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How to get good at golf

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
How much golf does a person need to play to get good at it? (Assume the golfer is actively working on her game, with lessons, drills, driving range, etc.) How many holes a day or week do you reckon would get someone to scratch golf?
post #2 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by nolo View Post
How much golf does a person need to play to get good at it? (Assume the golfer is actively working on her game, with lessons, drills, driving range, etc.) How many holes a day or week do you reckon would get someone to scratch golf?
A great question. Somewhat subjective answer. Depends somewhat on person's physical abilities (hand/eye coordination, flexibility, strength) and from what level they are starting on the trek, i.e., beginner, 25 hcp, 15 hcp, 5 hcp, etc. Obviously, longer hitters have shorter irons into greens and more scoring opportunities. However, lack of distance can be overcome with stellar short game ability.

My consistency peaked while playing 2-3 days per week, and hitting balls/practicing 2-3 days per week (wife wouldn't give me a kitchen pass on sunday). Took me 4 years to get there from a 15. If you had a 40 for nine you're probably on your way to single digits and from there the incremental improvements come more slowly. Hope this helps.

R
post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 
If you were in charge of the development of a promising young golfer, what would your program entail? I'm not talking about little ol' me, but rather the ideal person in the ideal situation.
post #4 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by nolo View Post
If you were in charge of the development of a promising young golfer, what would your program entail? I'm not talking about little ol' me, but rather the ideal person in the ideal situation.
How old is the ideal person, what time can they devote to the effort, what are their goals ? If it is a very young person, you want them to enjoy the sport and have fun. I've seen several young players get burned out because they were pushed to play when they would rather be swimming, playing soccer or hanging with friends. On the other hand, I've watched a friend's son develop a passion for the game in elementary school and is now playing at a top ranked Div I school.

If the comittment is there, I'd contact a good teaching professional that is compatible with you and the player. I'd schedule an interview -- discuss current level of ability of the player, goals of the player, what the player perceives the effort would be to accomplish their goals, what kind of lesson schedule, practice routines or play schedules may be involved and recommended by the professional. I've always felt that professional teaching at a young age makes the swing easier to repeat. If the player is more advanced , then the goals are probably more solidified and a regimen may be easier to develop. Remember, there are huge differences in learning to play, playing to a low double digit hcp, playing to scratch or playing tournament golf. The time required to remain proficient at each of those levels is equally different. Setting realistic goals are very important.

I play with my nephew and grandsons on a real informal basis. We have a great time, I give them an occasional pointer but put no pressure on them to play. I've enrolled them in short three or four day summer golf camps over the past few years to keep up their interest. I treat it as a game for a lifetime with the hope they'll stick with it through the years. If they ever expressed an interest in drastically improving their performance and getting serious about the game, I'd follow the steps above.
post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 
I can tell that's terrific advice, Rapid. Many thanks.

You answered the question so all of us can envision ourselves in your answer. I was asking for myself and also for my daughter, a 20 year old former college basketball player who wrecked her knee, played on it for a year, and realized she needs a new sport. She took up golf a year ago and is now shooting in the low-80s. She's taking lessons from a highly qualified and compatible pro, Floyd Horgen (www.threebeatswing.com), and has a good set of clubs. Her goal is to make the university golf team as a walk-on this year.
post #6 of 23
I'll offer a few thoughts. My niece played college basketball and would have nothing to do with golf growing up. She was introduced to golf in her early 20s and progressed very rapidly to the low 80s. Then she got married, had children, and played only pretty casually since. I always thought that if she had started working on her game in her early teens she might have had a chance to make a run at the tour. I'm betting your daughter is pretty athletic and has the potential to improve pretty rapidly. I think any program should be developed by her teaching pro. IMO, a problem with a lot of golf instruction is that the way it's usually approached puts too much emphasis on fixing the swing and not enough on short game and mental game. I'd also try to emphasize quality over quantity. I see folks all the time who are scraping and hitting, scraping and hitting, scraping and hitting... And then they drop 3 balls down and putt all of them to the same target. Note that I do think that using certain drills repeatedly can be effective in promoting certain swing changes. But simply hitting balls has little resemblance to the game of golf as played on the course. So I think folks need to develop a routine on which they can depend, and they have to practice it. So instead of just hitting shots you pick a precise target, pick the club you think gives the best chance to hit the target, and go through the full pre-shot routine. Or you might drop a ball near the practice green and chip it, and then take your putter and go make the putt. In short folks need to practice more like they play. In terms of how much time, it depends on the person's strengths and weaknesses and what they are working on. If the person is making swing changes then that should likely be the focus but in general I'd say folks should be spending at least 60% of their time working on short game. I also think folks need a day off and you can grind to hard. So I'd say something like 18-holes of golf 3-4 times per week followed by practice sessions that involved both full swing (40%) and short game (60%). If your really working on something mechanical in the swing you might be wise to not play any real golf till the change is ingrained. Practice both short game and ful swing on 2-3 additional days per week. Take at least one day completely off from golf every week. All that said, it's pretty easy to go from the 100s to the 90s. It's harder to go from the 90s to the 80s. And once you get into the low 80s measureable progress can be slow. Folks can get into the mid 80s just by learning to eliminate most of their really bad shots. But going much lower requires hitting more really good shots. And I'd say distance becomes increasingly important. I know a lot of pretty good golfers who don't hit it very far but they have very good short games; they can consistently shoot upper 70s/low 80s on typical 6,200-6,500 yard courses. But I don't know any scratch or better golfers who are short knockers. I guess the professional exception might be Cory Pavin but even he wasn't really that short by average golfer standards. I'd say she should go for it.
post #7 of 23
When I was playing 2-3 times a week and hitting the range another 1-2 a week, I was shooting in the low to mid 80's. Currently I am getting out once every other week and the range once a week also at most and I feel like I am wasting my time and my money. Either play alot and be serious, currently, I am not paying enough to make it worth my while so I am pretty much hanging up my clubs until I can invest the proper time needed.
post #8 of 23
This coming from a hacker who started the game about 40 yrs ago as a boy. Never played more than 20 rounds a year, never got better than an 18 handicap, and currently plays only once or twice a year, but with hopes of increasing that frequency in retirement.

The short answer to your question is: as much practice time as possible.
IMHO becoming a true scratch golfer is incredibly hard. 99.9% of all kids will never get there even with 3-4 hours of daily practice from a young age. Any high school kid who can shoot even par in the majority of his competitive golf rounds is very exceptional, likely to win a college scholarship, and could be possible PGA material in a few years.
Even to reach a legitimate single digit handicap (no more than 9 over par per round on average) is a tremendous accomplishment for an amateur player and would put the person in the elite (top 1%) of all recreational golfers. Believe me, there are a lot of fine athletes who later take up golf at age 30 or 40, practice quite a bit, yet never shoot in the 70s (single digit handicap territory). It takes talent, practice, and temperament.
post #9 of 23
I somewhat disagree with you Jamesj. I think more people can become very good golfers if they have the right instruction and if they practice with focus. I never really played as a kid. Then played a little in my 20s. Quit for years. I've really gotten interested in getting better. It's really the challenge of getting better that draws me to the game. I've taken lessons from several folks with mixed results. I've come to believe there is a lot of very bad golf instruction. FWIW, I think there's a lot of very bad ski instruction out there as well. The person I've been working with really offers a program. And he tries to simplify rather than complicate the mechanics of the golf swing. I'm 53, I'm getting real close to single digits and I'm only playing about 27 holes a week. I've only skied 5 years. We were lucky to find a really good ski instructor who transformed my skiing. I still wouldn't describe myself as a good skier, but I never imagined I could ski way I can. I'm still capable of very bad rounds but I'm mostly in the low 80's and high 70s. I really can imagine my self going pretty low consistently. And I think the imagining is critical. Golf is such a mental game. It's a game that is a mental battle froms start to finish and most of us do things that wreck our rounds. But I think a lot more folks can get good than think they can get good.
post #10 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by nolo View Post
......I was asking for myself and also for my daughter, a 20 year old former college basketball player who wrecked her knee, played on it for a year, and realized she needs a new sport. She took up golf a year ago and is now shooting in the low-80s. She's taking lessons from a highly qualified and compatible pro, Floyd Horgen (www.threebeatswing.com), and has a good set of clubs. Her goal is to make the university golf team as a walk-on this year.
Sounds like you have the first part of the puzzle solved. All of the previous posts from members offer some good advice. Your daughter is athletic, a plus. I injured my knee in college, it rehabbed quite well and has not affected my game. I've worked with women college players in support roles. I would suggest much work on the short game. The collegiate ladies that I have seen play (Div I players) are very straight and posess extreme touch from 100 yds in. Not all will break 320 for a 4 round tournament. Remember, however, that a very fine player once said "there is golf and then there is tournament golf". She must realize she is entering into a new, competitive arena, As a former college athlete, however, that should be evident to her.

