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Golfers: Go easy on yourselves!

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Heres a fact for you: nearly half of all golfers will never break 100, according to the National Golf Foundation. Less than that will ever break 90, and only five percent will ever break 80. Golf is not an easy game, so you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. Period.

I’m not here to go all Zen golf on you; I can only speak from personal experience, but the moment you accept that, regardless of your ability to score, you can have a lot of fun, the more you will truly enjoy the game of golf.

When I first learned to play, like many, I was not very good. Everyone I played with was way better than me, and although I don’t remember a lot of those early rounds, I can remember moments of feeling embarrassed for my play. It wasn’t because of the people I was playing with, they were all very helpful and patient, but for some reason, I knew that I was not helping the group. It is those memories that allow me to make sure no matter who I play with now, I make them feel welcome on the course and help them any chance I can.

We all started somewhere, and regardless of how many rounds we have played or how low our handicaps have gotten, we need to be accepting that anyone that takes the time to try and play golf should be afforded the opportunity to learn and enjoy the game.

Even with my current level of play, the insecurities of being a newbie creep in from time to time, I never want to feel like I am the reason my group is being slow—although I must admit that with my normal pace of play that’s not usually an issue. I played a round very earlier in the year during a trip to Florida where I was paired with what I would call very regular golfers, players who generally break 100, but struggle with aspects of their game. Even then, just like when I was 10 years old, I was having a hard time out of a bunker one the second hole and after blading one into the pond on my second attempt (give me a break, it was my first round in four months), I just walked to the green, tended the flag, and told them I’d take my ESC (equitable stroke control) number for the hole. Thas describes my golf game, and I’m OK with that.

Too many golfers get caught up in how the pros play—from the tips, bombing drivers, expecting to make six birdies a round. Players on the PGA Tour are like the aliens from Space Jam (I just seriously dated myself) the Monstars. They have every skill imaginable, and get to do this for a living—you better believe they are going to be good at it. There is NO reason as a 10-15 handicap you should be slamming clubs and stomping your feet for missing a green from 150 yards. It’s just part of the game. Heck, even Rory McIlroy misses greens from time to time. Do you ever hit it like Rory?

Expectations are part of the human ego, and if we don’t manage them properly, we will always feel like we are inadequate. In reality, we should approach every challenge (even something as simple as golf) with the idea that today I have the opportunity to be great, but there is also the equal chance I will fail. We learn from failure, we improve after failure, and it’s not something we should be scared of.

No matter your score, make it fun, enjoy the day, embrace the challenge. Your expectations can make or break what to take from every round of golf you play, and if you think for a second this is the worst golf ever played—trust me it’s not. It’s just one round of many bad rounds played every day, and the next round is your next challenge. Honestly, you’re not as bad as you think you are.

Go easy on yourself. Golf is a lot more enjoyable that way.

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. ChipNRun

    Sep 3, 2019 at 11:23 pm

    Reasons why people quit:
    * Unrealistic expectations.
    * Disappearance of “adult time” in USA society. With the prevalence of designer children, everyone wants to supervise their kids 365 a year so that the kids “reach their potential”. Sports travel teams, soccer season blending into little league baseball. Once these ambitious couples have their second child, it’s 20 years before they can play Sunday golf together again.

  2. Ashton

    Aug 21, 2019 at 9:55 am

    “Do you ever hit it like rory?”

    Yea…sometimes he putts like me

  3. John Burns

    Aug 18, 2019 at 11:15 pm

    I have found that by playing to a “personal par” the game is less stressful and more enjoyable. Keep track of your average score for a few rounds and then try and beat your average by 1-2 shots (you have played well and were under “your par”}. Mark up the scorecard to change the par on holes so it works out to your personal par score. Maybe your par is 88, so you try and make a bogey or better on 16 holes and a par on two easy holes you pick.

    It s a great way to measure improvement too. I see too many people shoot the round of their lives like a 77, or 87 or whatever and get mad when they can’t duplicate the best round of the season over and over again.

