I know where you are coming from. You want to practise your game, but you are not quite sure if it is worth it on your own and you are wondering if you are wasting time. Every time you hit a ball on the practice range, you have one question running through your mind: “How to get better at golf without lessons”. Can it be done? Is the practice worth it? Does even asking this question show I am not serious about my golf game?
Well, here is my take on it. And, you will be pleased to hear, you can get much, much better at golf, and enjoy your game more, without taking lessons.
Let’s start with where you are
First of all, time.
Does this sound like you? You love the game, and you look forward to every minute you spend out on the course, even when the weather isn’t so good, and you take your golf seriously.
Unfortunately, or even fortunately, there are other things in your life. Whether it’s going to work or spending time with your family, shopping or watching TV, there are going to be those times when you are not playing golf, or even thinking about golf. Your time is precious, so you want to use the time you do give over to your golf to the maximum advantage.
Next factor to consider is money. Are you careful about your spending on golf? I know I am. I love spending money on my game, whether it is a better pair of golf gloves or a whole new set of clubs, getting more golf stuff gives me a buzz. And I like to spend carefully, and I bet you do too, so every dollar is making your game better and more enjoyable.
I suppose what I am talking about here is balance in your life. I think most of us amateur golfers are the same, we don’t have endless money, and endless time, so we are careful and want to get the most out of every minute on the course or when we are practising.
We all like to consider all the ways of improving our game and weigh up all the pros and cons. And, as I am sure you know, one of the biggies here is lessons. They can cost a fortune, and I am sure you have heard the talk around your golf club or on golf forums that lessons don’t always work, some people will tell you that they can even make your game worse. Yes, if you read a lot about golf, you will get the idea that lessons can make you really, really miserable.
I’m not sure about that, a good coach and someone you get on with can be great for helping your game and time spent with them can be a joy. But for most of us, even if we find a good coach, time and money might limit how much we can see them. Most of us want to improve without taking lessons all the time and want an answer to the question: can you get better without seeing a golf coach? I think you can, and more than that, I think you can see how much better you are getting, and that is a great feeling and a great way to improve your game.
In this article, I am going keep in mind that your time and your money is precious and answer one very common question in detail. That is how to get better at golf without lessons.
One thing a coach will do for you is telling it to you straight. Clear advice is precious, but you don’t always need to pay for it.
Here is my simple tip. Listen to people you trust!
Here is an example of what I mean. Just because your pal Jack is a better golfer than you does not necessarily mean he is the best person to help you improve your game. Your pal Jane may have a higher handicap than Jack, but if she is more like you and her game and style is more like your style her advice tips may be the ones you should be listening to.
There are a whole number of factors to consider here.
Physical type, someone who is around your age, about the same as you for athletic ability and even around your height will probably be a good match for you. See if you can model yourself on someone who is like you, but better.
Mental strengths, we say it all the time, but golf is as much of a psychological challenge as a physical game. That is what makes it such a buzz. None of us is perfect mentally, not even the champions. We all suffer from frustrations on the course, we all seize up at certain moments and miss certain easy shots.
Think about it, and this will begin to click with you. Do you recognise that some of the people you play with are more like you in mental type? Just as we all have a physical type, we all have a mental type too. Here is an example. If you are someone who gets very frustrated, for example, try to seek out someone like that to see how they overcame it, Or search the web for videos like this;
I love this video, and it puts things into perspective. Frustration takes time to maintain, and if you are working on your frustration, you are not working on your game.
If this is you, then I have just told you one way to improve your golf without lessons! It can be that easy.
If on the other hand, you find it hard to concentrate then try this video
There is so much useful information out there from terrific players and coaches; you can learn a great deal without taking a lesson.
Okay, so now you have improved your mental attitude.
I promised I would show you how to see that you are getting better, and that is where my next tip comes in. If you are going to measure yourself you need to keep a record, don’t you? I find it is helpful to keep a golf journal in a good quality notebook (that somehow makes my record seem more important) and I also use a magnetic fridge calendar to give me a snapshot of where I am at any time of the week or month.
After every game, write down your best shots and where you can improve, including both your mental and your physical game. Where you can develop is where you target.
And that is my next tip if you want to improve your golf game without lessons.
Practice for a purpose
And that purpose is to improve one thing at a time.
Keep your golf journal and before you start a practice session decide what you are going to improve. What is the fault or weakness in your game that you are going to address?