Length does make a difference off the tee but it is not the sole factor for success. Only playing for one year and near single digits sounds like there is much improvement to be gained. I would keep on your path, instill the fact in her that this is a difficult game at best, requires intense preparation, but, one day she'll stand on 18 realizing the hard work will reward her with a personal best.

R
post #11 of 23
Thread Starter 
The girl's drives are awe-inspiring (to me). We walk to my ball and then walk another mile to her Dad's ball, then another half mile to her ball. She's generally on the green in regulation since she had the lesson on using her wedges. Next lesson is on putting, and then I believe she'll be close to a par golfer.

Good point about there being golf and there being tournament golf. She does loves to show off, so she may enjoy the gig. In basketball her motto was, "You be making your move after I be making mine!"
post #12 of 23
One thing that your daughter needs to develop is a good base of statistics that tell the strengths and weaknesses of her game. How many fairways does she hit in regulation, how many greens in regulation, how many putts per green-does she have tendancies to miss right or left, etc, etc? Are there certain situations where weaknesses tend to come out? From there a lot of issues can be addressed.

One of the things I used to do with our juniors getting ready for their high school tryouts was walk along with them, pick up their drives and maybe throw it the rough, a bunker or put it in a divot-exposing them to good shots don't always lead to good outcomes.

Another "fun" way to play the game is to make a student forget about the flagstick and aim at very difficult positions on the green. In tournament golf you don't see a lot of flags in the center of the green. (Interestingly, a noted assistant used to have a standing bet with any member of his club he could improve their score by 5 strokes without a lesson-he simply rode one hole ahead of them and laid the flagstick down so they had no idea where the hole was-so they aimed at the middle of the green-where that average golfer should be aiming anyway-but I digress).

One other area that is invaluable is a basic understanding of the fundamentals of the game. Have her read the "Laws" section of the PGA manual you have-when things go wrong on the course it helps to have a little "correct" understanding not anecdotal "tips" to go on (gee, that sounds like skiing too).

Good Luck to her and you too.
post #13 of 23
Nolo,
obviously the time varies. It sounds like her long game in in the right direction. Have her put a lot of short game time in. 100 yards and in. Do what Mike said, perfect drive 100yards out hit it from the rough. Hit it from the fringe. Have pitch shots from everywhere around the green.

The pros have one major skill element in common, the can up and down from just about anywhere. It is amazing to me.
Of course, the mental game is major too. I have always loved the Bob Rotella books "Golf is not a game of perfect", etc.

When I was in major improvement mode, I was hitting 1000 wedges a week. There may have been 100 drivers, 150 5I, etc... but there was ALWAYS 1000 wedge a week. And always at a target. Also the other half of practice time was putting and chipping.

With coaching and an incredible drive, I was new to scratch in 5 seasons. (with an understanding wife, and no kids at the time).
jon
post #14 of 23
Sounds like she has a good start and the competitive drive to work at it to get really good. There's a lot of good things going on here. Hale Irwin was a CU cornerback before becomeing a pro golfer. Larry Nelson took up the game after coming back from Vietnam. Both have had very successful golfing careers.

I agree with the other folks that the most important thing she needs to work on is short game and putting because that's where you score. Next she needs to know how far she hits every club in the air and learn how far it will roll outunder different ground conditions (fairway, rough, green, dry, wet, etc) Lastly, she needs to learn her tendancies, or where do I usually miss it. With that information she can work on her course management skills and learn how use this knowledge to create a strategy for each hole and shot she plays.

I too like Rotella's books. I have read Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, Putting out of Your Mind, and The Golfers Mind. They are all great. AS you get better and better, I believe the mental game becomes way more important than the physical game.

Practice with focus, but make it fun. Create chipping and putting games to play on the putting green to make it fun. Play for something sometimes just to make it interesting.

One last thing, learn the rules. It really helps to know the rules to play competitive golf.

Have fun and good luck.
post #15 of 23
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the great advice. Did any of you have a look at the URL www.onebeatswing.com and have an opinion about that program?