  4. joro

    Aug 18, 2019 at 9:31 am

    Very true. The fact that we who once played great have a different game at 80. But as I always say, the memories are still there and we have to realize they are only memories. We are lucky to be able to play.

  5. TTidey

    Aug 17, 2019 at 7:36 pm

    Well said Ryan!! I was just pouting over a bad round, one week before my club championship. Isin’t there an automatic invite to Augusta if you win your CC? 🙂

  6. David Harris

    Aug 17, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    Why don’t we make the hole bigger-from 4 inches to 8 inches-for amateurs

  7. Ed in NM

    Aug 17, 2019 at 5:14 pm

    Your stats put things in perspective including that only 5% of golfers will ever break 80. I wonder if the false expectations of many amateur golfers who think they should be playing like the pros is a big reason why some people quit the game in frustration.

  8. Dennis Rubery

    Aug 17, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    Over the years i have lost alot of good guys who have passed away and golf was there life.
    Now i apreciate im here to play the game im grateful …

  9. Bogeyman

    Aug 17, 2019 at 12:49 pm

    Totally agree. I tell new golfers that no one cares how well you play – only how quickly you play. Be ready to play your shot and be still and quiet when others are shooting and you will never lack for playing partners.

    • Dennis Rubery

      Aug 17, 2019 at 3:04 pm

      Over the years i have lost alot of good guys who have passed away and golf was there life.
      Now i apreciate im here to play the game im grateful …

    • Bill

      Sep 3, 2019 at 1:49 pm

      great point, Bogieman.
      I’ve played with people that throw clubs, cuss and scream at their shots and basically make it uncomfortable for everyone they play with (usually only play with them once, if possible). Being able to laugh at your mistakes and keep them in perspective is the only way you can enjoy this game long term.
      It’s a hard game. The hardest, actually. You never master it, you only have varying degrees of success. Because of this, it’s also the best character builder of all the sports.
      The ego is a funny thing, but this is true for all. We ALL have a talent ceiling. Accepting that helps you keep the bad rounds and shots in perspective as well as the great shots and rounds. That’s when you fall in love with the game. We can raise that ceiling a bit with lessons and practice, but everyone has a ceiling. Be grateful for the days you get a glimpse above your normal ceiling and have a beer or family to enjoy when you shoot average or less.

  10. Kelly fitzgerald

    Aug 17, 2019 at 11:51 am

    Totally agree. I am trying not to be too hard on myself. Used to average a 79 or 80 now at 59 I average around 85. Just need to realize I can’t play like I used to. Golf should be fun not stressful. I’m trying real hard!

  11. Acemandrake

    Aug 17, 2019 at 10:56 am

    Play once in a while without keeping score. It will reduce the anxiety of playing with expectations.

    You’ll want to do it more often.

  12. Tom Duckworth

    Aug 17, 2019 at 10:29 am

    When I watch golf on TV its interesting to me to see how the top twenty change from week to week. It just highlights to me how up and down their game can be.

  13. bosshog919

    Aug 16, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    Usually playing with better players often motivates some to put in the work and get better as well. At least that’s how it worked out for me. Most ONLY see the results of a lot of practice and time on the course and think it will just come….well that’s DEFINITELY not the case for most. Although, if/when I am on the course my expectations are always to play well, but I have to keep in mind that if I’m only playing twice a month, those expectations have to be adjusted and just enjoy the time out on the course.

  14. Distance Compression Dude

    Aug 16, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    If more golfers invested on some lessons and applied what they learned, they might just break 100 (maybe even 90 and 80).

    The problem is that a lot of “golfers” think that they can just pick up a set of clubs and expect to play well. That’s not how it works.

    If you’re a hack, then keep hacking away. However, if you wish to play better, see your local PGA Pro and practice.

  15. trwaggo

    Aug 16, 2019 at 11:52 am

    Watching PGA Tour Live has made me a much more patient and happy golfer. When you just watch on the weekends you’re seeing the best players in the world with the their A games – because they’re leading.

