To Play Better Golf, Enjoy the Game More!

By Patrick J. Livingston, PGA
Published on
To Play Better Golf, Enjoy the Game More!

As a PGA Teaching Professional, I see golfers at our golf schools put a lot of emphasis on swing purity. Let's make no mistake, there is nothing in golf like a perfectly struck tee shot that arcs high into the air and lands far down in the center of the fairway. The problem is that it doesn't happen every time, and in their search for the perfect swing, many golfers forget to play the game. So instead of the standard tips on fixing a fault or faults in your swing, I would like to give you a few tips to help you play better and enjoy your golf more. Practice at the range and play on the course: The object of golf is to get the ball into the hole in the least amount of strokes. When you are on the golf course, try to play with the least amount of swing thoughts. Free up your mind to play better and enjoy it more. Play from the correct tee box: The back tee is reserved for low-handicap and professional golfers. There is nothing good that can come from struggling all day to reach the greens. Playing from the wrong tee box can make you swing too hard, ruin your tempo, and ultimately play slowly while looking for errant shots. Play the tee box that is recommended for your handicap. You will thank yourself, perform better, and enjoy the game more. Lower your expectations: A major problem with most golfers is that our mind thinks we can perform on a much higher level than we actually can. When I talk to National Golf School students, I will ask them what was the best game they ever shot. If they say 90, which is averaging one over par on every hole, then I recommend they try to shoot one stroke over par on each hole. This way, it takes away the pressure of trying to make par on each hole, and often results in better overall scores. Perform shots within your capabilities: I see this with many National Golf School students. A golfer who could hit a 5 iron off the ground with their eyes closed tries to hit a 3 wood off the fairway 230 yards to the green. As the ball heads into the hazard, they are upset and say, "I really need to get that shot down." What they really need to do is hit a shot they can perform, keep the ball in play, and build confidence. Wouldn't you feel better if you hit a beautiful iron into wedge range, and then hit your wedge 10 feet from the hole? Have a Red-Hot short game: This is one area that I emphasize with our National Golf School students so you can be as good as a top Professional in a short amount of time. Learn the basic fundamental way to chip, pitch, putt, and get out of a bunker, then practice it. You can search a lifetime for a pure swing, but you could be a short game wizard within a month with some knowledge and practice. Think of how much more freely you could swing at the ball if you didn't care about slightly missing the green. If you have a great short game, it is like a built in insurance policy. Be realistic about putting. Here is another scenario I see often in our golf schools. A student hits the green on her third shot and has a 20 footer for par. It just misses and she is upset with herself for missing such an easy putt. She is not being realistic, and here's why. On the PGA and LPGA Tours, where some of the world's finest putters reside, they make less than 45% of the putts from 8 FEET AWAY. Yet many of the social golfers we see expect to make everything inside of 20 feet and are disappointed if they miss. There are so many outside influences on a putt (grain, spike marks, debris on the green) that often a perfectly rolled putt still misses. Be realistic, do your best, and don't let a missed putt follow you around. Keep a great attitude, stop and smell the roses, and have fun. As a PGA Professional, I expect to play well. I also know that if our attitude is wrong, you can't perform. I love this game and nothing saddens me more than seeing someone who is not having fun on the golf course. If you are having a bad day, try to keep your spirits up and still be a good partner with whom to play. The greatest compliment I can get is when someone says, "It's fun to play with you, Pat." After all, that's what it's all about. So get out there, challenge yourself, test your skills, and be kind to yourself. Most of all never forget the reason we play the game, to have fun.
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