8 Reasons You Don't Get Better At Golf

In this video, Neil Tappin is joined by PGA pro Alex Elliott to discuss eight reasons why you don't get better at golf

7 Reasons You Don't Get Better At Golf
(Image credit: Future)

Often golfers practise in a way that actually does more harm than good. In the video and article below, Neil Tappin and PGA professional Alex Elliott discuss those points, dispelling myths and offering some simple pointers for how to avoid falling into these traps...

1. Practising on the course

Golfers taking notes at Essendon Golf Club

Take notes on the course and track your performance

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

On the course practice is crucial but it's something many people get wrong. Many golfers treat everything like a competition, whereas if you are playing with friends or playing by yourself then it is time to hone your skills.

A tip that Alex gives is to open up the note app on your phone and write down the four shots you want to hit. Then put a tick if you have a realistic chance of hitting the shot, and another tick if you pull that shot off. This will give real-time feedback for what shots work well, and what doesn't.

Why not use this to develop a shot you can rely on under pressure? It's one of the many things tour players do that you don't.

2. Closed practise

A golfer practising at a driving range

Don't just stand at the range and hit the same shot over and over again

(Image credit: Kevin Murray)

Many people when going to the range will hit the same club at the same target time after time. While repetition can be good, it should also be blended in with random practice. Instead of hitting an endless stream of drivers, why not spend some time at the short-game area working on how to spin the golf ball.

Alex likes to do five-ball sets. The first three are in a closed environment, drilling a swing to a target. Then for the final two he likes to change target, change task and set himself an objective like one he might face on the course - i.e. shaping a shot to a tight flag.

3. Not knowing your game

A golfer hitting a chip shot at Essendon Golf Club

If you don't know your strengths and weaknesses, you might end up wasting practice time

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

Misdiagnosing what you are good and bad at on the course is a common trap people fall into, which results in players working on the wrong things. Taking a little bit of time to look at your game in detail, and being honest with yourself, will help you develop a more efficient method of practising - like this 60-minutes short-game practice routine.

4. Boring practise

Tiger Woods practising during the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne

Make your practise exciting by trying something like the nine-shot drill that was made famous by Tiger Woods

(Image credit: Getty Images)

You need to find a way of making practice exciting so it becomes something you've got an incentive to invest time into. Most amateurs practice monotonously, which is not conducive to improvement.

Something Alex advocates is the nine-shot drill - one of the most popular drills on tour. It involves hitting a draw, fade and a straight shot hit with low, medium and high trajectories. Alternatively, for the mid to high handicapper, end a range session by picturing yourself playing holes at your club, preferably a par-4 and a par-5 so you have a variety of shots to play.

Visualising the shots you want to play and attempting to hit them on the range could really help your game.

5. Goal setting

A golfer addressing a fairway wood at West Hill Golf Club

Set mini goals, like improving your fairway wood address position

(Image credit: Kevin Murray)

Many players seek to make big leaps in their games which may not be realistic or achievable in the short term. For higher handicappers, it might even be worth considering why par doesn't matter and how it could be ruining your game.

A better way to create goals is to make them bite-size. The best players often speak of improving one aspect of their games in order to improve the whole. So if you set yourself a small target like improving your fairway wood address position, for example, you will give yourself a better chance of achieving the bigger goal of getting a lower handicap.

6. Practice games

PGA pro Dan Grieve hitting a chip shot at Woburn Golf Club

Playing a game while practising will help you get better quicker 

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

Playing games during practice is something a lot of people don't do, but it's a great way to add an element of competition and pressure. A good short-game one is the up-and-down challenge in which every 'hole' you play, the par is 2 - and you can apply this to pitching and chipping.

One of the best things to do is, during a practice round, put yourself in the typical scenarios you find yourself in and test yourself by playing the game above. Once you've set a benchmark, you can set about trying to beat it.

7. Practising what you're bad at

A golfer hitting a shot out of a bunker at Gleneagles

It's vital to work on the parts of the game you struggle with if you want to improve

(Image credit: Kenny Smith)

We all have parts of our games that we do not enjoy working on but doing so is important if we want to improve. For example, at the range we stand and hit our drivers and irons over and over, but rarely do we go and work on improving our ability to get up-and-down from the bunker.

Alex's two tips for working on bunker play relate to the set-up and the feeling through the shot. At address, feel like the tailbone is a lot lower because this will lower the club and the hands and create a shallower club arc to the ball.

The second tip is to imagine a smiley face on your club and when you are playing the shot try and get it facing back at you. If it is not bunker play you need to work on, find other parts of your game that need attention.

8. Setting expectations too high

A golfer throwing a club in anger at Essendon Golf Club

Putting too much pressure on yourself is only going to make you play worse

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

Golf is supposed to be fun but far too many of us go out on the course and expect to play like Rory McIlroy. The thing is, if you set your expectations too high, you're just putting extra pressure on yourself to perform, which often has the opposite impact. 

Instead of worrying about your score from the outset, it's far better to focus on one shot at a time and learn to accept the consequences, good or bad. A tip on how to do that would be to really focus on the shot you want to hit and then work on fully committing to it. If you do that then you've done all you can to give yourself the best chance of a positive outcome.

Remember, even the best players in the world mess up sometimes, so don't expect to go out and play perfect golf from start to finish and learn to take the good with the bad.  

Sam Tremlett
Senior Staff Writer

A golfer for most of his life, Sam is a Senior Staff Writer for Golf Monthly. 

Working with golf gear and equipment over the last six years, Sam has quickly built outstanding knowledge and expertise on golf products ranging from drivers, to balls, to shoes. 

He combines this knowledge with a passion for helping golfers get the best gear for them, and as such Sam manages a team of writers that look to deliver the most accurate and informative reviews and buying advice. This is so the reader can find exactly what they are looking for.

Sam now spends most of his time testing and looking after golf gear content for the website, whilst he is also responsible for all content related to golf apparel. 

He also oversees all Tour player content as well so if you need to know what clubs Tiger or Rory has in play, Sam is the person to ask. 

Unfortunately, Sam is not a member of any club at the moment but regularly gets out on the golf course to keep up the facade of having a handicap of five. 

Sam's What's In The Bag: 

Driver: Titleist TS3 (9 degrees) 

Fairway Wood: Callaway Paradym (15 degrees), Nike Covert Tour 2.0 (19 degrees) 

Irons (4-PW): Titleist AP2 

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 54˚, 58˚ 

Putter: Scotty Cameron Phantom X 5.5 

Ball: Srixon Z-Star Diamond

Shoes: G/FORE Gallivanter/Nike Air Zoom Infinity NEXT%/Cuater The Ringer/adidas Tour 360 22