Why is golf so hard?
It is a question I often ask myself in my love-hate relationship with this beautiful game. I have witnessed both amateurs and professionals lose their minds when chasing a golf ball around a course.
On one occasion, a family friend threw his clubs into the water on the 17th hole at my local. He had just lost the Provincial Amateur Open and was so consumed by emotions that he took it out on his golf equipment. But let me leave the stories for later.
This article looks at why golf is so hard, and how you can enjoy it more. Plus, I will provide ways to improve your golf game and reduce frustration.
Why So Many People Find Golf to Be So Hard
People find golf difficult because it is a target sport. It requires precise swing mechanics and calculations to get your ball from one point to another. Aside from consistent ball striking, you need to accurately judge the wind, altitude, and moisture for optimal distance control.
Another main reason is that the average golfer does not divide their time at the driving range. I see many amateurs bombing drives away and becoming masters of the tee box. However, their irons and short gameplay are erratic and cost them dearly on the golf course.
If you are not guilty of focusing on one element of your game, yet you still struggle, the answer may boil down to your golf club. Proper equipment is vital for success. High handicappers or beginners should be playing with game improvement irons and an oversized driver head.
These clubs are highly forgiving for the average person and offer consistency. They generally possess expanded sweet spots to combat slices and hooks and produce straighter shots. Plus, they maintain ball speed on off-center strikes for maximum distance.
Good golfers may not appreciate the forgiveness and sidespin correction of game improvement irons. Blade irons are best suited to these players looking to work their shots around the course. In addition, those clubs provide a superior feel and acoustics for an improved experience.
How Golf is Hard Physically
When non-golfers look at John Daly and Des Terblanche, you can understand why they think that golf is not a physical game. How wrong they are. Sure, you can play golf and navigate the fairways in a cart, but swinging a golf club requires stamina and core strength.
You need optimal rotation to get your club face on path for impact to produce consistent distance and accuracy. If you are out of shape, it is a mission to execute effectively, and you run the risk of injuring your hips, lower back, neck, and knees.
According to the National Health Statistics, recreational sports like golf have a higher injury rate than team sports like volleyball or rugby. Only by 0.3 points more per 1,000 people, but it still highlights the injury risk. Over 40% of amateur golfers report injuries every year. That number is higher than double that for professionals.
Bryson DeChambeau is an excellent example of a player who has improved his golf game by optimizing his fitness. He boosted his swing and ball speed by gaining 20-pounds of muscle and conditioning his body. The result is one of the longest hitters on tour.
Gone are the days of the “real” athletes like JD and Rocco Mediate, who navigated the course fuelled by vice.
How Golf is Hard Mentally
Besides being a target sport, golf is as much a mental game. Honestly, that’s where I went wrong. As a junior, I played a host of tournaments across my homeland and abroad but struggled with mental factors.
I was a 4-handicap at that point and knew what I was capable of. I had carded the odd round under par but was a mid to high 70s golfer for the most part. Whenever I played stroke play tournaments, I imploded after a single bad hole and forgot I could birdie holes and pull back strokes. Effectively, I defeated myself.
Weirdly, when it came to matchplay, I lost one match in my last two years at high school. If I hit the ball into one of the hazards and had a disastrous hole, I only went 1-down. There was a different dynamic, and I had improved confidence in those scenarios.
Another personal example of how difficult golf is mentally occurred when I was 13. My buddy and I were playing a 2-ball better ball matchplay knockout event and were 7-down after 9. After a couple of long-range birdies, we clawed back to 4-down on the 12th. But, we still had our work cut out for us.
On the par 3 13th, my partner’s tee shot lipped out of the cup and came to rest a foot from the cup. He tapped in for a birdie, and our opponents needed to chip in from the side of the green to halve the hole.
Instead, the one opponent, a 2-handicapper, topped his shot and sent his ball 1-yard. He snapped his lob wedge and screamed every profanity in the book as my friend and I took the hole and walked the stroke 1, 14th. We went on to bring it back to level after 18 and won the sudden-death playoff, advancing to the semi-finals.
The purpose of that story is to highlight the importance of maintaining a strong and composed mental state on the golf course. The angrier you get, the less confident you become. It is near impossible to play an enjoyable round of golf in that mind frame.
Besides the mental frustration brought about by an unsuccessful golf swing, there is the matter of focus to discuss.
A split-second loss of focus can destroy your shot. You might lift your head and chunk your shot. Alternatively, you try to generate the clubhead speed of Kyle Berkshire and leave your clubface open at impact, leading to a slice.
Developing a pre-shot routine can help you focus on your next shot and forget about previous mishaps.
