Tips from the Pros

5 Tips to Get Started and Improve Your Golf Game

By Steve Bourbon, Senior Teaching Professional

Whether you are new to golf or want to fine-tune your skills, Senior Teaching Pro Steve Bourbon gives five tips to get your game up to par.

5 Tips to Get Started Golfing

  1. Take regular instruction from an experienced instructor. This should be someone who can communicate well, has been trained to teach, and can also play golf at a high level. Mastering the fundamentals is a lifelong process in this game. Keeping the fundamentals in mind is of utmost importance. If you never let go of the basics, you never have to go back for them! Golf is not a game that makes typical logical sense, nor one that you can figure out on your own because you played other sports well. What makes you good at other sports doesn't necessarily help you in golf. In many instances it can actually hurt you. Supervised, intelligent instruction can help you avoid the pitfalls of learning the game on your own and creating bad habits that can take a lifetime to break.
  2. As with learning all motor skills, you must crawl before you walk or run.  For golf, that process means learning to putt first, and then learning to chip and pitch, which will help new golfers transition to a full swing more smoothly, and also help them avoid bad habits. You only really need 3 clubs to start: a putter, a wedge, and a 7 or 8 iron. 
  3. Start a consistent stretching routine. This will be helpful when learning the game, and it certainly won't hurt any other areas of your life either. Remember, in regard to flexibility: what you don't use, you lose.
  4. When you are ready to venture out onto the course, try to begin on a Par 3.  The short game (100 yards and in) makes up 60% of the game, and it’s where most people lose or gain the majority of their strokes when trying to keep or improve their score.
  5. Try to play with better players than you. Play with someone who can teach you a little bit about the etiquette and traditions of golf. It helps to make you feel like a part of the game, and the sense of belonging to the golf community is important as a beginner.

5 Tips to Improve Your Game

  1. Develop a proper warm-up routine.  Consistently arrive an hour before you tee off.  Use this time to stretch and practice a little of each aspect of the game you expect to encounter on the course. Focus on the areas of your game you typically struggle with. 
  2. Always strive to focus more on accuracy rather than distance.  Distance will come as the proficiency in proper technique improves. Accuracy is the key to improving your score and enjoying the game. Taking an extra club and swinging at about 80% is usually one of the easiest ways to do this, rather than trying to time swings at top speed all the time. Remember: If you have to swing that hard to get the ball to the target, you probably have the wrong club.
  3. Develop consistent pre-shot routines in all areas of your game. This will help keep you from overthinking, and get you into a state of playing using rhythm, feel, and instinct over relying solely on intellect. Over time, the best players develop routines which make the technique of their swing more a conditioned response than a conscious effort.
  4. Be aware of what aspects of your game need improvement and try to take consistent instruction to improve upon them.  You can do this by keeping track of the greens you hit in regulation, your fairways hit, and your putts per round. Compiling this data can help you start developing a plan to improve your game in the offseason.
  5. As with most physical endeavors, the stronger and more flexible you are, the better your performance will be.  Not that you have to train like an Olympic athlete, but knowing how to maintain the flexibility and strength in your "golf specific" muscles will greatly enhance your enjoyment of (and improvement in) the game.