Why you are not getting better at golf – the instant gratification cycle

Why you are not getting better at golf – the instant gratification cycle

Are you the golfer who is always finding something which helps you hit the ball better – Yet, at the end of the year, you have the same handicap? Read on.

Most golfers are in the constant chase for performance. As a result, they flit in and out of many different swing thoughts/tips/advice from buddies in the hopes that they will find the secret key to better golf. Inevitably, they find something which works for them, in the same way that by

  • Putting a tee behind you right ear, or
  • Putting it behind you left ear,
  • Putting it in your side pocket,
  • Putting it in your back pocket,

might correlate with a good shot. But correlation does not equal causation. You may just be fiddling around with things which are not actually contributing to making you a better golfer. Or, even worse, things which might be creating short term improvements at the expense of long term damage – like “keeping your head down”.
I call this the instant gratification cycle, and it looks like this.


instant gratificatio

It looks a lot like a dog chasing its tail


Before We Read On

If you haven’t read my Ebook, “Golf Hacks” – a quick and easy guide to fixing shanks, toes, fats, thins, slices, hooks, as well as practicing better and improving on-course strategy – I’m giving it away FREE.

Just pop in your email below, and continue to read this blog. The book will be sent to your email.


This game is difficult

We know this, but sometimes we forget just HOW difficult it is. People don’t realize that even the top pros

  • miss 40% of fairways,
  • miss 40% of greens and
  • miss 60% of 10ft putts.

Generally, form is noisy. What do I mean? If you imagine looking at the quality of shots over the course of a range session or round of golf, or week, you would likely see something like this

General formIt’s quite noisy – just a bunch of ups and downs.



Pros aren’t consistent

The fallacy is that pro’s are much more consistent and there is less noise; this is bullshit. If you look at the same form of a pro golfer, you will see the same level of inconsistency. How else do you think

  • Mcilroy can shoot a 61 one week and an 78 and 80 the next?
  • Or how Jordan spieth can have a low round of 61 and a high round which is 14 shots higher in the same year
  • Mickelson this year followed a 68 with a 78 at the Memorial
  • Bubba Watson has had a 77 and followed it with a 62 the next round
  • Even  Jim ‘Mr Consistency’ Furyk had an 11 shot swing from one round to the next (Pebble Beach)  

While you are busy worrying that you just followed a 40point week with a 32 point week (8 shot swing) – some of the best players in the world just did a 19 shot swing. Go figure

It is fully acceptable to see a 10 shot swing from one day to the next. During the course of a year, a 16 shot swing (8 shots either side of your average score) is also not uncommon – even for top pros. The more you learn to accept this, the less often it will happen.


So Why are the Pro’s Better?

However, they are seeing those same peaks and troughs at a different level. They are no more ‘consistent’, but they are having noisy form at a much higher level than you.

Pro versus AmThe pro (Pink line) is no more consistent than the amateur (blue line). They are just bouncing around at a different level. It is not uncommon for a pro to shoot a 65 and follow it up with a 75.


So, how do we bridge the gap?

If you were in a stock market situation and buying and selling like crazy every time the stock rose or fell, it is likely that you would walk off the trade floor at a loss.
However, if you were to invest your stock (practice time/thought processes) in things which you KNEW would ultimately grow in the long term (improve your performance), you may see something more like this –

Look closely and you can still see the noise (day to day/shot to shot fluctuations), but the line now shows a clear trend towards overall improvement.



What stock should I choose to invest in?

Do yourself a favour – stop listening to your 15 handicap friends, or searching for the secret yourself. Go and see your pro and listen to what they have to say. They know what you need and what will actually improve you long term.
It’s not that good quality stock (advice) doesn’t give short term improvements, but that you have to see the bigger picture. Many things I give my pupils achieve immediate results – but I don’t see that as vital. I know that with the right determination at mastering what I tell you, you WILL still see the inevitable ‘noise’, but you will be on the road to being noisy at a higher level.



Don’t get distracted on your journey

It is easy to get distracted on your journey to ‘bridging the gap’. Every time you experience an inevitable trough in form, your mind will want you to seek answers and enter the instant gratification cycle again. It’s tempting for sure.
And there are certainly times where that may be necessary. In my book The Practice Manual, I discuss when to periodize phases of maximum growth with maximum performance in order to get the best of both worlds.
But if you are always going on the performance chase every time you enter a trough, you will likely spin your wheels year after year.

Player A experiences trough in form and searches for a short term answer to their poor performance – entering the instant gratification cycle and finding something arbitrary which ‘works’ now.
Player B sticks to the plan in spite of troughs. They continue to work on worthwhile things prescribed by their professional. One year later, they are still bounding around in form – but at a higher level than player A.
Are you player A – chasing performance constantly?
Or are you player B, dogged determination to master simple things?



For me, the longest-term improvements can be seen via increasing a player’s awareness of what is happening at impact, as well as their skill in being able to manipulate/change those impact variables to produce the desired ball flight. To me, this is even more of a long term fix than improving the technical motion of your swing.

If you want to learn more about improving strike concepts, as well as a whole host of drills and techiques to improve your quality of strike, click the image below to find out more about The Strike Plan.

Strike plan enter

Cliff notes

  • No one is really consistent at this game. Better players are just being inconsistent at a higher level.
  • You may be shooting yourself in the foot by constantly chasing performance. It may be the thing stopping you bridging the gap between where you are now, and where you ultimately want to be.
  • See the bigger picture. Rather than running around ‘buying and selling’ in an attempt to find something which works right now, why not work on things which will definitely improve you. Ignore the noise, stay patient, and try to ingrain things which will get you to the next level.
  • Get quality information from your professional teacher. They know what you need to do to ‘bridge the gap’. Your 15 handicap playing partners might think they know what they are talking about, but there is a reason they are 15 handicappers.

If you want to learn more about how to practice and learn for the bigger picture (rather than constantly seeking instant advice which never holds up long-term), learn more about my book “The Practice Manual” by clicking the image below.

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