What do you think of Nicklaus's bromide that most golfers should be proud to play bogey golf and not frustrate themselves aiming for par (paraphrased)?
post #16 of 23
"What do you think of Nicklaus's bromide that most golfers should be proud to play bogey golf and not frustrate themselves aiming for par?

Does not apply in your case. She's past that point already.

One thing I don't see in this post is what do you mean by "good". If it's good enough to enjoy the game with friends and family then you're well on your way to success. Bogy golf can be lots of fun. Single digit handicap golf can be a pleasure for a lifetime.

If the goal is to compete then it's another game entirely. Some of the game's all time greats have noted the differenced betwen playing golf and tournament golf and then championship golf at a high level.

It is one process to learn the mechanics of the game. Even the mental side can be learned. It as another skill set to learn to compete and win. If the goal is compeition then you mostly learn by doing.
post #17 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Does not apply in your case. She's past that point already.
My 20 year old prodigy may be past that, but it's a bromide that I might take to maintain my enjoyment of the sport. Of course, anyone who knows me knows I don't do bromides. I am trying to apply the Sports Diamond to try to temper my tendency to beat my head against the wall.
post #18 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Philpug View Post
When I was playing 2-3 times a week and hitting the range another 1-2 a week, I was shooting in the low to mid 80's. Currently I am getting out once every other week and the range once a week also at most and I feel like I am wasting my time and my money. Either play alot and be serious, currently, I am not paying enough to make it worth my while so I am pretty much hanging up my clubs until I can invest the proper time needed.
Just sharing an anecdote - I was in the same boat about a month ago.

I felt like any shot I hit was a crap shoot where it would end up. So I gave it up for about a month. A week or two ago I caved and went out with a friend's 12 yo son and his dad for 9 holes.

The kid's not old enough to be on the golf team yet for our local high school but shot a 39 from the back tees at our municipal course! (it's not exactly a gimme either - on the side of a hill and 3600 yards) Weird thing is I was right behind him by a few strokes - a good score by my standards. Somehow I behaved more maturely when playing with the kid as opposed to the middle aged adolescents I usually play with. It kind of felt like I had to show him how to act on the course or something which meant I had to lead by example.

Long story short I'm back out again a few times a week before work - hooked again!
post #19 of 23
Looked at the Three beat Swing site and more than likely will order the program. I'm convinced the battle is learning what you have to do to correctly build a powerful repeatable golf swing. The chances of discovering it yourself are poor at best, however some do.There is just so much instructional information out there it becomes very confusing knowing how to connect the dots and not get completely lost. As a result, a system would appear to have advantages and provide a good blue print to reference and rely on.

To stay positive, I kind of approach golf instruction on the basis there is something out there that will ring true and make sense and will allow me to execute the techniques producing the desired results. This same line of thinking supports my optimism that I was poor in math because I never had it expalined to me in terms I could understand, rather than come to grips that I just might be that stupid, if I could make a poor golf to learning analogy.

Its very difficult to patch quilt different golf instruction into something that serves as a reliable swing model. I'm proof after 25 years of trying to do this, it won't result in a relaible repeating swing. Golf too often for me feels different every time I play. That's not a good thing at all.
post #20 of 23
Nolo,

You're asking the wrong question. "How much golf does it take" will vary so much from person to person based on age, physical condition, skill set, learning style, motivation, equipment, etc., that any simple answer is useless.

In my short golfing career, I've run across the gamut of people who've become scratch golfers with little effort to those who try but will never get better than 20. I've also met several people who used to be scratch but had their handicaps rise due to age and lack of maintenance. I've also met people who injured themselves following the "more" approach to getting better. Scratch golf is much like a level 3 cert. It is only a waypoint, not a destination and it's a waypoint that only a small percentage of golfers will pass through. And it is not something you can get down to and then just enjoy the game from there.

