You Will Always Suck At Golf – And Here’s Why

You Will Always Suck At Golf – And Here’s Why

Looking down the range during a lesson, I see a bunch of guys hacking away at the ball.

Some of them are obsessively working on their backswings, hoping to find the secret. Some are sending their divots farther than the ball.

duff

Duff

And there’s that one “residential expert” explaining to the golfer next to him what they need to do to hit it like Tiger Woods – usually right before this “expert” addresses their own ball and proceeds to duff shot after shot.

 

Golf Is Difficult

Most golfers suck at golf. You probably suck.

But let’s be realistic about this – even the top pros suck at the game. Professional golfers

  • Miss 40% of greens
  • Miss 50% of 8 foot putts
  • Miss 40% of fairways
  • Fail to get it up and down 40% of the time

tiger-sucks

Even in his dominant days, Tiger sucked sometimes.

Looking at those stats, we can say that a pro is only successful just over half of the time. Even some of the fairways and greens that they successfully hit were probably not what they would call “great shots”.

 

But Why?

In order to hit a decent golf shot, we have to strike a spot on the ground incredibly close to where the ball rests.

mcilroy-strike

Get the club to touch down in this blue zone and you will be golden

If we return the club just half an inch higher, or miss our spot by more than an inch, the shot is going to be poor.

faults

These relatively small errors can produce a huge outcome error

We also need to return the sweet spot back to the ball with incredible accuracy. While modern clubs are certainly more forgiving, mis-striking the sweet spot by an inch can result in some real stinkers.

strike-toe-versus-middle

The difference between the green and pink strike is small, but the outcome could be wildly different due to gear-effect

We also need to return the clubface back to a position that will allow us to hit the target – just a few degrees off can cost us shots.

clubface-3-deg-open

This picture puts it into perspective – the iron on the left is square, and the iron on the right is 3 degrees open. That is enough error to significantly miss a target – and we have to be precise with this task while swinging the club around our body at speed.

Effectively, the margin for error in a golf shot is tiny.

 

It Gets Even More Complex

We have a whole host of moving body parts

  • Our hips are turning, tilting and pitching, as well as moving side to side, back to front and up and down.
  • Our upper torso is doing the same
  • Our scapula can and does protract and retract through the swing
  • Our arms are constantly changing flex/radius (even for the pros – it can be subtle but it’s always there)
  • Our wrists go through flexion/extension, ulnar and radial deviation, supination and pronation through the entire swing
  • Our legs are changing flex
  • Our lead shoulder is moving through a huge range of motion in both backswing and downswing
  • Our clubhead and hand path are moving on different planes/paths which are also constantly changing in radius throughout the swing

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If one of those things is off by a fraction, it can negatively affect our ability to return the club to a functional position.

 

There’s More

Not only is this task incredibly difficult and with small margins for error, but we have to complete this task at close to maximal effort.

Amateurs can be swinging that tiny clubhead around their body at between 70 and 100mph, with professional golfers exceeding 115mph.

long-drive

Long drive guys like Joe Miller can swing it over 150mph. At these speeds, even hitting a wide grid is hard

 

Must Adapt

Every shot is also different.

We require different movements for a pitch to a putt to a drive – and even our stock shot will need to vary when we are off a different lie.

Different clubs will also require that we input different forces and torques, which requires an incredible act of prediction and control from our muscles/subconscious mind. Our brain is constantly monitoring and adjusting these to acheive our goal.

 

Cognitive Skills

Even if we did manage to hit the ball well, we still have to predict how the wind and lie will affect our shot. Misjudging by a small amount can lead to dire consequences.

 

Good/Bad Luck

There is also a huge luck element in golf.

We could hit the same quality of shots during a round of golf, but if we did the wrong one at the wrong time, it could cost us dearly.

For example, imagine you hit a shot 20 yards short of normal due to a technical error. Do it on a hole where there is no water short, and it may only cost you 0.8 of a shot (you might get it up and down 20% of the time). However, do it on a hole where the water is short and it costs you a penalty (one shot) plus the 0.8 shots – a total of 1.8 shots.

same-miss-diff-result

The same error (15-20 yards short) might cost a player a whole shot more (or worse) if he does it at the wrong time (right).

