Golf is hard. That is a statement we often hear, and it is indeed true in many respects. However, one of the reasons that this may be the case for many is how they approach the game.
Here are the 15 proven ways how to get better at golf:
- Check Your Posture, Grip, and Alignment Before Every Shot
- Grip: Place Your Hands In The Right Place
- Use The Right Grip Pressure
- Align Towards Your Target’s Left
- Use A Relaxed Posture, Not Athletic Posture
- Use The One Ball Position Method
- Understand 9 Ball Flight Laws
- Breakdown Your Swing Into 10 Ps
- Don’t Roll The Club Open On Your Takeaway
- Swing From Inside To Outside On Your Downswing
- Be Patient In Your Transition From The Top
- Hips -> Shoulder -> Arms -> Club On Your Downswing
- 3:1 Downswing To Backswing Ratio
- Pay Attention To Your Lead Wrist
- Practice From 100 Yards and In
Each of these tips could take you to the next level, but some won’t apply to you or could hurt your game. But in following some or all of these tips, I assure you that you will learn how to become a better golfer, so read through the entire list.
Let’s get at it!
15 Proven Ways to Get Better at Golf
The following tips are some great proven ways to improve your game. These tips run the gamut, from full swing to short game, health and wellness to the mental game, and everywhere in between.
To become a complete golfer and to be able to perform to your own personal highest level, these tips will help.
1. Check Your Posture, Grip, and Alignment Before Every Shot
No matter what level you’re currently playing at, all roads lead back to the core fundamentals. A 30 handicapper, John Rahm, or Nelly Korda, all golfers must look at posture, grip, and alignment when things get off the rails.
Create a quick mental checklist before hitting any shot, focusing on PGA Posture, Grip, and Alignment. That checklist may look a little like this:
- Posture- Am I in a “Ready Posture?” Good balance, straight back, and a good 30-degree primary spine angle?
- Grip- Are the V’s created by the thumb and index finger running parallel to each other and over the trail shoulder?
- Alignment- Are my body lines, feet, knees, hips, and shoulders parallel to the left of my target line? (For righties)
If pilots do a pre-flight check before take off, shouldn’t golfers?
Read more from Golf Span: 6 Best Golf Swing Tips (with Photos)
2. Grip: Place Your Hands In The Right Place
The most important thing to remember about the grip is to have your hands working as a team. One hand can not be in a position where it may want to try and take over. With that in mind, it is vital to keep this classic tip in mind…
The V’s that are created by the thumb and index finger on both hands need to run parallel to each other.
I am not as concerned with your grip being stronger or weaker, so long as that does not play a role in unwanted shots. However, I believe in having unity in the hands and working as a unit.
Again, a recurring theme in this article, the basics are essential for all levels of golfers. Remember this to be true!
3. Use The Right Grip Pressure
Gripping the club too hard creates tension. That tension will go from your hands, up your forearms, into your shoulders, and then you are history at that point. The tension reduces your ability to swing freely.
And speaking of history, one of the best grip pressure tips of all time comes from a historical figure in the game, Sam Sneed.
Sneed was reportedly heard saying, “Hold the club as if you had a little baby bird in your hand.” To keep the bird in your hands, you must grasp it well enough that it doesn’t fly away. At the same time, you don’t want to squeeze too hard and kill it.
4. Align Towards Your Target’s Left
Being off just a bit with your alignment can cause swing path issues in your golf swing. One of the first tips I can remember as a kid came from a book by Gay Brewer called “Gay Brewer Shows You How to Score Better Than You Swing.”
This 1968 publication had excellent illustrations. However, the one that stood out to me the most, as a 7-year-old kid, was his railroad track imagery for proper alignment. I gained the importance of this fundamental, which I still teach today.
The basics are that your body lines, feet, knees, hips, and shoulders must run parallel to your target line’s left (for righties). So those lines represent the left track, and the right track is your target line.
Check this out: How To Practice Golf At Home – 6 Steps To Practicing At Home
5. Use A Relaxed Posture, Not Athletic Posture
Golfers often hear a lot about “getting into a good posture,” but that concept is not fully understood very often.
There really is no model for what good posture looks like. It is a unique fundamental that will vary from person to person based on their size and shape.
The real key is getting into a balanced, comfortable posture that will allow you to move through the ball without restriction.
Recently, as a coach, I learned what good posture is…and it’s not an “Athletic Posture” as we have all learned it. Unfortunately, this “Athletic Posture” idea creates tension for many, especially in the lower back. Tension makes it hard to move.
How can tension allow you to be athletic? Quite frankly, it can’t. The video is an excellent representation of what actual good posture is.
Get more relaxed and upright to start in your setup, so you can GET athletic and rotational as you start to swing.
