5 simple ways to improve your golf handicap

Updated July 19, 2017

The golfer has not played a round that does not want a lower handicap. While “practice and more practice” seems the obvious path to a lower score, the key is practising “smarter”. From the first minute at the driving range to the last short putt on the practice green, golfers know it’s all in the mental approach, developing the right habits and attitude and spending most of the practice time on the short game. Most of all, it's standing on the tee and knowing where the ball is going to go, and why.

Putting practice.

Practise long putting. Getting closer to the hole will keep the score down every round and the better the long putting, the fewer three putts. Eliminate three putts and the handicap will come down. A whole putting session spent on long putts will show benefits in your next round. Also, turn the short putting practice sessions into a competition with yourself. Putt from three feet and make five in a row before moving to four feet out, likewise from four feet, before moving to five feet out. Top golfers consistently make a big proportion of their short putts.

Lay up with no-risk shots

Play your next round intending to lay up on holes you have difficulty with. For example, you could be trying to avoid a lake in front of the green. Use a shorter club than usual and the strokes will come off naturally. By playing the low-risk shot you will avoid the bunkers. Practise getting your wedge shots closer – and you can do this from various distances on the practice tee. Practise the bump and run from off the green; remember the greater distance from the hole, the more the backswing.

Golf grip

Serious golfers get the grip right; and they practise whenever they can, even lounging in front of the television, until holding the club correctly becomes second nature. Golf writer Les Miller says hooks and slices may come from using the wrong hand to control club face rotation at the point of impact. Changes in grip can address these faults.

Examine swing

Examine your swing with the aid of a mirror for instant feedback, or a video for frame-by-frame analysis. While a mirror gives back the (often shocking ) answers about what is wrong, a video can go to a professional for analysis.

Best result not best swing

Play to your strengths. The object is not to make a magnificent swing but to get the ball in the hole, the most efficient way you know how. Having the right attitude will ensure you play for what you can do and not what you hope, or would like, to do. This starts with playing the course well, landing on the widest part of the fairway off the tee – and that might mean keeping the driver idle for several holes.

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About the Author

Geoffrey Darling has been writing since 1980. In 2007, he received an Ohio Senate award for contribution to the arts, recognizing his work performing in Ohio prisons. Darling also worked for the New Zealand government as the Minister of Energy's press secretary and edited three small community newspapers.