his free kicks after everyone else had gone home, and it paid off. The same goes for golf – the simplest trick for improving your game is to practice it, again and again. One thing I would say however is always have a clear objective in your practice – focus on a particular area for a while and work on it until you see an improvement. It’s the best way to keep motivated – and it will all pay off in the end.