A Beginner’s Guide to Lowering Your Handicap
There is nothing quite like the game of golf: the opportunity to enjoy Mother Nature, breathe fresh air, and create memories that will last a lifetime – all while enjoying time with friends, loved ones, and colleagues.
If you are a beginner that has either recently calculated your handicap index, or you are considering doing so, you should now be focused on the ways in which you can lower it (or if you currently don’t have a handicap, at least improve your scores). To consistently lower your handicap and scores, consider the following recommendations, especially if you are interested in playing the game on a more regular basis.
Purchase clubs that suit you. Don’t worry about having the “latest and greatest” clubs on the market. Buy clubs that you feel comfortable with. Test them out on a driving range and see how they feel. Don’t avoid purchasing clubs just because they’re not name brand or sponsored by your favorite professionals. When you are starting off, you should strive to feel as comfortable on the golf course as possible. And that sense of comfort begins with the clubs you have in your bag.
Avoid bad habits. Enroll in lessons from PGA teaching professionals as soon as possible. Do not wait. If you do, you may develop bad habits that could have been avoided altogether if you had taken lessons in the first place. As a beginning golfer, you have an opportunity to learn the proper ways to grip clubs, how to stand over the ball, and how to swing and follow through. Take advantage of this opportunity. You will be glad you did.
Focus on the task at hand. As you golf, it is easy to reflect on a bad drive or a missed putt. Do not do this. Try your best to focus on the present, concentrating fully on your current shot, rather than your last one. Imagine yourself executing the shot and then provide 100 percent of your time and efforts on that particular shot. Once you have completed it, you can then – and only then – focus on the next task at hand.
Don’t forget about your short game. Did you know that more than half of your shots are within 100 yards of the green? Yet, whenever golfers visit driving ranges, they tend to be more concerned with “grippin’ and rippin’ it,” rather than chipping, pitching, and putting. Spend some free time hitting chips and pitches at your course. Take half an hour a week to visit your driving range and practice putts of various lengths, especially four or five footers. Do whatever it takes to improve your short game.
Practice course management. If you ever watch golf tournaments on television, you’ve probably seen professionals launch 350-yard drives onto the greens of par-four holes. Or maybe you’ve witnessed them hit iron shots over trees to within a foot of the pin. As tempting as it may be, do not attempt to be overly daring when you hit your drives and iron shots on the course, especially if you are a beginner. Instead, lay up when you don’t feel comfortable about shots. Aim to the middle of greens. Hit irons or fairway woods off the tee if you’re unsure about using your driver. By learning how to practice course management skills early on, you will be able to avoid high numbers and, ultimately, lower your handicaps.
Breathe, relax, and enjoy. Remember that golf is a game that should be enjoyed. You are likely not playing for money (or at least for millions), so go out there and have fun. Sure the game can be frustrating at times. But rather than being angry over bad shots, try to gather your thoughts, breathe a couple times, relax, and then focus on the present. You will notice an improvement in your scores – and your handicaps – as a result.