    Watching a guy on Thursday shoot 75 is pretty informative. The number of times I’ve watched pros miss the green from inside 125 yards is too high for me to count, the number of 3 putts and duffed chips and balls left in the bunker…pros are aliens but even they have bad days and/or bad stretches and they certainly hit bad shots.

    Im still hard on myself – but it’s in a much more positive way than it used to be.

    • Bill

      Aug 17, 2019 at 9:44 am

      This guy gets it. I don’t have PGA live now, but at one point I did. Only watching the leaders on the weekend creates a false reality. Those golfers leading are playing at their very best on the weekend, which is hardly their reality 100% of the time. It’s important to be able to see those 75 score rounds and all of the frankly bad shots out on tour. Most recently I recall Henrik Stenson’s glorious shank. That was good to see and certainly softened up my expectations.

      • GotThaRight

        Aug 17, 2019 at 3:24 pm

        I noticed that too when watching The Masters on their website. They had it where you could see almost every shot. And yes those guys are really good though even they arent the robots that are shown come sat and sun afternoon. What CBS and NBC show us during that coverage is the best of the best at their very best.

        • 3rd times a charm

          Aug 17, 2019 at 3:28 pm

          I think what seperates the pros from very good/elite amateurs is that pros quickly get over a bad shot and only focus on what they can do next. Not what has already happened.

  16. chris pottle

    Aug 16, 2019 at 11:31 am

    Everyone was much better than I or I was – not me

    • Tom

      Aug 19, 2019 at 8:34 am

      Love it when someone tries to play grammar police and it turns out they’re wrong.

      “Everyone was much better than me” is grammatically correct. Easy way to test? Substitute in the third person:

      “Everyone was much better than him”, not “Everyone was much better than he”.
      “Everyone was much better than Chris”.
      “Everyone was much better than you”.

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Podcasts

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Task to target

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In this week’s episode: How having a target will improve your direction and contact you have with the ball.

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On Spec: Blades vs cavity backs | Classic gear vs. modern equipment

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In this episode, host Ryan talks about a recent experience of playing poor golf and what it took from an equipment perspective to get his game back on track.

The talk is wide-ranging and offers an inside look at what equipment tweaks or experiments might help you play better golf—or get you out of a rut.

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Opinion & Analysis

From the GolfWRX Vault: How far should you hit your golf clubs?

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Editor’s note: Jaacob Bowden‘s 2013 piece on how far a club “ought” to carry based on clubhead speed—i.e. how far you should hit your golf clubs–remains one of our most widely read pieces (thanks, Google search). And while seven years have passed since its publication, the data remains the same, and thus the piece remains just as relevant today. 

We’re happy to crack open the GolfWRX Vault for this excellent bit of writing. 


One of the nice things about having all this new fancy technological equipment like Trackman, Flightscope, ShotLink, etc., at various PGA Tour events is that distance data can be gathered for each of the players.

In case you haven’t come across it already, here are the approximate Trackman carry distance averages for men at the professional level.

Average PGA Tour Carry Distances (yards)

Club Carry
Driver (Total) 289
Driver (Carry) 269
3-Wood 243
5-Wood 230
Hybrid 225
3-Iron 212
4-Iron 203
5-Iron 194
6-Iron 183
7-Iron 172
8-Iron 160
9-Iron 148
PW 136

Pretty cool info. Perhaps they hit it farther than you might have thought…or maybe they hit less than you may have been lead to believe based on what you’ve seen on TV, read on the internet, etc.

Since I deal a lot with swing speed training and helping people in general hit the ball farther, a relatively common question I get is, “How far should I hit my clubs for my swing speed?”

Well, since we also know that the average driver swing speed on Tour typically runs around 112 to 113 mph, using a bit of algebra and the above distances we can approximate a guide for how far you could expect to hit the ball (assuming fairly consistent and solid contact) given your personal driver swing speed.

Here are those carry distances.

Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

 Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

I took the ranges down to 60 and 70 mph because those are swing speeds I’ll encounter when working with some amateur women and seniors. I also went up to 140 mph because numerous long drivers I’ve trained can get their drivers up that high (RE/MAX World Long Drive champions like Joe Miller, Jamie Sadlowski and Ryan Winther can actually reach over 150 mph).

Aside from using the chart as a general reference point, here are a few other things that I think are worth pointing out:

First, these numbers are based off how the average Tour player strikes the ball. Although Tour players are overall good ball strikers with all their clubs, most of them are actually not as efficient (the Tour average is about 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed) as they can be when it comes to distance with their drivers because on average they hit drives that launch too low and with too much spin.

LGPA Tour players (2.65 yards/mph of swing speed) and Professional Long Drivers are actually more distance efficient with their drivers…but that’s a topic for another article. The good news for you is that greater carry and total-driving distances can be achieved at all the range of swing speeds shown above if you are a more efficient driver than the average male tour player at 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed.

With a 2-degree change in driver loft and some minor adjustments made to his swing path, angle of attack, etc, one of my amateur students went from being an already above-average efficient driver at 2.61 yards/mph to an extremely efficient one at 2.75 yards/mph. So with no change to his 102 mph swing speed, he increased his driving distance average from 266 to 280. Then after some swing speed training, he got up to 112 mph and can now hit drives around 307 yards with that same efficiency of 2.75 yards/mph. That’s 41 more yards!

Second, the club distances are based on the driver swing speeds that you would get from a system like FlightScope and Trackman. So if at all possible, get yourself checked on one of those. Otherwise, if you measure with something like a Speed Stik (which measure higher in my experience), you could get a false sense of how far you might expect to hit the ball.

As another example, Sports Sensors Swing Speed Radars (SSR) also read faster. It should be pointed out that SSRs are still a great personal training aid, and because of their accuracy and relative affordability and portability, they are actually the radar I recommend in my swing speed training programs.

However, the Doppler radar in an SSR measures the fastest moving part of the club head (typically the toe) versus a Trackman or FlightScope, which each have proprietary algorithms to calculate the speed at the center of the club face. For this reason, SSRs will read about 5 to 12 percent faster, depending on how you as an individual move the driver through impact. If you have an SSR, just hit 5 to 10 balls with it and a Trackman or FlightScope at the same time and you’ll find out your personal difference for sake of comparison.

Third, the above numbers can be useful for a good general reference, but like I mentioned in my article about understand distance variance, recognize that carry distances can vary a lot depending on conditions. Slopes, wind, temperature, altitude, etc., are all things that can affect how far the ball flies, so remember to factor that in.

Fourth, keep in mind potential loft differences between your clubs and the ones here. As a general rule of thumb, club manufacturers have made their club lofts (especially in the irons) continually stronger over the years as a way of marketing and selling consumers the new clubs.

Many top Tour players are being paid to play the latest clubs, which could mean they might also be playing irons with stronger lofts than the set you are playing. This isn’t always the case, however, but it’s another thing to be aware of.

Last, once you start approaching less than 80 mph with the driver, notice how the distances start bunching up between clubs.  At this point, you start getting to an area where you really don’t need a full set of 14 clubs. If this is you, perhaps you might also find that you hit a 3-wood or 5-wood further than a normal driver.

My wife is very strong and athletic, however, as a beginner who doesn’t play or practice very much, she hasn’t developed much swing speed. For that reason, we got her fitted for a 9-club set of Wishon 730CLs, a set that is designed specifically for men and women with less than 80 mph of club head speed.

The shafts are very light, the driver is 16 degrees and only 42 inches, the fairway woods are 20 and 26 degrees (versus the commonly used 15- and 19-degree fairway woods), and the remaining hybrids/irons are gapped out in 6-degree loft increments (compared to the normal 3- or 4-degree). Also, since many beginners, lesser skilled players and those with slower swing speeds can struggle with really high lofted wedges, the highest lofted wedge in the set is 54 degrees.

All of these things combine to provide a driver that can actually be hit in the air for distance, clubs that have substantial distance gapping, plus it’s just less clubs in general to lug around and choose from.

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