10 Things All Great Golfers Don’t Do

We run through some of the things golfers can learn by looking at what pros don't do on and off the course

Rory McIlroy hits a tee shot as Scottie Scheffler watches on
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We focus so much on things great golfers do, but what about what they don't do?

Pros are only human, they do make mistakes - just fewer of them. Here are 10 things all great golfers don't do.

Hopefully it might get you thinking...

1. Arrive at the course with minutes to spare

This has been known to happen - Rory McIlroy knows all about running late for a tee time (2012 Ryder Cup Sunday). However, for club golfers, it's more the norm. So often the result is a loose first tee shot - which tends to set the tone for the round.

For many of us, arriving at the club two hours before a tee time just isn't feasible. That said, if you can allow yourself just 20 minutes to warm-up properly, you'll be all the better for it.

2. Follow one mistake with another

Well, not as often as club golfers anyway. It helps when your powers of recovery are excellent, of course, but in the amateur world this isn't always the case.

As tempting as it may be to try and make amends instantly for a bad shot, the safe play is just to take your medicine.

3. Lose their cool

Have you ever seen a tour player lose their rag? Probably, so let's put this one another way. In the main, the best players control their emotions. By the time they address their next shot, their focus - normally - has been regained.

Too often, a show of temper will only lead to more misery on the golf course - so put the last shot to the back of your mind and move on.

4. Worry about three-putting

Scottie Scheffler lining up a putt at the 2022 World Wide Technology Championship

Treat every putt on its individual merit and banish the worry of three-putting

(Image credit: Getty Images)

There's no fear when the first putt is struck - it's going to scare the hole. The handicap golfers' worry around the return putt often means they don't properly release the club head, and they come up short.

Pros do this with a strong mind but also lots of practice. You'll always spot them working on putting drills and their putting technique in general to ensure better results.

5. Give up

Great players never know when they're beaten. To be able to grind out a score is a great strength, even when you're not at your best. Tiger Woods was undoutedly the best at this over the years - he always got the most out of every round.

To everyone who's carded seven points going out and 20-odd coming home, pat yourself on the back. It's as much about pride as anything else.

6. Blame their tools

This isn't to say the pros don't visit the tour truck and/or get on the Trackman to tweak things and make subtle changes. However, we rarely hear a tour player come off the course and blame a poor round on faulty gear.

'That new putter I was using is useless'. Never heard that one. 'That slice was my driver's fault'. Nor that one. So, get your custom fitted sorted and leave your excuses in the car park.

7. Underclub 

Jin Young Ko plays an iron shot

The world's best rarely underclub

(Image credit: Getty Images)

8. Take unnecessary risks 

Although the world's best golfers might push the boat out every now and then, pros know where they can and can't miss. There are times to attack the flag, and times to find the safe part of the green, for example.

What this does is keep the large numbers off the scorecard. Give that a go in your next medal and see how many shots you save.

This is to say, they don't make a habit of coming up short. Ask the tour pros to name some of the most common mistakes they see from amateur golfers in a pro-am, and not taking enough club will get more than a few mentions.

The reason, it seems, is that amateurs tend to believe they hit the ball further than they actually do. Take an extra club - that's what we're always told.

9. Always hit the driver

Nelly Korda plays a tee shot

Play for position off the tee, even if that means taking less than driver

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Players like Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler have a lot to answer for - they strike the driver so well it rubs off on us at home.

However, there's no shame in putting the big stick back in the bag when it's not behaving - don't believe the pros don't.

10. Hit balls randomly 

Not one... well, maybe the odd one. Ninety-nine per cent of the time, however, pros have a plan when it comes to practice - and they stick to it. To watch a pro on the range is a bit like watching a top athlete go through their warm-up routine prior to a race.

So, the next time you pop down the range and stick a token in the ball dispenser, ask yourself whether you have a plan before you hit that first ball.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?