You need 2 different answers to your questions: daughter and you. They first key is setting goals. Daughter's goal seems defined well enough (i.e. make the team). Your goal needs some work. My two suggestions are:
- discover how to get enjoyment from the game no matter how much you suck
- define shorter term goals to achieve and focus on them instead of getting to scratch (that may be ok as a long term goal, but we don't know if it's a realistic one)

I'm on season 7. I play 3 times/week, do range practice once/week + occasionally before rounds and backyard wedges once/week. During many seasons I've also done ten once per week lessons at the range. I've spent 2 seasons stuck in neutral due to (snowsport) injuries. I'm an 11 within sight of single digit. I view the head banging as the best aspect of golf for my health. It's the test of my emotional control. I have yet to master this aspect, but the important thing is I'm getting better. For me, I've developed a love for the game that goes beyond my level of skill. The ups and downs of my handicap are a much lower priority than all the other aspects of the game.

I know I could have a single digit handicap if I rode instead of walked, if I practiced one more day per week instead of playing and if I played easier courses from the white tees instead of tougher courses from the tougher tees. I think I could possibly become a scratch golfer if I put a lot more work into it. But I only want to do enough work to get a little bit better at a time so that I can enjoy the ride the most that I can, for the whole ride. In the meantime, I've got a long laundry list of things to work on (e.g. increasing fairways hit, GIR and up and down percentage, being more consistent) that I constantly chip away at in order to get better and have more fun. Getting the handicap down a few notches has been a great short term motivation at times. But sometimes having faith in the overall plan and just not caring about the score that day gets better results.

Whether you should focus on the mental aspect, a smooth swing, statistics, going for scratch or whatever depends on what works best for you. Just doing "more" of any or all parts of golf is not likely to get you to scratch. Although regular play and practice is a requirement for scratch golf, there is no magic formula just like there is no magic formula for becoming an expert skier. Where ever you want to go with golf, a coach can help get you there faster than "more" of anything. It's been my personal observation that we tend to overutilize golf coaching for "how" (e.g. fixing problems) and underutilize it for "what" (e.g. setting goals).

Good luck!
post #21 of 23
Thread Starter 
Maybe a bad question, Rusty, but it sure brought out some great answers! Thanks for the nourishment, folks.

Daughter just had lesson #2 with Floyd today. He fixed her grip and got her to stop bumping her right hip. Told her to call the golf coach at GU today. Kept saying, you are strong. Thinks she'll be competitive at Div I level. Said she needs a Taylormade Burner TP driver with regular shaft and will need to get new irons with stiffer shafts soon.

I shot 42 on my daily 9 today. That makes me happy for today. My goal for the season was to break 90 on a regular basis.
post #22 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by nolo View Post
Said she needs a Taylormade Burner TP driver with regular shaft and will need to get new irons with stiffer shafts soon.
Now you know she's got the bug! She's already got her sights on new gear! Although, it's actually not a bad idea these days; with her changing abilities, she could outgrow her current equipment. And golf is like skiing in that the wrong equipment can hold you back.

I do remember my Mom telling me when I was much younger just to learn to play with gear that I had and adding in a line from Lee Trevino about if you are not hitting the target, the problem is usually with the Indian not the arrow. But even Lee doesn't believe that any more.
post #23 of 23
If' you shoot a 42 and don't break 90 regularly it's just concentration. Four hours is a long time to devote to following a little white ball. You're already hitting the ball well enough to break 90 regularly.
Good equipment is about as important in golf as it is in skiing. You need it as much for your self confidence and your overall enjoyment of the sport as you do for the actual performance difference difference it makes.
Experts say the shaft is more important than the club head, particularly on the drivers. Another reason for buying new is to be "fitted". It's sort of like aligning your new boots. You always feel more confident when the "expert" tells you they're set up just right. That's probably the main benefit of buying new instead of saving 50% or more by buying something six months old.
You probably get a lot better ski instruction in Bozeman than you will in North Carolina. It may work the other way for golf. Make sure your golf instruction isn't just a summer job for a golfer with a low handicap. As you know "doing" and "teaching" are two different things.
I'm going to go against some of the advice you've received from others. If your daughter is taking lessons from a good instructor and getting additional help from a Div. 1 coach I think she should stay away from the books and tapes. There are lots of ways to hit a ball and it's easy to get paralysis from analysis. If you've got a coach/teacher who believes in a good grip, good posture and good balance that's really about all you need. Once you have that you just play golf, hit about a million balls and then WOW you're a scratch golfer!
If I were trying to be successful in D-1 golf I think I would go south for the winter. It's hard to roll off the mountain in early April and play against the kids from TX, AZ and FL who've been playing and competing 7 days a week all winter.
One last thoght, don't forget to tape The Open this week.
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