Even the fact that

  • the golf balls are not perfectly balanced, or
  • you may hit a blade of grass early on in a 10 ft putt which knocks it offline
  • the wind may suddenly gust or drop off the moment you hit your shot
  • you may get a harder or softer bounce on the green than you predicted

are all factors outside of your control which can affect how well you play.

 

Doesn’t That Make You Feel Better?

Well, it should.

It should take pressure off you from trying to be perfect all the time.

With golf being so damn difficult, it’s a wonder at all that we can even hit that little white thing – never mind send it 200 yards plus reasonably towards a target.

When you truly think about how difficult this game is, you start to realize just how brilliant we are as humans.

humans-are-underrated

Yes, the top pros are good at this game, but they make a ton of mistakes too. Besides, these guys are the cream of the crop – the Usain Bolt’s and Michael Jordan’s of the golfing world. Quit comparing yourself to them, unless it’s to see that they can hit some pretty awful shots too.

 

What Do I Do Now?

The first step that you can implement today is to lower your expectations.

Understand the difficulty of the game, even if it may look simple. Let your bad shots slide, emotionally. Sure, look at them objectively and seek the issue so you can rectify it if it becomes a pattern. But don’t self-flagellate because you duffed one.

flagellation

Get over it. Give yourself a break.

 

 

How To Suck Less

We all suck at golf – even the top guys. However, to steal a hashtag from my coaching friend Liam Mucklow, let’s look at a few ways we can #suckless .

 

Get Quality Info

Go and see your local professional. Research their reputation first – a good pro can dramatically speed up your learning of the game, and help you identify and bash through barriers keeping you from progressing.

But, please, stop taking advice from your playing partners. They don’t know what they are talking about. Some of the conversations on the range between golfers make me cringe as they talk about “what’s working for them right now”.

If you get low quality advice, you will end up a low quality player.

 

 

Tap Into Science

Science overwhelmingly supports the use of external cues (outside of our body).

Yet, the golf industry uses overwhelmingly internal cues (move your body like X).

External cues have been shown to help the nervous system coordinate all of the complex moving parts into a workable solution – meaning we help our body work harmoniously together.

When we combine external cues with high quality sources of feedback, we are onto a powerful concoction.

dr-scholls-pic

Foot spray is a great source of feedback which encourages an external focus of attention

I use a lot of external cues and feedback sources in The Strike Plan. I also discussed them in depth in The Practice Manual – The Ultimate Guide for Golfers.

 

Demystify The Game

To most golfers, this game is a complete mystery. I remember when it used to be the same for me too.

But it doesn’t have to be.

By educating yourself on why a ball flies the way it does, you can start the road to improvement and taking control of your own game. Being able to fix yourself is one of the greatest gifts you can have as a golfer – but it all starts with awareness and education as to what is happening to cause the ball flight.

Without this understanding, you are throwing darts in a dark room, hoping to hit a target.

blindfolded-darts

 

Use Better Technique

We know that most golfers are using poor techniques, this is obvious.

While there is more to the game than purely technique (strategy, game management etc.), improving how you move the club is a big help – and staying within safe zones regarding impact parameters is paramount to success.

For example;

zones

Staying within the blue zones will offer you maximum chance of success. Staying out of the red zones is paramount.

When we creep outside of these safe zones consistently (and people often do), we will experience inconsistent results.

 

Get Better

If you are genuinely interested in improving your golf game, take a look at The Strike Plan.

Through my 10,000 hours + of teaching, I have managed to hone in on the concepts, skills and techniques necessary to improve the quality of ball striking.

Golf is difficult, but don’t make it harder than it already is.

Strike plan enter

Also, if you want to learn more about what to train and how to train effectively for improved golf, pick up a copy of The Practice Manual on amazon.

The book has been a best-seller on amazon in 5 different countries, and was featured on The Golf Channel as a “must-have” book. Click below for more information.

