Golf is not an easy game.
I find that beginning golfers struggle with limiting their expectation. They see the person next to them on the range hitting the golf ball high and far. They want to make the ball fly far as well, and they expect to produce something similar. When I stand next to a basketball player dunking the basketball into the hoop, I do not change my own expectation of my own game. I simply do not have the physical capability to dunk the basketball. I would have to train for years, and it still may never happen.
Physical capabilities are not as recognizable when looking at a golfer like in other sports. For example, a random 5’8” male, really fit and strong, hits a driver about 215 yards off the tee. Rory McIlory, 5’8”, golf fit and golf strong, hits his driver 340 yards off the tee — two gentlemen who have the same build but totally different physical capabilities for the game of golf and different experience levels.
The terrific aspect of golf is a golfer can increase his/her golf capabilities to a higher level even if they start training at an older age. Golf is a sport that does not require much running speed and explosiveness. With that being said, golf has many variables for improvements. To become a better golfer, it takes improved technique in all aspects of the game, golf specific physical training, golf equipment fitting, mental strength and realistic expectation. It is mandatory for a golfer to educate themselves in all five aspects of the game, no aspect being more important than the other. A golfer can have a magnificent looking swing but be mentally weak on the golf course. A golfer can have a functional golf body but have bad fundamentals in their swing. Also, golfers can be held back from success because their set of golf clubs does not allow them to perform at their best.
Comments like, “I am too old to get in shape,” or “It is not the arrow; it is the Indian,” are hurdles for me as an educator and a teacher. An example is a golfer who is hitting a driver that max height is 6 feet off the ground. If I tried to change their swing to get them to hit the driver higher, it could ruin their game. If I fit them with a driver that fits their golf swing and then correct their swing to hit the golf ball higher, the results with come immediately. The Indian can always improve their swing, but it is impossible without the correct arrows. The student who improves their body, swing, clubs and mind has a higher ceiling for improvement.
One way to improve listed above sticks out to most golfers, realistic expectation. Realistic expectation also can be called course management. Realistic expectations should affect the decisions on the course, such as which target to pick for each shot, what club to select for each shot, and knowing what is a good score on each hole. In short, what is the correct shot to play on each and every shot?
The biggest topic of conversation during a playing lesson is what target a golfer chooses on each shot.If a 30-handicapper hits a pitch shot over a bunker to a pin on the right side of the green, they usually are having unrealistic expectations. The 30-handicapper should be trying to hit a pitch shot that will land and stay on the green. The proper shot should be left of the bunker. The target should be 35 feet away from the pin if necessary. One out of 10 times, the 30-handicapper will get over the bunker and get the golf ball close to the pin, but six times out of 10, the ball goes in the bunker. Now, the 30-handicapper has a shot that is more difficult than the previous golf shot, and the score for the hole is 3 or 4 higher than it should be. Only because the golfer picked the wrong target.
The second topic concerning realistic expectations is most amateurs do not take enough clubs when hitting approach shots to the green. Most amateurs carry distance and total distance they hit the golf ball vary greatly, depending on the club they are hitting. For an amateur hitting a pitting wedge, the carry distance and total distance is usually similar. When an amateur golfer hits a hybrid, the carry distance and total distance can be drastically different. Most amateurs have to consider where the pin is on the green. If a golfer hits a four hybrid 180 yards to a back pin but the ball landed on the front of the green and rolled to the back of the green, they should also use the same hybrid for a 160-yard shot to a front pin. Take all the elements out of play, let the ball land on the front, and roll to the back of the green. Take the long putt instead of being in the front bunker. The amateur golfers should always be thinking, “How can I get this shot on the green.”
The last realistic expectation will help a golfer know what a good score is for his/her particular handicap. Twenty-five percent of the time a golfer will play to their handicap. If a golfer is an 18-handicapper, bogey is their friend. So many good rounds are wasted because a golfers hit to a spot that leaves them in a difficult situation on the course. Then, the golfer makes a bad decision and compounds the mistake. Next thing you know, the golfer took an eight on a Par 4, instead trying to make a five. A golfer should always try to improve in all facets of the game, but managing the game on the course takes self-awareness.
The faster a golfer realizes they cannot dunk, the faster they realize they need to settle for the jump shot. Go see a local PGA professional who can help you set realistic goals but also understands that playing to your potential requires realistic expectations on the golf course.
Todd Elliott is the PGA Head Golf Professional for Hideaway Beach. Todd is TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified as a golf professional. This gives him the ability to give golf specific physical screening to detect any physical limitation that might affect the golf swing. Todd is an active Student Mentor at FGCU; a volunteer with the First Tee program and was presented the 2010 and 2011 PGA’s President Council Awards on “Growing the Game.”