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Opinion & Analysis

5 Reasons You Won’t Improve This Golf Season



This is going to be the year you work hard and accomplish your golfing goals, you tell yourself. Some of you might be right, but my research shows that the vast majority of golfers won’t improve this season.

I don’t meant to be a downer! I want you to meet your goals, whether you’re setting out to break 100 for the first time or win your club championship. There are 5 reasons most golfers don’t reach their goals, however, and if you can overcome them and you’re on your way to a memorable golf season.

1) Bad Information

I recently had a pipe burst in my house. When it happened, I called a plumber. That’s just what you do when you’re not an expert, right? That’s why I’m always shocked by how often golfers rely on their friends — who usually aren’t much better than they are at golf — for feedback or swing advice.

These conversations are generally a curious mix of hilarious and pathetic. For example, I played golf with a couple of guys last week. The one guy hit it left. The other guy showed him a motion to fix the problem. Sure enough, the next one went right. The friend then suggested another fix. Sure enough, the next one went left. He was playing “army golf,” and it continued for the remainder of the round. It should go without saying he didn’t reach any of his landmark goals that day.

The fact is that golf requires one of the most difficult movement patterns in sports. It also requires a diverse group of skills including putting, chipping, pitching, an iron game, driving and course management. In my opinion, these are practically impossible to learn without a professional instructor.

“When players get good information, are inspired to apply it and engage in this process with a purpose, they are not only happier but also more motivated,” says Golf Digest Best Young Teacher Iain Highfield. “In my experience, happy, motivated people are fulfilled, and improved performance is just a by product of this process.”

If you want to get better this year, you must at least try working with someone who has a background in golf instruction.

2) Poor Work Ethic

Getting better requires a time investment; hours upon hours upon hours of following a practice plan that’s preferably created with a swing guru. Showing up for a lesson every two weeks is great, but only doing that won’t get the job done. There’s a huge time investment necessary to change a movement pattern, and it’s a much higher price than most are willing to pay.

Donny Lee, a Golf Digest Best Young Teacher at Southern Dunes near Orlando, Florida, says golfers must be fully engaged when trying to get better. He suggests that they practice like they’re broke, and play like they’re billionaires.

“If you make a commitment to changing the way you practice, you can get better,” Lee says. “You need to bring attention and focus to what you are doing; practice needs to be more difficult than playing. Seems counterintuitive, but without making it hard, you are not learning anything that’s going to help you shot low scores next time you play.”

Too often, golfers take practice for granted. Without diligent attention to what you are doing, it’s unlikely that any learning is happening, thus perpetuating the same tired issues.

3) Poor Time Management

To learn a new skill, you must first engage in something called “blocked practice.” This means isolating one specific motion or skill and working on only that with repeated repetitions over an extended duration. As we build competency in the skill, we must then learn to transfer the skill from the range to the golf course. There is no way around the process; there is no secret, no special club or magical training aid we can buy. If you want to get better, you’re going to need a good process coupled with hard work.

According to Golf Digest Best Young Teacher and Middle Atlantic Teacher of the Year, Trillium Rose, who also has a Masters degree in motor learning, that process includes making time to hone in on your skill.

“We all have busy schedules so finding time can be very difficult,” Rose says. “Take a club to the office and make 15 repetitions of a drill every hour. Focus on the movement that you’re trying to change and find a way to get feedback to tell you if you’re actually making that change.”

4) Unrealistic Goals

Most of us start with a goal that we can never realistically expect to achieve and quickly get discouraged. The fix? Start smaller. The fact is that we are our habits and they are difficult to change. Going from zero range balls a week to hundreds in a day is not likely to happen. Instead of engaging in false hope, golfers need to segment their practice into achievable tasks. For example, lowering your handicap by two strokes throughout the season is a reasonable goal, whereas going from shooting in the 90s to shooting in the 70s over a three-month period is not.

According to Dr. Rob Neal, many golfers struggle to understand the difference between their average play and their very best play. “Part of golf is having a realistic sense of the possibilities,” Neal says. “Too many amateur players make plans based on their very best shots.”

