People who have been playing golf for years can tell you all sorts of things about how to improve your game. But they are often wrong. After all, they have been playing their whole lives and they have twenty-five years’ experience behind them.
Like most things, golf is more complicated than it looks, and learning the right way to improve your game takes time. Fortunately, there is someone who knows what he’s doing: Sam Hershiser. In the course of his life he has won more money at golf than anyone else alive; he has played in front of forty-million people; he has met the Queen and many other famous people; his son Joe is a teenage phenom on the PGA tour; and he writes a monthly magazine column for Men’s Journal. He also plays golf with me twice a week at a place called The Links in Greenwich, Connecticut.
I was sitting in the clubhouse and I saw that the guy standing by my locker was wearing a gold chain. I asked him what it was, and he said it was his club pro.
The next day, the same guy came over to my locker and said, “I think you need some help with your game.” So we got together for a lesson. He showed me how to hit the ball farther and straighter. And two days later, he brought me a golf bag.
Then he came to me with another problem: “I want to start teaching other people how to play,” he said, “but I don’t know how.” So I suggested that maybe he should learn how.
We ended up playing nine holes together every day for three months. During that time I became his friend, his apprentice, and his student. We agreed on a way of doing things that seemed right to both of us. We agreed on who would do what by when, left 50/50 on our tips and shared the cost of lessons. We made a contract listing what each of us would do if we didn’t like something the other person did or wanted to change something they were doing in teaching; we could cancel any agreement at any time or not do it at all
We all know we shouldn’t hit the ball off the tee and then start to walk. It’s a bad idea, because you can’t see the ball and you don’t know where it is. But we also know that this advice is wrong. We should probably have learned it early in our golfing careers, when we were young and stupid. More importantly, if we did learn it before we started playing golf, then by now we would have forgotten it.
The trouble is that there are lots of golfers who took our advice and didn’t improve their game. We tell them to take the next hole off the tee, but they hit a good shot on the second hole and then feel obliged to stick with their original strategy. Their game does not improve, and as a result they don’t enjoy themselves much: they’re always worrying about getting a crappy score on this hole or that one.
The solution is easy: just forget about taking the next hole off the tee. If you hit really good shots on other holes but can’t manage to do better on those that follow, shoot for the best score you can get on each hole. Then you will be more relaxed at the end of your round, because you will know what you have achieved and will not be
The 12 lessons in this book are based on my observations as a professional golfer with more than 20 years of experience. I will help you hit the ball farther, get lower scores, and improve your overall game. You can use this book to play better golf, but you don’t have to play golf to benefit from these lessons.
I’m an instructional designer at PGA Tour Golf, helping golfers achieve their goals through technological solutions. I’m also a consultant and instructor for the PGA of America and Golf Digest magazine.
There is no doubt that the more you know about golf, the more your score will go up. But there is a deeper question: how do you learn to play? Anybody can learn to play well by listening to experts who have just mastered it. Or you can learn the game by trying to get better at it yourself.
Either way, you need to be good at something else first. You need to know what a good shot looks like; that’s the only way you can tell whether yours is any good at all. And you need to be able to recognize when a bad one has occurred; that’s the only way you’ll know when your own shot is better than your opponent’s.
Balls which travel farther have more chance to come to rest in the fairway. The more balls you hit, the better your chances of getting a good score.
A well-rounded player should be able to take on any kind of shot – from full-swing chipping and pitching to lob shots, half-volleys and chips in the bunker. To do this, you need to work out each part of your game separately.
The people who think they have the best golf swing are usually wrong. They’re wrong because they don’t know how to play golf. Any golfer can demonstrate a certain degree of skill, and there is no way to improve that skill until you actually learn how to play golf.