Break on Through to the Other Side

John Stahlschmidt
PGA Director of Instruction
JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club
Scottsdale, AZ

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One common goal that every golfer shares is the desire to get better and shoot lower scores. The reality is that golfers in general aren’t getting any better. The USGA conducts research on this type of thing and found that over the last 20 plus years, the average handicap has dropped only by a dismal .8 of a stroke. The average score for a man is 97 and 114 for a female.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Once upon a time I caught the golfing bug. I practiced and played a lot, even though I wasn’t very good. My first score was way up in the one hundreds. Over the next year or so I really improved at a rapid pace. I learned to break 100 and then 90 but now I am stuck and I can’t get any better.

I hear this same story over and over again. The reality is to improve golfers have to learn to break through certain barriers. I feel there are several barriers you will have to overcome in order to play better golf.

Barrier #1 – Time

Let’s face it, who has 6 hours free to go play a round of golf on a weekday or weekend? This is a huge barrier that is really limiting the growth of our game. Also, if you feel that a 3 or 4 hour practice session is required to improve, you are wrong. I would much rather you practice for 90 minutes on 2 specific areas and then call it a day. For example, hit balls for 45 minutes and then work on a short game related topic for 45 minutes. After that, call it a day.

Additionally, there are many different tasks you can incorporate from the comfort of your own home. For instance, practice your grip for 5 minutes a night while watching your favorite TV show. Grip changes are difficult at best, so why not work on it away from the golf course. 

Barrier #2 – Repeating the same mistake over and over

We all know the clinic definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. I see this all the time on the lesson tee. The problem is that change in the golf swing is difficult. As a teacher, I am looking for 1 inch difference and begging for a foot. What we feel versus what is real is usually different. In order to improve, swing changes are necessary. If you continue to make the same golf swing, you will always get the same result. This is a huge barrier. I can’t tell you how many times I hear a client tell me, “I am thinking too much”. Well guess what? You have to think about it to change it, silly. Your swing will never improve without consciously thinking about a change. I then usually say blame all your bad shots on me for the next month. The reality is, we have to change to get better no matter how difficult it seems in the short run.

I will bring more barriers to life over the next few months. In the meantime,  work hard on getting past the above two barriers and you will improve…period.

John Stahlschmidt is the PGA Head Instructor for the TOUR Academy TPC Scottsdale. To schedule a lesson or to contact John, email