5) You’re Not Actually Playing Golf

I play a lot of golf with people who hit the ball far when they connect. For every bomb they hit, however, they hit a couple foul balls that end up off the planet and out of bounds. They also take a couple mulligans and don’t finish each hole. Along with a few beers, it’s a good day away from work, but it’s not golf. Golf is shooting the lowest score possible over 18 holes.

The reality is most of us don’t take lessons and don’t practice enough. And when we do get to the course, we’re not doing everything we can to play our best. This doesn’t mean we should stop playing the game; it just means that we should not expect to improve. Ever wonder why places like Top Golf are getting more and more popular?

Have a great summer, and I hope you shoot a personal best this year… counting all your strokes and following all the rules, of course. If you don’t, remember that there’s always next year, and there’s nothing wrong with playing golf just to have fun!

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Brendan is the owner of Golf Placement Services, a boutique business which aims to apply his background in golf and higher education to help educate players, their families and coaches about the process! Website - Insta - golf.placement.sevices Twitter @BMRGolf



  1. Ryan

    May 23, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Let me sum up this article:
    5 Reasons you won’t improve
    1) You haven’t paid me for lessons yet, or
    2) You have paid me for lessons, but YOU don’t work hard enough, or
    3) You have paid me for lessons, but YOU don’t use your time wisely, or
    4) You have paid me for lessons, but YOU shouldn’t expect that I will actually help you improve significantly, or
    5) You actually don’t want to improve, which makes my previous 4 points moot.

  2. artie j

    May 23, 2017 at 7:32 am

    There are bad teachers and good teachers just like bad students and good students. This is a good article for golfers who are looking to get better and stay better, but the ones who truly want to do this and put in the work are so few. Like 10% of golfers.

  3. Nick Chertock

    May 22, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    If your response was “people are playing golf to have fun” then you’re missing the point of the article, it’s not aimed at those people who are just out to enjoy the day with homies getting drunk and perhaps simultaneously dabbling in recreational drugs .

    The introduction clearly indicates the article is aimed at the person who starts the season expecting to make improvements, yet that rarely happens, for the reasons listed, and many others.

    There are plenty of positive articles but I found this negative article refreshingly honest. To the commenters who think golf instruction is a sham, I would respond that you just haven’t found the right instructor, or you found them and were too pig headed to realize they were giving you good instruction, and you expected to be ‘cured’ in a lesson.

    Actually getting better takes time and effort and coaching, there’s no way to bypass it through dicking around with friends on the range, buying better equipment, or reading tips. Because it’s hard, almost no recreational golfer ever makes significant improvements. They plateau and then start getting worse as they age.

    This was a rare attempt to shine a light on this issue of golfers lying to themselves.

  4. Nick Chertock

    May 22, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    What ad?

  5. Steve S

    May 22, 2017 at 10:11 am

    Never found a teacher that could tell me how to swing a golf club to avoid aggravating my lower back issues(arthritis). Between watching videos of older pros and a friend at the range I have a swing that doesn’t hurt and has me playing to an 11 handicap. Which is about the best I’ve ever been.

  6. Bruce

    May 22, 2017 at 9:42 am

    I never met a PGA teacher that works to fine tune my swing: the answer is always start over and swing their way.
    Watch the pros on tv – you see as many swings as players – precisely my point: you don’t have to start over to improve.
    I find useful help reading books.

    • Ed

      May 22, 2017 at 7:14 pm

      You shouldn’t have to start over! you are correct.

  7. Someone

    May 22, 2017 at 6:55 am

    You could’ve easily written this to the positive instead of the negative. “5 ways to make sure you improve this year.” Would’ve been a better sell.

  8. PineStreetGolf

    May 21, 2017 at 9:48 am

    This article is bizarre.

    1. Virtually golfers should define improve as “have more fun” not “shoot a lower score”. Talking to your friends about golf is fun. Buying new equipment is fun. Drinking beer is fun. Improving fun > shooting 78 instead of 82.