Think about this. I want you to take a few minutes now and visualize yourself doing this in your practice sessions. Then compare it to what many golfers do (you might even have done this yourself). Don’t just hit the ball towards the flagstick. Just don’t do it! Why? The truth is that even the best golfers rarely hit the flagstick so why spend so much time trying. It is much more valuable to aim at the zone you are trying to get the ball to reach and vary the terrain on which you practice. It varies on the course, doesn’t it?
Replicate what happens on the course
So that is my next tip. Replicate what happens on the course. Vary the terrain, vary the shots, change the pace. Variety is a key to improving your game, and it is more fun than just hitting long balls. (I like fun, just like children we all learn faster and more effectively when we are enjoying ourselves.)
And that is the next tip. Enjoy your practice session. If you focus on areas you need to improve on, measure that improvement, vary your practice. You will find you do begin to enjoy it. And you will improve.
Engage and be mentally active in your practice. Put yourself in charge.
Here is a simple tip. Limit the number of balls you hit in your practice session. This may sound counter-intuitive to you but bear with me here. Remember I advised you to replicate what you do on the course? Well, limiting the number of balls will help you do that.
When you are out on the course you think about your shots don’t you? So why not do the same in practice? With each shot think about what you are trying to accomplish and what you need to do to achieve that. Run through a mental checklist: what are you trying to improve? How are you going to do that? Check your mental game as well and then hit the ball. Make it a rule that until you have done these three things for each shot, you do not touch the ball.
You’ll find you come out of your practice session feeling refreshed and energised and you will see how fast you are improving. And you will have hit a lot fewer golf balls, I bet.
Once you have been doing all this for a while, you might feel ready for another challenge. (I like to introduce new challenges on a regular basis, it keeps me mentally engaged, and that means I have fun and that means I learn and improve.)
So here is one for you to try.
Pick the next thing you want to improve. Stick to one thing. And give yourself enough time to develop, enough so people you play with will remark on it and ask you how you have done it.
Be realistic about how long this will take. Improve something you can have a reasonable expectation of achieving in about a month. But be flexible, if that sounds too easy make it two weeks, if it seems too hard or you do not have a lot of time for practice make it two months. That’s fine. The important thing is to be realistic.
Let’s take an example, how long do you think it will take to improve your pitching over say 50 yards. Set yourself a target you think you can achieve if you focus and work. Try it and see. Setting goals is a tactic many professionals use by the way. Remember, replicate what you do in a game as you practice.
Use your weapons wisely
Again, this is about focus and replicating what you do in a real game. You have your different clubs, for different jobs and your practice should reflect how often you use them in the game and what you want to improve.
Answer this question for yourself: how often do you use your driver when you are playing? I can tell you a probable answer, on a par 72 course it is about 15 times. That’s it, only 15 times! So why are you spending so much of your time in practice on your driving shot?
It is a much better idea to split up your practice time and allocate the amount of time to each shot which reflects what happens in a game. (I do like to make this a bit more complicated because you are going to want to concentrate on improving the weaker parts of your game. But you can make the two things work together. Concentrate and focus on what you want to improve and within that replicate what would happen when you are playing that shot for real.)
The bucket full of golf balls tip
Here is a suggestion which will help you do this. When you get a bucket of practice balls, split them up according to the different parts of your game.
That means reserving a lot of balls for your short game, putting, chipping, and pitching. You spend a lot of time doing these shots in a real game, don’t you? So, it makes sense to reserve probably three-quarters of your practice balls for these shots.
Improve your short game, and everyone will notice.
Should you ever take golf lessons?
There are my tips on how you can improve your game without taking lessons. I did say at the beginning that lessons can sometimes be worthwhile, so I want to finish up with the question: “Should you ever take golf lessons?”
I think you can have a great time and never take a lesson. But lessons can be beneficial if you feel you are losing focus or are just stuck.
If you keep your golf journal and you are honest with yourself, you will quickly come to know your weakest areas. It may be worth you taking some lessons to deal with these. Not only will this save you time and money it may also be the best thing you can do.
Those parts of your game which are going well, you continue with it, and that fault area which is frustrating you can be dealt with by a professional. Choose your coach carefully though. There are too many stories of coaches dismantling a player’s game, wrecking their confidence and spoiling their enjoyment.
There will be more articles on how to choose a golf coach, but a good start can be the advice I gave on who to listen to amongst your friends. Choose someone with a similar game and mental attitude. You will get on well.
How to get better at golf without lessons summary
Focus, being honest with yourself and keeping a good record of your improvements, if you do these you will improve.