7 Mistakes Great Golfers Don’t Make!

Simple errors in your strategy, planning or mental game can cost you dearly on the course

Rory McIlroy teeing off during the second round of the 2022 Open Championship
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Golf is an infuriating game at times, made all the more difficult when we inevitably make careless errors on the course. In this article, PGA professional Alex Elliott identifies 7 mistakes great golfers don't make and shares some essential advice to give your the best chance of shooting lower scores...

1. Dwelling on the negatives

Almost every shot you face on the course is riddled with danger. However, before you hit the ball you have to have a positive picture in your mind, no matter how dangerous the shot you’re facing is. Amateurs can sometimes become caught up in thinking about all the negatives that they forget to go through their usual pre-shot routine that creates a positive mindset.

2. Hitting shots you're uncomfortable with

You might think that the best players in the world are able to hit draws and fades at will but this often isn't the case. Many great players tend to have a shot shape they are most comfortable with that they rely on under pressure. 

Take Colin Montgomerie for example. One of Europe’s greatest ever players was predominantly a fader. He knew exactly how the ball would fly and the confidence this provided was clearly a huge part of his success. If you are uncomfortable with a certain shot, revert to the shot shape you feel most confident producing. This is one of the things tour players do that you don't.

3. Turning bogey into double

A golfer preparing to hit a shot over a bunker

Often it's better to take your medicine rather than attempt the hero shot

(Image credit: Future)

How often do you compound one error with another? For example, whenever you short-side yourself with an approach, you have a tricky decision to make. Trying to hit a flop shot like the pros and save par brings double bogey very much into play. Being able to assess the risks and rewards and making smarter choices in any given scenario is the best way to shoot the lowest scores possible.

4. Rushing under pressure

When you are under pressure, everything has a tendency to speed up. However, it is important that you take the time to think of three key things before hitting any full shot: the distance, the wind and the change in elevation. Imagine you have a caddie on your shoulder and go through the different elements of the shot with him. Consider the three key factors and you’ll create a much more positive mindset before you play.

5. Playing with dirty clubs

Dirty grooves on a wedge

It's vital to clean clubs between shots, especially wedges

(Image credit: Future)

It’s true - great players have caddies and one of their responsibilities is keeping the clubs clean. You might not have a caddie but there is no excuse for hitting any shot (but wedge shots in particular) with dirt in the grooves. This will affect both the ball flight and the amount of spin you create. Clean your clubfaces to ensure you have as much control as possible. 

6. Rushing short putts

These are some of the most nervous moments during the round but rushing short putts is likely to lead to silly mistakes. Always take a moment to mark your ball, run through your usual routine and you’ll hole more short putts.

7. Using different golf balls

Most golfers will have a favourite golf ball. However, their second choice is often whatever is lying in the bottom of the golf bag. If you regularly use different types of ball you’ll find it hard to develop a consistent feel. This makes a big impact around the greens. So find a ball you like and then try to use that for as much of the golf you play as possible. This consistency will really help your scoring potential.

Alex Elliott
Top 50 Coach

Location: Mottram Hall 

Alex spent a great deal of time learning the game from fellow northwest golfer, Andrew Murray, who was a European Tour regular from 1979 to 1995. He spent three years on the European Tour caddying for Andrew’s son, Tom, before taking his PGA qualifications. His passion for the game and personality in front of the camera has helped him to create a thriving social media platform on Instagram and YouTube, where he offers a whole host of tips and advice to help viewers shoot lower scores.

Most significant influences on your teaching:

Mike Bender's book, 'Build The Swing Of A Lifetime', which I read during my PGA qualifications. He uses so many different tools to help students deliver the club better when hitting the golf ball. Andrew Murray, too. He helped form the way I interact with golfers and simplified what can be a complex game for a club golfer.

Advice for practice: 

I like to get students to work in sets of five golf balls – three drills shots to two course shots. The drill shots have no consequence, but with the two course shots, I ask the student to create a green or fairway and go through a full routine.

Greatest success story:

One of my students hadn’t played golf for ten years - he'd lost his love for the game. After watching my online Instagram and YouTube content, he came for several golf lessons and has now joined a local golf club. Knowing I've helped get someone back into golf... you can't beat that.