    2. You know what a plumber does? He charges money. If the pipe bursts again the next day he comes back and fixes it. He doesn’t charge you a second time. Golf pros don’t work that way. They charge for whatever and, if you still suck, you pay to go back. Its nothing like a plumber. Plumbers are honest. Golf pros are, by and large, nonsense. Plumbers have to stand behind their work and stay on it until the job is done. Golf pros don’t work that way. Comparing golf pros to plumbers is a massive insult to plumbers.

    3. The single thing 99% of golfers could work on to shoot lower scores is to work on playing golf and not playing golf swing. I’m a decent player. I hardly ever think about mechanics while on a golf course. I’m playing golf. My high cap friends almost never think of anything *but* mechanics. A great resolution going into the season is to think about mechanics only on the practice tee. The only thing that has been linked through academic study to golf success is that the better the player the less they think about mechanics during a round. This is indisputable (the study was at Penn State in 2005). This doesn’t mean ignore mechanics during practice, it means ignore them while playing.

    • Dan

      May 22, 2017 at 2:01 pm

      +1 on all the above, although a local pro does do a ‘fix your slice or your money back’ deal, but I’d say he’s more used car salesman than plumber.

      There’s a few generalisations here I disagree with, but I appreciate that’s probably more to do with simplifying your point that trying to be rude.

    • ders

      May 23, 2017 at 1:52 am

      “The single thing 99% of golfers could work on to shoot lower scores is to work on playing golf and not playing golf swing. I’m a decent player. I hardly ever think about mechanics while on a golf course. ”

      This is what people say who don’t have massive issues with their natural swing, started golf as kids or are natural athletes. I started golf in my late thirties after I got too beat up for the sports. If I don’t think about mechanics I push slice it off the planet losing at least a ball per hole and have no chance of ever breaking 100. Good on you that your instinctive move works for golf but it doesn’t for everyone.

    • Ollie 14

      May 29, 2017 at 8:35 am

      Spot on is this comment, I myself earlier this year went for a gapping session and as a 10 Handicap golfer have quite a decent swing. This particular day I did not have a good swing going but the Pro doing the session turned the gapping session into a lesson which I did not require nor ask for. Any professional at any job would not take money for services you did not ask for. I have found most Pro’s over the years as very unhelpful if the money is not in their pockets first.

  9. Kenn

    May 21, 2017 at 1:36 am

    Oooops — just hit a shanking sucker’s nerve, lolol

  10. Dave R

    May 20, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    All his comments should be shanked . That would be a +2.

  11. Bert

    May 20, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    Top Golf getting more popular? It’s the booze, not the golf.

    • Dave C

      May 22, 2017 at 6:17 am

      I think that was the author’s point. People ate not trying to get better at Top Golf, rather fun and drinks with friends.

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Opinion & Analysis

How valuable is hitting the fairway, really?



Hitting more than 50 percent of fairways has long been considered a good goal for amateur golfers. The winners on the PGA Tour tend to hit 70 percent. I have long maintained, however, that it is not the number of fairways HIT that matters. Instead, it is the relative severity of fairways MISSED.

Think about it. By the one-dimensional Fairways Hit stat, every miss is the same. A perfect lie in the first cut is exactly the same as a drive in a hazard… or even OB. There is nothing in the 650+ PGA Tour stats about this. In all, there are 60 stats in seven categories that relate to driving performance, but none about penalties! Like PGA Tour players don’t make any?

Let’s see exactly how important the old tried-and-true Driving Accuracy (Percentage of Fairways Hit) really is. To test it, I used two data clusters: the 2017 PGA Tour season (14,845 ShotLink rounds) and my database for the average male golfer (15 to 19 handicappers – 4,027 rounds).

For the graph below, I started with the No. 1-ranked player in the Driving Accuracy category: Ryan Armour. He certainly was accurate by this measure, but why did he only rank 100th in 2017 Strokes Gained Off the Tee with a barely positive 0.020?

Next I looked at the actual top-5 PGA Tour money winners (J. Thomas, J Spieth, D. Johnson, H. Matsuyama and J. Rohm), the 2017 PGA Tour average, and all PGA Tour players that missed the cut in 2017. We all know the significant scoring differences between these three categories of players, but it’s difficult to see a meaningful difference in the fairways hit. They’re not even separated by half a fairway. How important could this stat be?

