A Lesson Learned: "Consistency: The Road to a Better Game"
Problem Area: Consistency
Here's what I know about the Valero Texas Open: It is generous (last year, it raised $9 million for charity - and this year will most likely be similar), it is historic (past champions include Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer), it is beautiful (what an awesome venue that TPC San Antonio is!) and it is tough (the cut came at +4).
And there's one other item I know: Ben Curtis won this week - not because he was the longest, the most spectacular or the most flashy player - but because he was the most consistent. And every golfer can benefit if they learn this concept for their game.
A quick breakdown of the numbers proves my point. There are three statistics you hear all the time when watching golf on television: Fairways hit, greens-in-regulation and total putts. Why? Because they are the MOST IMPORTANT! Curtis ranked 2nd in fairways hit this week, 1st in greens in regulation and had no three-putts through four rounds. The result? His first victory in six years!
So how do you get more consistent? In short, be disciplined in your practice.
Consistency in your golf game will come from a combination of two things: proper practice and proper instruction. Proper practice doesn't mean you have to be out there every single day hitting balls on the driving range. It doesn't even mean you have practice every other day. It means being consistent in how often and how well you practice. If you can only practice once per week, that is fine. However, when you come out for that one time each week, you can't just hit balls on the range for an hour or just play your weekly Saturday round with your buddies. When practicing, remember to practice from tee to green, with the majority of your practice time being spent hitting shots from within 100 yards.
The "short game" is where the most shots can be saved for the average golfer. I am a firm believer that at least 50% of your practice time should be spent inside 100 yards. Roughly a third of your strokes will come from putting alone during a round. Time spent hitting wedge shots on the range combined with chipping and putting is what will lower your scores. Knowing how hard to hit a 10 yard pitch versus a 20 yard pitch isn't really something that can be taught; it's something that is learned by practice and repetition. The next time you go to the driving range, spend some time hitting pitches and small wedge shots. Hit 5 or 6 shots to different distances and different targets. This will help build muscle memory that will help build consistency.
Ben Curtis won this week because he did three things very well. It led to an extension of his Tour card, exemptions into certain events and a quick $1.1 million payday. You may not get all of those great benefits (or any actually) but you'll play the best golf of your life if you improve those same three areas.
Consistency is something that is challenging to build in a golf game. It takes repetition, obviously. But it's not mindless repetition. There has to be conscious thought with every stroke. That is where your local PGA Professional comes in. He or she can help build you a proper practice routine and schedule that will help build that consistency while lowering your scores.
Remember: Repetition builds consistency and consistency builds a better game!
John Morton is a Class-A PGA Professional at The Club at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands, Texas. He earned his Bachelor's degree in Business Administration with a concentration in PGA Golf Management from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina.