How To Lower Your Golf Handicap
The purpose of golf handicap is to level the playing field by lowering those widely over-par rounds to more acceptable numbers, but it's something that nearly every golfer wants to reduce.
Lowering your handicap means improving your game to the point that you don't need a helping hand when it comes time to total those figures. Here are ten tips you can focus on to send your handicap down and your golfing ability shooting upwards.
1. Get Fitted for the Right Clubs
Before you even think about improving your game, ensuring you're using the right equipment is vital. Playing with clubs that are either too short or long for you can seriously impact your game. Getting a golf fitting, where your swing is carefully analyzed and matched with the right-sized clubs, can make a huge difference.
There isn't a precise formula, but professional fitters correlate various measurements and then have you practice with certain clubs to fine-tune the process. One of the more accurate measurement forms is thewrist-to-floor ratio that correlates arm length to golf club length.
2. Consistent Drives With Good Distance
Every great hole begins with a good tee-off. However, this is also where your round can start wobbling out of control. If you really want to lower your handicap, it needs to start from here.
Good drives don't appear overnight; you'll need plenty of practice on the driving range to get it right. Those with a high handicap tend to focus on power rather than precision and form. It's important to have a good posture and set up a routine, while ball position (slightly forward of stance) and shoulder tilt (usually slightly back and level) are the fundamentals to get right if you want that ball to sail straight.
3. Hit the Driving Range
Consistently good drives take time, and 18 holes every few weeks probably isn't going to be enough. To improve that drive to the point of lowering your handicap, you need to hit the driving range as often as possible. Golf is all about angles, technique, and rhythm, and the only way to get yours into the groove is to hit as many balls as possible and try to make little tweaks along the way.
Practicing your swing repeatedly adds to muscle memory, which is crucial when you walk out on a course. It's also less expensive than a round of golf, so if you need to get a lot better fast, this is the best place to start.
4. Embrace Disaster
Every golfer experiences that twinge of anxiety as your ball sails into the trees, the dreaded rough - or the even more dreaded sand bar. There's no way to sugarcoat that shot. And yet, how often have you seen professional golfers simply stroll through the sand and then brazenly loft their ball out, leaving it just a few feet from the hole?
The difference here is the mindset, but a mentality like this develops through practice and plenty of hard work. When you think about practicing golf, your mind immediately goes to the fun aspects, not digging through the weeds or hacking your way out of a bunker. If you are serious about lowering your handicap, you need to give time to the unattractive elements of the game so that when disaster strikes, you can stay cool and collected before saving your hole with a superb sand wedge - just like the professionals.
5. Vary Courses & Technical Levels
If you play the same course repeatedly, it's only natural that you will eventually improve, but is that because of your course knowledge or overall ability? To make sure it's the latter, make sure that you're varying where you play while also ensuring you're pushing yourself by picking more technically challenging courses. You'll never improve by making life nice and easy for yourself.
6. Reduce the Number of Hero Shots
When your ball careens off the tee and hurtles into the deep forest, your odds of making par immediately drop, but the difference between a poor hole and a genuinely terrible one depends on your next decision. We've all arrived at our ball, surrounded by thick trees, but with the slightest glimmer of light coming from the green some 200 yards away. "If only I could clear those first trees, bounce it off that big oak on the left, it just might make it," you tell yourself.
These are what we call hero shots, and while they sound brilliant, there is probably less than a 1/100 chance of success. Your option here is to either go for it, but with a high likelihood that you make your situation worse, or hit something more sensible - but far less Hollywood - that will take you back onto the fairway, where you can start again.
High handicaps often come down to too many double-bogeys, which is precisely the kind of situation you want to avoid. While there are certainly times to go all in and really go for it, you need to pick and choose your moments.
7. Play by Yourself
Golf is a wonderfully social game, and it's great to have a group of friends to play with, but if you want to raise your game, you'll probably need to play on your own occasionally. Some will find this an immediate turn-off, but bear with us. Playing by yourself and playing the same hole a few times over is an excellent way to improve.
Solo golf might not be what you dream of doing, but it comes with less external pressure, so you can focus much more on improving your game.
8. Don't Neglect the Short Game
You often see a noticeable sigh of relief when a golfer lands the ball on or near the green. However, how many times do you see a solid hole ultimately come apart due to what happens on the green?
One of the biggest differences between high and low handicappers is their short game. Those with a low handicap usually don't need a third putt, while those with a high often do, and sometimes more. Many golfers neglect their short game or say they're practicing it by simply rolling a few easy putts in, but you must be testing yourself. Do as much putting as driving, and your game will quickly improve.
9. Track Your Stats
If you're serious about improving your game, a more detailed analysis than usual is a great way of doing it. Having a small notebook with you that you can jot down your stats, such as how many fairways you hit, the number of greens in regulation, and the number of putts needed for each hole, can give you a clear insight into the gaps in your game.
To take things up a notch, consider downloading a golf app, such asV1 Sports, to help you analyze your performance.
10. Be Patient
In this day and age of immediate results, this is the tip nobody wants to hear, but it is also one of the most important. Golf can be frustrating when things are going wrong, and if you have a high handicap, it can feel like there is an especially large mountain in front of you.
Your handicap isn't going to plummet dramatically after a few rounds with your friends. You might see some minor changes here and there, but real change only comes from putting all these tips together, adding plenty of hard work and perseverance, and being patient with yourself. If you're dedicated and practice regularly, that handicap will begin to fall - but don't kid yourself about the speed. Be patient and enjoy the process.
Lowering your handicap and raising your game takes time, but part of the beauty of golf is the process. When things start to click, and those shots begin hitting the fairway each time, it's a wonderful feeling - but that's just the start.
Your golf game is what you make of it, and with Stitch Golf, we'll help ensure you look your best while doing it with the right equipment. We offer a range of golf gear and apparel to suit every need and taste, so whatever your handicap and whoever you dream of taking it, we're the golf store to help you get there.