Five Reliable Ways to Improve Your Handicap

The endless pursuit of improvement is what keeps so many people coming back to the golf course time after time. Every golfer in the world has room for improvement, from the total beginner to the best players on the PGA Tour. Even if you already consider yourself to be a good golfer, you can certainly think of areas within your game which need improvement.

To help in your pursuit of continual improvement on the course, we have collected five methods which can be used to improve your handicap. Of course, some of these methods will be more successful for you than others, depending on the strengths and weaknesses of your game.

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Put each of these ideas to use in your game, one at a time, and you should see your handicap steadily move lower and lower throughout the season.

#1 – Dial in Your Short Putts

Missing short putts will quickly destroy even the best round of golf. There is just no way to make up for these kinds of wasted shots, so you need to remove them from your game as completely as possible. While you may still miss one from time to time, those should be rare occasions. Professional golfers very rarely miss from inside three feet, and you should strive to perform at a similar level of proficiency.

The best way to dial in your short putts is to practice them regularly. Many golfers take this part of the game for granted, and they are unprepared on the course as a result. Make it a goal to finish each of your practice sessions by making 15 consecutive putts from three feet. This kind of repetition will not only help to iron out the mechanics of your stroke, but it will build your confidence as well.

#2 – Limit the Use of Your Driver

If you find that you are pulling your driver from the bag on every par four and par five hole, you are almost certainly in need of a course management lesson. While it is fun to hit the driver, you need to think carefully about your club selection on the tee and only use the driver when you have the space available to keep your ball safely in play. When facing a narrow fairway or a sharp dogleg, use less club and maximize your chances of finding the short grass.

Making good club decisions on the tee comes down to thinking backward from green to tee. Picture the shot you would like to hit into the green, and then imagine what kind of drive you need to hit in order to be in the right position for your approach. Is it necessary to hit your driver, or will a three wood or long iron do the job? Plan ahead and you will be less likely to run into unnecessary trouble.

#3 – Become a Bunker Expert

Many amateur golfers shiver in fear when they think about having to play a shot from the sand. While you obviously would rather hit the green than wind up in a trap, you don’t have to give up on a hole just because of your visit to a bunker. With a little practice, you can save a stroke or two per round just by sharpening up your sand skills.

It is important to understand that you need to blast a significant amount of sand out of the bunker along with the ball when playing from near the green. These are called ‘explosion’ shots for a reason. Open up the face of your wedge, swing hard, and slam the clubhead into the sand an inch or two behind the ball. As long as you supply plenty of speed, you should see the ball float softly up out of the trap and onto the green.

#4 – Play Less Golf

This tip certainly doesn’t make much sense on the surface, and it probably doesn’t sound like much fun either. However, by playing less golf, you just might be able to chip away at your handicap. How would that work? By trading in time on the course for time on the practice range. It is tempting to hit the links whenever you have free time, but staying off the course and sticking to the practice area can pay off in the long run.

Of course, if you are going to spend your time practicing instead of playing, you need to make good use of that time. Don’t fall into the trap of just hitting driver after driver on the range – work on all of your clubs, and spend at least half of your time working on the short game. One of the keys to lowering your handicap is having a well-rounded game, and there is no better place to round out your skills than in the practice area of your local golf facility.

#5 – Stay Below the Hole

Try the following during your next round of golf – before every shot, identify the low side of the hole, and aim in that direction. Even if you wind up playing slightly away from the hole itself, you are going to try to set up as many uphill shots as possible. If you follow through with this plan over the course of an entire round, you just might be shocked at the results.

When you play uphill, you have better control over the distance of your shots. And, of course, controlling your distance is one of the major challenges in this game. Professional golfers tend to do a great job of keeping the ball below the hole, but amateurs largely ignore this tactic. While you aren’t going to be 100% successful in terms of staying on the low side, it will be easier than you think once you start paying attention to the slope of the course.

The five ideas above should point you in the right direction as you seek to lower your handicap. Remember, golf is a hard game, so you shouldn’t expect to see results immediately. Be patient as you work on your skills and watch for signs that you are making progress. Good luck and have fun out there!

Golfer on course by markusspiske/Pixabay CC0

Matt Ristine

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