vijay_singh_on_rangeDid you ever stop to think about what the difference is between a good golfer and a … well…not so good golfer. I’m not talking about the obvious differences like how they hit the ball, or how they score, or even talent, but just the things they do. I guess you could call them the ‘habits of successful golfers’.

I play with all kinds of golfers. They run the gamut from beginners to single digit handicaps. It’s easy to tell which is which…and I don’t even have to see them swing. The guy that shows up 5 minutes before the tee time, coffee in one hand, tying his shoes on the tee, no warm up, no practice putts…well you know which one he is. He’s the one that wonders why he’s 6 over after 3 holes and still struggling to find his game at the turn.

Golf is a game that requires hand eye coordination. It’s not easy hitting that little white ball. Sure natural ability helps. We can’t control what God has given us. But there are many things we can control and many things we can do to maximize the natural skills we do have.

Let’s take a look at some of those things you can do…some of those habits.

Warm Up

Every good player I know makes sure they are ready to play. That means arriving at least an hour before their tee time. They go to the range, stretch their muscles and hit some warm-up shots. I’m not talking about a full-fleged practice session here. But they do hit enough balls to not only loosen up their swing muscles but to see what their shot tendencies are that day. Are they generally making good contact? Are they able to move the ball left to right and right to left. Which ball flight is coming easy. How they hit the ball during their warmup will determine their level of expectation for that day and the kind of shots to avoid.

On the putting green they make sure they have a feel for the speed of the greens. They work on both uphill and downhill putts and long, medium, and short putts. They don’t want any surprises on those first few holes.

PreShot Routine

Just like a free throw shooter in basketball, a pitcher in baseball and the serve in tennis, having a routine prepares you to perform your motion. In golf, a preshot routine is critical for consistency. A good one not only helps make sure you are mentally prepared for your shot but also that your alignment is correct, your body is free of tension and you are focused on your target. Every good player has a very precise preshot routine that is consistent down to a few seconds.

Knows How Far They Hit Each Club

Golf is a target game. Sometimes the target is 50 yards away and sometimes it’s 250. Without knowing the approximate distance you hit each club, your game is just guesswork. A single digit handicap knows how far they hit each club within 5 yards. A pro knows down to a yard or two. Good players may also have different swings with each club that go different distances.

Checks Yardage for Shot

Hand and hand with knowing your club yardage is finding out how far it is to your target. That target may be a spot in the fairway 270 yards away from the tee or a precise location on the green. The pros and good amateur players know every shot yardage within a yard or two. They know distances to front, middle and back of greens, how far to clear a hazard, and the yardage to their next shot in the fairway based on their favorite locations. There is no guesswork when it comes to precise shotmaking.

Good players who don’t have caddies to help them, walk off yardage from yardage markers and sprinkler heads until they have at least a general idea of their yardage. Many use the new laser range finders and GPS systems to provide better accuracy. Without accurate yardage a scratch golfer would have trouble breaking 80.

Has Equipment Fitted

Good players know that an improperly fitted club can cost distance and accuracy. Without the correct length club for their body and the right flex shaft for their swing speed, their shots will be inconsistent. Every good player knows their clubhead speed, wrist to floor measurement, lie angel, and hand size just as well as they know their shoe size.

Has a Strategy for Every Hole

When a good player sizes up a hole they think strategically. They work their way back from the pin location to the ideal spot in the fairway to approach that pin. They then know how far and to what location to hit their tee shot. If the trouble on a hole is in a certain place they plan how to avoid the trouble. They know the precise distance and direction required. They may even plan the shot shape (left to right or right to left) to give them the best chance of hitting their target.

They know which holes are birdie holes and which holes to be happy with a par. They plan when to be aggressive and when to be conservative.

So what kind of golfer are you? Do you warm up before you play and have a preshot routine. Do you know how far you hit each club, check your yardages, and have your clubs fit to your swing? Do you have a realistic strategy for how to play each hole. Most beginners and even intermediate golfers do none of the above. Adopt these habits and you can become a better golfer without extra practice, major swing changes or having a lot of talent. After all… a golfer is as a golfer does.

A Golfer Is As A Golfer Does

BEGINNER INTERMEDIATE ADVANCED PRO
Ave. Score 100+ 85-100 70-85 below 70
Warms up for an hour before playing Never Maybe Usually Always
Has consistent preshot routine Never Maybe Usually Always
Knows how far they hit each club Never Maybe Usually Always
Checks yardage to target for each shot Never Maybe Usually Always
Has equipment fit for their game Never Maybe Usually Always
Knows rules of golf Never Maybe Usually Always
Plays within their capabilities Never Maybe Usually Always
Has taken lessons Never Maybe Usually Always
Understands swing technique Never Maybe Usually Always
Ave. # of greens in regulation 0-3 3-8 8-12 12-16