When I picked up golf, I had no idea what I was doing and most of the initial few years were trial and error. Through this process I made many mistakes which looking back at now, I wish I had known earlier!
Improvement is Not Linear
Because of the nature of the game and its countless variables, improvement in Golf cannot be linear. Look at it more as peaks and troughs. You are always going to have bad days where it feels like you are taking a step backward however the goal should be to measure this bad day against your last bad day and not your peak performance. If our good days are improving as well as our bad days, everything in between is just part of the journey.
Practice With Purpose
Turn up to the range with a goal and stick to it. This sounds simple however we have all seen the player who turns up to the range with the best intentions, pounds drivers for 90 minutes and then leaves. In their mind, they have done 90 minutes of golf practice and should therefore have a good game on the weekend however, this is usually far from true. After each shot, watch the ball flight, think about the feels it took to create that ball flight and then make a plan for your next shot. 30 minutes of this practice is much more beneficial than 90 minutes of beating balls.
Use The Same Ball For Short Game Practice
Whatever ball you choose to play should be the ball you practice your short game with. Each make and model of ball will react differently to the shots you play in terms of how high it launches, how much it spins and how it feels. Practising with a dozen different balls will give you a dozen different results and make it challenging to learn from each shot.
Get a Coach
Golf coaches can quieten the noise and give you a road map for the most important things to work on. They can help you create a plan of attack and work towards goals. The tips they give will be specific to you and your swing which is where watching coaching videos online falls short.
For players who have just picked up the game, there may be an initial spike in improvement which feels fantastic! However (without sounding doom and gloom and to put it quite simply) Golf is Hard and your expectations should mould to wherever you are in your journey. As you play more, improvements will become smaller and harder to see from the inside, so you need to be ready to adjust your expectations to follow this.
Attach Your Ego to How Well You Think and Your Short Game
This is something I learned from the book: Golf is Not a Game of Perfect by Dr. Bob Rotella.
“All I can say is that if you want to score well, attach your ego to how well you think, how well you manage your game, how well you hit your wedges, how well you putt”
This may not apply to everyone however, we all have a friend who is obsessed with how far they hit the ball but can't get it in the hole.
Set Realistic, Process Orientated Goals
Setting goals is one of the most important things you can do for your golf game but it needs to be more than just “I want to be a 15 handicap by Christmas”. This is an outcome goal which is fine however, it doesn't cover the processes you will need to improve to get there! This is a section where a Golf Coach is super helpful as they will be able to give you the best process-orientated goals specifically for your game.
Get Properly Fitted for your Equipment
This doesn’t mean you have to spend the earth to get started (if you want to, then great, go nuts). This means making sure you are using clubs that are in the ballpark of what you need. This can be a massive inhibitor to improvement. Often stuff that you have found in the garage from the 1940s, whilst vintage and cool, can be extremely detrimental to your ability to learn and improve. Also, getting fitted by your buddy’s is often dodgy too. Go seek some professional advice about what is best for you and your swing.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable
Nerves and being nervous in certain situations are part of the game. Whilst you will get less nervous in time there will always be situations that trigger that feeling. Rather than running from it, embrace it. One of the best ways to achieve this is to find ways that make you uncomfortable during practice so that when you face the situation on course you are more ready to handle it. The only way to do this is to find things that you truly don’t want to do, a consequence. This could be anything really, but it needs to make you uncomfortable enough that you really strive to do your best, fight away the nerves and achieve whatever lies in front of you.