For those that have not tried, our analysis includes Strokes Gained and Relative Handicap comparisons. That enables users to easily differentiate between FIVE MISS categories below based upon severity. The final three categories are what we consider to be Driving Errors:

  1. Good lie/Opportunity: One can easily accomplish their next goal of a GIR or advancement on a par-5.
  2. Poor Lie/Opportunity: One could accomplish the next goal, but it will require a very good shot.
  3. No Shot: Requires an advancement to return to normal play.
  4. Penalty-1: Penalty with a drop.
  5. OB/Lost: Stroke and distance penalty, or shot replayed with a stroke penalty.

As we are fortunate enough to work with several PGA Tour players at Shot by Shot, we have access to ShotLink data and can provide those clients with the same valuable insight.

Let’s see how the frequency and severity of driving errors relates to the above groups of players (removing Mr. Armour, as he simply helped us prove the irrelevance of Driving Accuracy). The graphs below display the number of Driving Errors per round and the Average Cost Per Error. Note the strong and consistent correlation between the number and the cost of errors at each of the four levels of performance.

Finally, the average cost of the errors is heavily driven by the three degrees of severity outlined above (No Shot, Penalty, OB/Lost). The graph below compares the relative number and cost of the three types of errors for the average golfer and PGA Tour players. The major difference is that PGA Tour players do not seem to have a proper share of OB/Lost penalties. I found only TWO in the 14,000+ ShotLink rounds. While I accept that the most severe faux pas are significantly less frequent on the PGA Tour, I also believe there must have been more than two.

Why so few? First and foremost, PGA Tour players REALLY ARE good. Next, the galleries stop a lot of the wayward shots. And finally, I believe that many of the ShotLink volunteer data collectors may not actually know or care about the difference between a Penalty and OB/Lost.

Author’s Note: If you want to know your Strokes Gained Off the Tee (Driving) and exactly how important your fairways and the misses are, log onto for a 1-Round FREE Trial.

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Opinion & Analysis

Yo GolfWRX: “Are you betting on Tiger Woods to win the Masters?” (Bonus: A March Madness-inspired shot attempt)



Equipment expert Brian Knudson and Editor Andrew Tursky discuss a variety of topics including Tiger Woods being the favorite at The Masters. Also, a Fujikura Pro 2.0 shaft unboxing, Knudson paints the new TG2 studio, and Tursky tries to go viral during March Madness season.

Enjoy the video below!

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Opinion & Analysis

Tiger shoots opening-round 68 at Bay Hill, is now the Masters betting favorite



It’s happening. Tiger Woods is playing good golf, and the Masters hype train is full-steam ahead. After opening at 100-1 odds to win the Masters, Tiger is now the favorite to win at Augusta in 2018, according to Jeff Sherman, an oddsmaker for (according to his Twitter bio).

After 9 holes (he started on the back nine) at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill — where Tiger has won eight times — he was sitting at 3-under par. What also happened at that time was Sherman updated Tiger as the favorite to win the Masters. Clearly, bettors and Tiger fans had seen all they needed to see in order to put their money down on him winning another Green Jacket in 2018.

Related: See the clubs in Tiger’s bag

On the course’s third hole, however, with water looming left, Tiger hit a foul ball with a 3-wood off the tee and later realized the shot had gone out-of-bounds. Tiger was hot under the collar after hearing the news, and he threw his 3-wood headcover backwards in disgust as he started walking back to the tee to reload. He salvaged double-bogey, and he then made three more birdies coming home to complete his 4-under par round of 68; one of the birdies was a 71-footer after which all Tiger could do was smile.

Woods currently sits in a tie for fifth place, just two shots behind the leader Henrik Stenson.

Can Tiger win at Bay Hill for the ninth time? Will you bet on Tiger as the favorite to win at the Masters? Will Tiger win the Masters?

The questions above would have seemed ridiculous to ask just a month ago, but they’re now legitimate. Welcome back to the spotlight, Tiger.

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19th Hole