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7 Painfully Obvious Ways To Improve That Golfers Overlook



Golf can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be. All too often, I see golfers who get too wrapped up in their swing plane, their equipment, their frustrations, and their fears. Do yourself a favor. The next time you watch the top players of today on TV (or hopefully in person), watch how they attack a golf course. They rip it off the tee, control their irons, and avoid three putting. Sometimes, golf is just that simple.

In this story, I want to highlight some obvious ways to improve your game that most golfers overlook. They will help you focus on what’s important for shooting lower scores.

1. Strengthening the Mind

The best thing you can do for your game is to make your mind and emotional state an asset, NOT a weakness. Many talented golfers have weak mental games, and it detracts from their performance. Lesser-talented golfers with more of a grinder’s mentality will take their lumps, but they’ll use it as motivation to keep fighting. Your mind can get you around a golf course just as well as a pretty swing or good putting stroke can.

The young guns on the PGA Tour today have all had years of mental coaching, and they understand how to use their minds to their advantage better than any other generation of golfers. They harness pressure situations to elevate their games in the biggest moments.

Look at a guy like Jordan Spieth, who employs a swing with a chicken wing that you’d never teach to a beginning golfer. He fights his way around the course and uses his mind to motivate him… and he has a decent putting stroke to boot. The point is, the strength of your mind and your ability to control your emotions is almost always the most important part of your game.

2. Hit the Ball a Mile

The great thing about technology nowadays is that swinging hard and hitting the ball on different parts of the club face isn’t quite as deadly as it was when we played with wooden drivers. So with the advantages of high-MOI designs, you should have little fear about learning how to hit the ball a mile off the tee.

Look at how Rory and DJ attack the course when they drive the ball well; wouldn’t you like to do the same? Hitting fairways is overrated in today’s game, so learn how to pound it and go find it. Free yourself up off the tee, and you might just find yourself making more birdies.

3. Better Trajectory Control

How many of you only hit the ball at “X” height for 99.99 percent of your shots? Of course golfers try to hit the ball lower when it’s windy, but other than that, I don’t see much vertical movement in the games of most golfers. And on the range especially, all golfers should be learning how to hit shots at all different heights.

When I was growing up, I would have loved to have been told how important it would later be for me as an aspiring Tour player to be able to hit the ball as high as possible. And today, the greens today are firmer and faster than ever, making trajectory control even more of a weapon than ever. Even still, this is such a lost fundamental that few players even bother working on it.

4. Hit Long Irons More Often in Practice

Back in the day, hitting 1, 2, and 3 irons was such a chore. It wasn’t much fun to bang them out on the practice range. The invention of hybrids and technology-packed driving irons, however, has made these shots much easier. And thanks to Mark Broadie’s book, Every Shot Counts, we now know that you will score much better when you hit your long-iron shots closer, or at least somewhere on the planet.

Most golfers would benefit from taking their high-lofted fairway woods, hybrids, and long irons to the practice range and learning to hit them straighter, higher, and farther. Your scores will thank you.

5. Have a Go-To Pressure Shot

Do you have a go-to shot under pressure… one that helps you find the fairway or the green when all else is failing? It could be a punch, a knockdown, a big slice, a squeeze fade, a Tiger Stinger… whatever. The crucial thing is that you, the player, know how the ball will be flying when you look up. Not only will this reduce pressure under the gun when you really need to hit a fairway or green, but it will help you avoid big trouble.

The only way to develop this shot is to hit it over and over again on the practice range. That way, you will be ultra confident down the stretch of your next match.

6. Be a Wedge Master

Years ago, golf clubs were only building driving ranges on the leftover plots of land they couldn’t sell as housing lots. Short game areas weren’t even a consideration. If a new club doesn’t have a wedge area these days, however, it’s behind the curve.

If you live around one of these public gems, you have no excuses not to be a wedge master. There’s simply no reason not to be able to hit the ball inside 20 feet from around the green… every time. Next time you head to the club, don’t even bother taking your full bag; just take your favorite wedge and a shag bag full of golf balls. Spend your entire practice session learning different shots and developing your feels.

Remember, having a reliable short game will not only help you save par or bogey when you otherwise would have made a big number; it will also help you take advantage of par-5s and short par-4s at a higher clip.

7. Never Three Putt 

Need I say more? Here’s how to rid your game of three putts more consistently — take more time to work on your lag putting. I never even considered working on long, big-breakers when I was younger. I stuck to practicing 5 footers or flat 20-footers to make sure my stroke was solid. Looking back, I wish I would have had a little more fun on the greens. It would have helped me develop my feel.

Take the time to look at the three-putt avoidance stats on Tour. Those numbers should be your goal on your home greens. You know those greens because you play them every day. Now make your practice count!

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction at Combine Performance in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 60 people in the world.



  1. Adrian

    Sep 16, 2017 at 5:26 am

    I would say that the other obvious variable is to play a lot of golf. Once a week or once a month stunts improvement. You have to play a lot of golf to use the assets that you gaining from your practice. If the shot you practice are showing up on the course then scores will improve quickly. The worst are the times that shots work on the range and then fail miserably on the course but you have to stick with it and accept the process !! My two cents.

    • dapadre

      Sep 18, 2017 at 9:53 am

      So true. Practice is good, but being in an actual game situation is where its at. Why? You never get a perfect lie, you are placed on different spots on the course that will test you. My pro once told me, if you have to choose between practice and playing say 9 holes, play the latter.

  2. D mack

    Sep 15, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    duh, that was so insightful, duh

  3. Joey5Picks

    Sep 15, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    You forgot a couple other obvious ones:
    8. Never hit it OB
    9. Hole out wedges from the fairway
    10. Make every 10-footer

    Sheesh! It’s so simple!

  4. AllanA

    Sep 15, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    And if you can’t hit a 1-iron you can’t swing a driver…. painful, plain and simple.

  5. Rogerinnz

    Sep 15, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    Thanks again Tom, a great read.

    Great to hear about higher Iron shots, no doubt 7,8,9 irons.
    Just rebuilt a set of Hogan Apex Plus so will be practicing with the 3 and 4 irons now!! Already spend 60% practice time with wedges and Chip N Run anyway. That leads to mentally ruining playing partners during the game via chipping accuracy try it
    Thanks Tom

  6. Andrew

    Sep 15, 2017 at 9:04 am

    Spieth is the best iron player on tour, he ranks 50th in putting this year. To say he “fights it around the course” Is based purely on a perceived mechanical flaw. He has a knack for holing long putts, but he also has a knack for missing short ones…such a weird narrative that all he can do is putt.

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