6. Use The One Ball Position Method
Most golfers would think that common knowledge says that ball position is really about your ability to hit clubs in a high or low trajectory. While this may be true, ball position is much more than that.
Your ball position will determine the low point in your swing. We want that point to be ahead of the ball for all clubs except your driver… that’s a different animal.
Additionally, ball position will also play a role in where your golf ball starts as it flies off the club.
In the video, coach Eric Cogorno beautifully explains the difference between the One Ball and Two Ball methods of getting into your best ball position.
I am a big fan of the One Ball method, as is Eric. This method simplifies what can sometimes be confusing to many golfers. As Eric points out, you play the ball in one spot and then adjust your body accordingly. This makes it very easy to understand.
7. Understand 9 Ball Flight Laws
It is incredible how far our understanding of the golf swing and how it works has come over the past two decades. A big reason for this is technology such as TrackMan and FlightScope.
One area that has changed tremendously is our understanding of ball flight and what creates the shot shapes we hit in golf. The debate between the “Old Ball Flight Laws” and the “New Ball Flight Laws” is no longer one. Thanks to technology, the “New Ball Flight Laws” win the day in understanding how shot shape is created.
To get better at golf, you need to understand how things used to be taught, and still are by many, and what we know now.
New Ball Flight Laws
Thanks to tech like Trackman, we have learned that the exact opposite of the old ball flight laws is true.
The clubface at impact, in relation the target line, determines the start direction of the ball. The swing path, in relation to the clubface, will determine curvature. Clubface + Swing Path = Ball Flight
- Straight- Face is square to target, and square to a straight path
- Straight Slice- Face is square to target, and open to outside to inside path
- Straight Draw- Face is square to target, and closed to inside to outside path
- Push Slice- Face is open to target, and open to a straight path
- Push Straight- Face is open to target, and square to inside to outside path
- Push Draw- Face is open to target, and closed to inside to outside path
- Pull Slice- Face is closed to target, and open to outside to inside path
- Pull Straight- Face is closed to target, and square to outside to inside path
- Pull Draw- Face is closed to target, and closed to straight path
8. Breakdown Your Swing Into 10 Ps
While we are on methods of understanding the golf swing, I want to introduce, or re-introduce for some, the concept of the ten swing positions. The 10 P’s of the swing was made famous by legendary professional golfer turned instructor Mac O’Grady.
Countless coaches and instructors use this systematic way of breaking the swing down…whether they know it or not.
Again, like with the Ball Flight Laws, understanding the 10 Swing Positions will help you become a better golfer. How? It has long been my belief that an educated golfer has the ability to be a great golfer.
Have a look at the 10 Swing Positions below, and watch the accompanying video.
- P1: Address.
- P2: Club Shaft Parallel With Ground On Takeaway.
- P3: Lead Arm Parallel With Ground.
- P4: Top of Backswing.
- P5: Lead Arm Parallel With Ground on Downswing.
- P6: Club Shaft Parallel With Ground on Downswing.
- P7: Impact.
- P8: Club Shaft Parallel With Ground on Follow-Through.
- P9: Trail Arm Parallel With Ground on Follow-Through.
- P10: Finish
More from Golf Span: Golf Tips From GolfSpan.com
9. Don’t Roll The Club Open On Your Takeaway
Now that I have most of the beefier tips for you, the next several will be faster and more furious at you. They will all still be to show you how to become a better golfer. Just a little more rapid-fire.
Be careful of the initial few feet of your backswing. Two things you do not want to do that many golfers do have happen include the following:
- Rolling the club open because of unnecessary lead arm and hand rotation
- Taking the club too far to the inside
In general, you want to avoid these common mistakes at all costs!
The club should go back in one piece, with the arms and shoulders. Additionally, the clubface needs to remain square to the target line.
10. Swing From Inside To Outside On Your Downswing
I will stay on the theme discussed in Tip #9 here, the takeaway, and expand on it a little more. You will see why in a bit.
Many golfers need help with an over-the-top path on the downswing. Those with this common fault actually see it originate in the first few feet of their takeaway.
When a club comes too far to the inside on the backswing, it is common for the body, or perhaps the brain, to try and make adjustments on the downswing. Those adjustments are perceived as a necessary move to help you. But it is actually doing quite the opposite, and what’s commonly known as an over-the-top move happens. This is a downswing path from the outside to the inside.
It is more ideal to swing from the inside to the outside on the downswing.
Work on a better takeaway and backswing if you suffer from a downswing path that is too much from out to in. Try experimenting with exaggerating the takeaway going back more outside your target line. This will help you to drop the club more from the inside on the downswing.
