Want to Play Better Golf in 2012?

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

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It is hard to believe that 2012 is right around the corner. Did your handicap go down this year? I hope the answer is yes. The reality remains that most golfers, according to the USGA, are not getting better. In fact the average handicap index in America does decrease but less than 1 stroke. This is over the course of your lifetime once you have peaked and are playing your best golf.  Why is this? I feel there are certain barriers we have to overcome in order to sustain real and lasting improvement. If you can incorporate the tips provided below, I truly feel you will play your best golf in 2012.

Make Time:  Time is the biggest barrier for most golfers. If you do want to improve, it is imperative to make time. This does not mean you have to schedule multiple hours a week dedicated to play and practice. However, if you can increase your practice time by 1 hour a week, that should make a huge difference.

Practice with a Purpose:  So, if you are going to make precious time to improve, I want you to create an objective each time you head to the practice facility. This could be as simple as paying attention to your grip with each swing as you go through a bucket of balls. Or, it could mean setting down clubs to work on aim.  Keep these objectives simple and then quantify them after each practice session.

Work on your Short Game:  Statistically 65% of your score occurs from 40 yards and in. This is generally the least practiced area for most golfers. Make time to work on your short game. It will help!!!

Stretch Every Day:  This is a big one. Most of my clients make comments about their flexibility. Stretch and become more limber. I don’t want a lack of flexibility to ever be a barrier for improvement or make you more susceptible to injury.

Take Lessons:  Some golfers have had a lesson that really messed them up. This is an unfortunate aspect of my business. The reality is golf is difficult. It is important to find a quality instructor to coach you.

Work on What Needs Attention:  Most of us are challenged with working on our weak areas. If you are hitting the ball well and putting poorly, please don’t smack a bucket of balls the next time you practice. Instead, just take your putter to the course and work on putting. Makes sense, but I don’t see this happening on a consistent basis.

Keep your Stats: 
There are a variety of great online stat tracking programs. After each round, keep your stats. This will help you with ‘Work on What Needs Attention’ and allow you to work on the correct areas of your game.

Avoid Fishing:
  What I mean is simple. We have all had those rounds of golf where we have 20 different swing thoughts. Truth is, most of the time none of them work. Stay focused on the process of your pre shot routine while playing and save the swing thoughts for the range.

Improving is a Process:  Adopt a long-term approach to improving your game. For instance, make a goal of cutting 3 strokes off your score from now until the end of 2012, and stay patient. Try to avoid short-term goals as this will only lead to frustration.

Let’s be realistic, golf is hard. If it was easy, everyone would be great at it. The above concepts will help you…I promise. Stay on track and you will be better in 2012.

John Stahlschmidt is a member of the PGA of America and is the Head Instructor for the TOUR Academy at TPC Scottsdale. John is also one of the “25 Best Teachers in America” according to Golf Tips magazine. For comments or questions, please email John at johnst@touracademy.com.