The 9 Keys to Getting Better at Golf (and Having More Fun Along The Way)
1. Take Golf Lessons
If you are no longer enjoying golf because of constant bogeys, lost balls, and broken clubs, it might help to take golf lessons. Stop listening to your playing partners and seek expert golf instructors to root out the cause of your woes.
They have the equipment, knowledge, and experience to put you on the right track. They will also assess whether you are using the correct equipment for your swing. Now, I make these experts sound like bullies who point out every flaw in your repertoire. Lessons are far from a demoralizing experience.
You can read a full breakdown of the importance of an instructor in my post about the value of golf lessons. The gist of it is that lessons give you the means to improve your game of golf. Those that have never had lessons should absolutely pencil in an appointment with the golf doctor.
2. Structure Your Training Program
What I mean by structuring your training program is to diversify your routine. Instead of spending two hours on your long game, break it up. Spend 25 minutes on each element of your game.
One example is to hit your wedges and short irons for 25 minutes, then focus on your long iron and hybrid shots. Next, take 25 minutes to hone your driver and fairway wood skills, and end off with putting practice.
Do not stand in the hitting bay and plow through balls. Practice with purpose. Maybe spend one day of the week working on the flop, pitch, and bunker shots, then spend the next session working on long, and mid-iron draws and fades.
Alternate the sessions so that you dedicate sufficient time to every element of your golf game every week.
3. Account For Wind And Elevation
As if golf wasn’t enough of a difficult sport, we need to contend with nature. That requires you to understand how slopes, wind, and even the time of day impact the distance and direction of your shot.
You can purchase an affordable rangefinder with slope mode, which factors in the incline or decline of the gradient. For example, if the green is located above the level of your ball, you may need to take an extra club. Conversely, if the green is downhill, one club less may do the trick.
The Callaway 300 Pro rangefinder features slope mode and provides precise measurements for improved distance control. However, if you seek that includes barometric and temperatures in its calculations, the Bushnell XE may interest you. Naturally, it cost more than the Callaway.
4. Learn How To Scramble
Casual golfers often train in unrealistic conditions for a golf course. Our hitting mats are smooth and easy to strike from. Plus, the range offers yards of space to aim at. This does not teach you to scramble and escape tricky positions.
A strong scrambling game is what took me to single digits. When I was at the range, I often worked on shaping my shots. I also turned my clubhead around to resemble a left-handed club. In addition, I spent hours on end in the bunkers, hitting shots from all lies.
The purpose of these drills was to help me escape trouble and get home without a scratch. My proficiency in recovery shots reduced my stress levels. I could escape thick rough or a plugged lie in the bunker. Plus, I could maneuver my ball around a tree.
Not every shot will fly down the fairway and onto the green in regulation. You need to train yourself to escape trouble and recover strong. In the below video, Tiger Woods shows why creative shots are vital to a successful career in golf.
5. Only Your Next Shot Matters
After a bad shot, take a deep breath and move on. Your duff already happened, and there is nothing that you can do to change it. Let the frustration go and focus on hitting the best next shot.
The longer you dwell on past mistakes, the more it eats into your thoughts. Trust me, it impacts the remainder of your round.
6. Take A Cart
Personally, I find golf more enjoyable when I am walking. However, I understand that not many share that opinion. If you are miserable walking a golf course, take a cart. Remove the worry of the walk from your mind.
Driving around the course helps you conserve energy for maximizing your swing power. It also keeps you cool on a scorching day.
7. Have A Drink
I have played numerous rounds in my life where cold beers are flowing like the Mississippi River. Naturally, some golfers get rowdy and are a nightmare to be around. For others, a beverage helps take the edge off and encourage relaxation. It may work for you and boost your enjoyment.
8. Focus On The Positives
Often we can beat ourselves up over lackluster scorecards, which further destroys your fun. I find focusing on the positives and looking at my growth keeps the game exciting and helps me focus on what is important.
For example, I look at how many fairways in regulation (FIR) I hit this round compared to the last. As well as the total number of putts.
In one round, my overall score may be terrible. However, I may have hit more FIR’s than in the previous round. Pat yourself on the back and take the small wins. Golf is a journey, and it is a slow rise to a low handicap.
9. Play For Fun
My final word of advice is to play for fun. Golf is a game, after all. When you are serious and focused on lowering your scores, it can be detrimental to your overall performance. Take it easy, and look at casual rounds as nothing more than practice.
You and your playing partners can gift one another a mulligan on each nine to promote the practice feel. In addition, focus more on the positive elements of your round rather than the score.