11. Be Patient In Your Transition From The Top
One of the most common faults I see from golfers is impatience with the hands at the start of the downswing. I will cover the proper downswing sequence in our next tip, but for now, I wanted to stick with the idea of a slight pause at the top with your hands.
Many golfers watching the PGA Tour will immediately think of Hideki Matsuyama, who is not quite as pronounced with this anymore.
The idea of the backswing is to build up energy that you can correctly unleash into the ball at impact. When you rush the downswing or try to hit it from the top with your hands, you waste any energy you may have built up.
You want to be patient at the top and remember that the point of the backswing and then the transition into the downswing is to build up energy, store it, keep it, and release it at the right time.
12. Hips -> Shoulder -> Arms -> Club On Your Downswing
To play good golf, it is critical to understand the proper downswing sequence. You can incorporate it into your swing more consistently by clearly understanding this.
The proper sequence of events in the downswing is…Hips Uncoil First; Shoulder next, followed by the arms, then the club head.
You want to start getting weight moving into your lead foot even before your hands reach the top of the backswing. That right there is one of the secret moves of the professionals.
13. 3:1 Downswing To Backswing Ratio
Having a good tempo is vital. But what does that mean exactly? Let’s first define tempo. By definition, tempo is the rate or speed of a motion or activity; pace. So tempo is NOT speed. Without question, speed is part of tempo, but it is not by itself tempo.
Everyone will have a different tempo. So the best way to find your rhythm is to match your golf swing to how you do other things in life. For example, if you walk fast, or talk quickly, then the tempo of your golf swing should match that.
If you are more laid back and a little slower in how you do things, your swing should match that.
The most important thing is to have a consistent tempo or rate for your swing. Your backswing time versus your downswing time should always be near a 3:1 ratio for the full swing. That is, your downswing should be three times as fast as your backswing.
Check out the Golf BPM to quantify and train your swing tempo.
14. Pay Attention To Your Lead Wrist
Paying attention to your lead wrist in the swing is a great and straightforward tip for playing better golf. Your lead wrist could realistically be seen as being your clubface.
If your lead wrist is flat at the top of the swing, your clubface will be square. Likewise, if your lead wrist is flat at impact, your clubface will be square at impact.
You want to avoid a wrist that is in extension, otherwise known as “cupped,” when you are at the top and impact. That means an open clubface.
A great piece of technology to train your wrists in the swing is the HackMotion wrist sensor. It is worth checking out!
15. Practice From 100 Yards and In
One of the most eye-opening stats in golf is this: nearly 60% of all your shots are from 100 yards and in from the target. So, if you work hard on developing your wedge game, pitching and chipping, bunker play, and putting, you will get better at golf…100%!
The best way to work on these aspects of the game is through gamification. This is practicing through games and challenges. The beauty of this concept is that it makes practice fun and measures your progress.
Read on: How to Improve Your Golf Short Game
Here are a few quick bonus tips to help you improve at golf.
- Trouble Shots- As a kid, my friends and I spent hours putting each other’s golf balls in tough spots around the course. We would challenge each other to try to get up and down. This was fun, and we developed a feel for getting out of trouble.
- Bunker Play- A simple classic drill for the bunker is to draw a line in the sand about an inch behind the ball. The idea is to focus on that line and make an impact there while you continue rotating the body to the finish.
- Get a Professional Club Fitting Done- Getting a professional fitting, whether it’s your driver, irons, wedges, or putter, is a fantastic way to see drastic improvements; if you can get a full bag fitting, even better!
- Mental and Emotional Aspects of Golf- Develop a solid pre-shot routine and use the right self-talk. For more, check out my previous article on some great mental tips.
- Improve and Work On Your Health and Wellness- This tip is not just good for your golf but good for you in general. For golf, flexibility work is more important than strength.
- Get Professional Instruction- It is always advisable to seek professional coaching or instruction. An extra set of eyes is always good, especially from a trusted and experienced professional.
How Many Hours Does It Take To Get Good at Golf?
Everyone's perception of what "good" is in golf is different. That will determine how many hours it takes to get good at golf; however, you may define good.
One of the most common theories regarding the time it takes to get good at something is the 10,000-hour rule. With that, it is said that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. However, keep in mind that golf has multiple skills within the game!
Why Is It So Hard To Get Better at Golf?
For amateurs, the main reason is the need for more time to practice and play. However, the game is a job for professional golfers, who work at it 8-10 hours a day, and sometimes more.
PGA Professional Brendon Elliott is the founder of Little Linksters, LLC, and its nonprofit arm, the Little Linksters Association for Junior Golf Development. He is the winner of 25+ prestigious industry honors, including the 2017 PGA National Youth Player Development award. Brendon is a respected coach, businessman, writer, and golf industry expert.