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Cliff Notes

  • Golf is tough – deal with it
  • It’s tough because we
    • Have a whole host of moving parts
    • If you return the club with a fraction of an error (a few degrees or quarter of an inch here or there) the shot can be a disaster.
    • Each shot/club is different and requires a different movement to some level
    • We have to understand how the wind and our lie affects the ball/result
    • We have people who don’t know what they are talking about giving us advice, and often we are our own worst enemies and we take that advice
    • We have a huge element of luck which we don’t control
  • We can get better, but we will never perfect our golf – not even the top pros have done that. Luckily, we don’t need “perfect golf” to shoot par or lower.
  • We can #suckless by
    • Simplifying thought processes
    • Using external cues
    • Getting quality information from qualified sources
    • Improving out techniques, skills and strategies

10 Comments

  • Steve Ruis

    The segment “It Gets Even More Complex” is the reason why I set myself the task to design a more appropriate golf swing for recreational golfers, a “have fun playing golf golf swing.” The modern golf swing throws away accuracy for distance. This is done by making the golf swing so effing complicated that only an athletic contortionist can perform it.

    I got a lesson in golf from a guy in his eighties long ago, a guy who barely hit the ball far enough to matter. So, as a young bomber, my ball flew past his, still rising … and … into the rough. He stayed in the “fair way” all nine holes. I had, well, let’s say I had adventures. He played bogie golf (a reasonable goal) and I, well, I did not.

    Golf pros now use a swing not far removed from the long drive champions. I do not think all of the elements of that swing contribute to having fun on the golf course and can be eliminated. A simpler swing will produce less distance, but way more accuracy.

  • cc

    Haha #WECANSUCKLESS – your new blog ?

  • andrew picken

    As usual, brilliant article.Thoroughly recommend both the Practice Manual and The Strike Plan

  • John

    Well Done by sharing this. It’s gonna help newbies a lot’s of. When I started playing golf there were no quality blog article and most of i got stuck with so many tiny question and a so simple technique.

  • Michael

    That was a great read. I have by now kind of accepted that it’s consistently inconsistent. I’m a decent player but some days I just suck so bad. Anyway lately I try to care about that less and just enjoy the game and outdoors.

    • admin

      Enjoyment is the reason we play. Getting better is fun, but enjoyment is relative. A pro can hit a 180 yard 7 iron 30 feet offline and be disappointed. A beginner can hit one out of the toe that flies 40 yards and be jumping for joy.

  • Ballata n persimmon

    “Smashit as far as you can and screw the rough, because a wedge out of the rough will still stop faster then a 6i out of the fairway! As far as I’m concerned the fairway is over rated”! Know who said that in an interview at the PGA? Brooks Koepka.

    Is this really where we want the game? It is shameful at best. Remember people…the money the pros make comes from your pocket after buying a new $400 driver that will do “0” to help your game. WE SAY WHAT IS GOOD IN THE GAME…..Pet rock, Rubics cube, Disco, all seemed like a good idea at one time too!

    Great golf is not 325yds and a wedge with a giant linebacker who has a mediocre short game. Grow the rough, shrink the fairways and EVERYONE will have a chance not just Joe 6’2″ longball.

  • Markus

    One more thing to add to the challenge for amateurs is that after going through the process you describe to make good shot you may end up where you need to make a drop from cart path, sprinkler, man made obstruction…etc. but if you haven’t memorized a 200 page rule book you might make a mistake dropping your ball and a weenie standing behind you will report it incurring you a penalty.

  • Markus

    Which is it that actually sucks more?

    The golfer trying to face the endless challenges of the game of golf… Or.. the endless rules of golf which no normal person could ever remember and even Professional Golfers who play golf for a Living, have officials holding their hands and showing them what to do..!!! Amateurs are on their own and need a different set of rules that make SENSE. and speed up play. For example..

    No. 1 . If any violation has NO CONSEQUENCE. Then NO PENALTY. Like oops I touched the ball in a practice stroke . Or oh look the ball moved when I grounded the club. So what? You still have to hit the shot. This idea that every time a ball is touched somehow will improve a players score so he must be penalized is beyond stupid.

    No. 2 . Free drop from cart path etc? Place the ball. Simple . Fast and you still have to make the shot. Again the idea that you must risk dropping into terrible lie or GETTING A PENALTY… should just go away into the wind like the fart of the old timer who wrote these rules. So in the future a free drop will have a simple rule for amateurs.

    No. 3 . Penalty drops. Same thing. You hit in the hazard ? Ok 1 stroke out.. place the ball.

    No.4 . Out of bounds. Re tee. Distance only. Your second drive you lie 2 not 3.

    Make these changes , golf old farts. It would make playing the game more doable.

  • Varun Sharma

    I’m new to golf. This is very helpful.Thanks for sharing.

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