Perhaps you are just starting out and are embarrassed by how high your handicap is, or you may have been playing for years and find yourself stuck on an okay handicap while those around you are going lower and lower.
Whatever the reason, most of us would like a lower handicap, and if you play a lot and are still not getting that handicap down, then it’s time for some targeted action. We are looking for all-around improvement here. You will never get your handicap down if you have some brilliant shots but ignore the weak ones.
Proper tools will not correct a bad technique, but as your game develops you may need to change your clubs. Ask yourself if that long driver is helping your game or if you would be better off with a hybrid. Many players find their game improves if they drop the long driver, so give it a try.
All by yourself
We all love the social side of golf, but you may find you improve more quickly if you take some time to get out by yourself. Then, you are not under any pressure from other players, and you can concentrate on those parts of your game which you know need work. If you are going to play some solitary rounds, and we would strongly advise that you do, make sure you have a structure. Make a plan for the next six months, including what are you going to improve each week. Get out there and concentrate on that shot. Because you are on your own, you are the boss. If you put something right quicker than you anticipated, then move on, if you get stuck on one thing, keep at it until you improve.
Learn from the better and the best
I know some people who get miserable when they watch much better players. They say: ‘Oh, why do I bother, I can never be that good.’ If you sometimes think like that, then I would say, look again, and this time concentrate on what you want to improve. Try to play with some players at your club who have a lower handicap than you. Watch what they do. Do not try to replicate everything, focus on that one or those two things you want to sort for yourself. Also, watch the professionals on TV with the same attitude. What is the one thing they do that you would like to be able to do? Give it a go, and it will be fun.
Your mindset and your routine
Continuous improvement is the mindset you want but in a relaxed and enjoyable way. Every time you go out, say to yourself I am going to get (your one thing) right today. Visualise yourself doing this, run through it in your mind step by step, then do it. When you succeed, celebrate.
Get a strategy to get out of the sand
Lowering your handicap means getting around the course with fewer strokes, right? You know this, so look at where you are wasting strokes. One obvious culprit will be if you get stuck in a sand trap. Here is how to get out of a sand trap.
Get an indoor putting drill and a new putter
Just as with the sand trap, you can waste shots on the green because you do not putt as well as you could. Check your putter and try out a new one to see if that helps. Then practise a lot. Putting drill is excellent, you can drill anywhere, anytime. Here are some great indoor putting routines.
Work out when you mess it up
Lowering your handicap is about consistency as much as skill. It is no good playing one brilliant round if you follow it up with two poor ones. We all have good and bad days out on the course, but it is worth considering if you have a pattern. You may find you play better at certain times of the day. If so, can you play most of your golf then? (Playing differently at different times of the day is surprisingly common, as we all have slightly different biorhythms, so our very best times are individual).
You may also find you play better in certain types of weather. If you don’t, for example, tolerate heat well, then try playing in the mornings and evenings perhaps? While we are speaking about the weather, be aware that if you are a serious golfer you are going to have to play in less then ideal conditions sometimes. So, get out there in the wind and the rain, as well as on a beautiful sunny day. Before you brave the elements, check out this video on drills for playing in bad weather.
Over-compensate for your faults
Here is something which often works. If you know you have a golfing weakness, steer hard in the other direction. For example, if you tend to hit the ball to the right down the fairway, then aim left, rather than down the middle. The reason for doing this is to correct your muscle memory. If you are doing something wrong, you need to break the habit, and over-compensating will do this for you.
Choose your clubs wisely, numbers matter
You know that low number iron you always use to drive down the fairway? I think that might be keeping your handicap higher than it should be. Guess I’m wrong? This trick will prove it to you. Go out and practice using one number higher for each of those fairway shots. How are you doing? Better? The chances are you are getting the ball where you want it to be in fewer shots. If I am right here, it is because most of us play at least some of our shots using clubs which are beyond our skill level. Swallow your pride and lower your handicap, is good advice for many of us amateur golfers out there.
If you cannot practise at all, and you play golf only once a month you are not going to improve very much. If this is your situation, then don’t worry about it, enjoy yourself. For many of us a bit of practice, say three or four hours a week, is about as much as we can manage. If you can practise this much, then you can improve, mainly if you focus and target your drills. But be realistic, if you are an average player and this is the time you put in, then you should be pleased if you get your handicap down by three or four in a year.
The importance of your short game
Your short game is the area where you are likely to make the most progress in lowering your handicap. Remember that when you are playing a full round, most of your shots are in your short game. Therefore if you can get these down, you are going to lower your handicap. A good rule is to spend at least fifty per cent of your practice time on your short game. The fifty per cent rule is especially true if you have limited time to practice and if you are a high handicapper whose immediate aim is to become a mid-handicapper.
Concentrate on your short game: getting out of the rough
We all end up in the rough at times, but if you are to get your handicap down, you need to get out as quickly as possible with the minimum number of shots. You need the correct club and to be confident about your shot. Try this at practice so getting in the rough does not send your handicap shooting up.
If you are just in the rough, you need to get out in one shot if you are to get your handicap down. You will need a wedge club with forty-six degrees of loft, so you are getting the lift to overcome the obstacle in your way. Pay attention to your stance and put your weight on your left foot (if you are right-handed). Hold your club near the bottom of the grip. Make a shallow firm stroke.
If you have gone further into the rough, you will need a club with more loft, and a fifty-two-degree wedge should do the job. Make sure your stance is such that the ball is in the middle. Hold your hands low on the grip. Bend your wrists to give more loft. Hit firmly but not too hard.
Concentrate on your short game: putt better
The key to good putting is rhythm. If you want to save on strokes on the green, then you need to build up your confidence at a time when the tension is mounting. We would advise trying this putting drill every time you head out to the practice course, so it becomes second nature. Then you will feel more relaxed and confident when the pressure is on.
You will need three balls, placed in a row at different distances from the hole.
To start place these three feet, six feet and nine feet away from the hole. Putt the nearest ball (three feet) then the middle (six feet) then the furthest (nine feet). Do this drill five times, as quickly as you can.
Then move all the balls back three feet, so you are putting at six feet, nine feet and twelve feet. Repeat the drill.
Move back another three feet. Putt at nine feet, twelve feet and fifteen feet.
When you have finished, do the whole thing in reverse, ending with your three feet six feet and nine feet putts.
This drill will build your confidence and get a rhythm going when you are on the green.
Learn to cope with the pressure
We have talked about practice up until now but playing real rounds with real people is just as important, as well as being more fun. It is vital for getting your handicap down as well. There is no way to replicate the tension of a round of golf with other players. Aim for a balance and a blend. Practice and play and practice and play.
10-minute daily drill
Even if you are very busy, you can set aside 10-15 minutes every day to keep your hand in and keep your golf memory alive. You will be amazed at how much better your practice session feels, or how much better you play in a full round if you get in these ten extra minutes every day at home. Here is a good routine.
- Get a practice checklist.
- Check your grip, your alignment and your posture in a mirror.
- Do some putting and chipping. Even if you are not focussing on those areas.
Play different courses
You probably play on one golf course most of the time, try playing different courses to strengthen your game, as its challenges will be new.
Before you start playing, spend some time on the putting green to get used to the speed. Check out the hazards on the course and the angles on the fairways.
With practice, little and often is better than never.
We hope these tips and drills help you to get your golf handicap down. Remember practice does make perfect in golf and try to be as consistent as you can. A little regular practice routine is better than the occasional mega session. Be realistic, if you cannot practice very much then you are doing very well if your handicap comes down by one or two.