What Should High Handicappers be working on to improve?

The majority of us golfers want to improve, all for individual reasons but generally speaking we want to play better golf and that usually leaders to a lower handicap.

Have you seen the recent quote from Padraig Harrington in Golf Monthly?

No pressure Padraig! However he makes a valid point, have we as golfers got things mixed up in our heads? It may not be our fault though…

Like most of you, more so in our current state of lockdown, I watch video’s on YouTube and I get adverts pop up from top golf publications on my Facebook.  One article sparked me to think about writing this article, I did a bit of research and in the words of Padraig things got mixed up in my head.

Let me share some snippets of my basic research.

Golf.com – “ Danny Willet Reveals the Number 1 thing golfers need to become a low handicap golfer”

Who wouldn’t click on this right?! It’s a short article where Danny Willet says go practice your short game, he explains that high handicappers loose many shots around the green. Not rocket science and it’s something we hear quite often. However the article  goes on to talk about his latest Odyssey Stroke Lab Tuttle Putter for the rest of the article. It’s poor from golf.com it’s a glorified advert! Using click bait. When has loosing shots around the green mean we should only talk about putting? Or that a new putter will eliminate 3 putts. Either way the article makes a statement but doesn’t actually offer any advice on how to improve.

Mark Crossfield “How to improve your golf and play your best” Live video from 7th April

Towards the end of the video (15mins 50secs to be precise). Mark talks about about him and Coach Lockey using stokes gained with their students. He explains that everyone can gain from their short game, but also in all areas of their golf. He further explains that for most golfers especially amateurs short game generally is not where the biggest issues are. Mark suggests  there are bigger gains to be had from getting off the tee and approach play from 180 – 200 yards

Me & My Golf “Cut 5 Shots off your Handicap” – YouTube Video

5 tips from Andy and Piers

  1. Strike – find the centre of the club
  2. Manage your expectations  – a 20 handicapper is not going to have birdie attempts every hole.
  3. Don’t try and change your swing during a round, no matter how bad the round is.
  4. Putting  – work on distance control
  5. Know your yardages

Interesting that 2 of these points are on the mental aspect of the game, something none of the others talk about. They do also go into how you can achieve these 5 points which is good.

James Robinson Golf “ How to turn your high handicap into a low one” – YouTube Video

6mins 56 secs in and I quote James “I believe if you can get off the tee and hit fairways. Then have something that resembles a good short game and can putt. You’ll have no issues in getting to a mid handicap” The essence of this video goes on about lowering your handicap in stages rather than doing it all at once as there is a process to follow, and skills that you’ll attain at particular points in your golf journey.

So back to Padraig’s comment on if we are not a low handicapper we have things mixed up in our heads, well the PGA Professionals and even the Tour Pros are sending a lot of mixed messages. Don’t you agree?

None of the 4 statements above completely agree with each other Mark Crossfield disagrees with short game (to some extent) as the most important, Danny Willet/Golf.com say short game but only talk about the Oddesy putter. Me and My Golf talk about only two areas where we physically hit a golf ball the rest is the mental aspect, which is not commonly talked about. Finally James Robinson thinks getting off the tee and have some form of a decent short game is enough to get to you to a 15-18 handicap.

Let’s be honest, none of them are wrong. Where do we start though?

Apart from golf.com the others explain that there is potentially more than one area to focus. So let’s challenge the thought process of Golf.com/Danny Willet who only suggest one area to focus on. Have a look at the putting statics provided by Shot Scope for all their users:

Data from Shot Scope Users

See the stats across 8, 14 and 20 handicappers, not a huge difference apart from the 3 putt percentage of an 8hc vs 20hc golfer. What it means in shots gained is that an 8 handicapper and in fact a 14 handicapper has on average 2 putts less per round than a 20 handicapper.

2 shots is 2 shots right?! Well that’s what I’m thinking but it’s not a huge gulf in class between the 3 different handicaps. Perhaps I should work a bit more on my putting… So let’s look at my putting stats as a 20 handicapper  

I said it in a previous article, I’m a confident putter it’s one of my strengths.  I play better than my handicap in this area. According to the average stats for 8 handicappers I’m two shots better off, meaning I save 4 shots vs the average for a 20 handicapper.

Why am I not off less, Golf.com told me to be a better putter and eliminate 3 putts as much as I can… I have to some extent but I’m still playing off 20. According to my season scoring so far I play off of 19 but still that’s not a dramatic cut.

Surely it’s going wrong somewhere else. I could go through all the areas that the others said, to find out where I’m suffering. That’s the point I’m trying to make, but its not my intention to run through my data with you.

What Should High Handicappers be working on to improve? There is no real quick fix. It may not be what you want to hear, but being sucked into the headlines on reducing your handicap can lead to confusion and lead to you working on something different every other week. What would you be working on if you read/watched all four clips from the start of the article?

What we should be doing can be summarised into two simple points:

Know Your Game

I use a shot scope to track my game, and it helps me and for those of you how don’t know about shot scope you should go check them out. However there are other ways to track your game and begin to understand it. There are mobile apps like Hole 19 or there is good old fashioned pen and paper to review you round afterwards or make notes on your score card or piece of paper during the round.

Tracking things like, tee shot accuracy, greens in regulation, up and downs how many putts.

This will help point out the areas you need to work on.. Only hitting 2 fairways a round? This would suggest you need to look at finding a way to improve getting off the tee.

Have a plan, follow a process

Jamie Robinson said it well in his video, do it in steps not all at once.

Work with your instructor, online lessons (please stick with the same online instructor/YouTube page as that’s the point of my article there’s to many contradictions out there) or even attempt to find your own way.  Just make sure you stick to one source!

Actively pursue improvement, demand better.

Focus on your weakness one at a time, not all at once. Find the area where the biggest gains can come from first, then crate a plan. A plan is going to increase your chances of success and lead to happier and better golf.

Now time for me to go practice what I just preached!

Until Next Time, Stay Safe

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2 thoughts on “What Should High Handicappers be working on to improve?

  1. I totally agree with this. One thing I believe is know your yardage. That is why Practice Ranges are so important. Once you know a yardage for each iron, especially 7-PW this will assist you in getting to the green. I often am short because I think I will hit longer. Brilliant.

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