Play Better Golf By Observation

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As a golf instructor, my job is to help people play better golf.  Some improve quickly, some take longer.  Some may have great improvement, others maybe just a little.  But I sat and wondered about how I learned to play golf better.

I became a PGA Professional soon after graduating from college.  I never played on either my high school or college golf teams.  It wasn’t from a lack of trying though, I went to the tryouts every year, but I just couldn’t seem to play well enough to make the cut.  But it didn’t hold me back from my dream of one day becoming a pro.  To this day, I still have never taken a formal golf lesson from another instructor.  I have definitely picked up lots of tips and advice from my colleges and but haven’t taken a formal lesson.

What has gotten me to be able to play a pretty competitive golf game?  At my peak I played to a +2.1 handicap, currently it’s about a 4 (priorities change a lot once you fall in love and start a family).  When I really take a deep look at my progression to becoming a fairly decent golfer, the one fact that stands out it that I was never afraid to play with people that were better than I.

I have found that most amateur golfers have a fear of playing with anyone that is far better, and often even just a little better.  This is understandable.  Most everyone has some competitiveness in them that even though you might just be out for a fun round of golf, deep down you still like to know that you beat the people that you played with as you are getting in your car and heading home.  It’s natural.  But by taking a check of your ego, and playing with those that are better can really help your golf game…and they won’t mind because they will likely get that satisfaction of winning and feeling good about themselves.

But playing with those that are better teaches you a ton about the golf game.  First of all, better players tend to all have very consistent pre-shot routines and a good understanding course strategy.  Just observing how they conduct themselves, picking targets, getting yardages, checking the wind, the pace they move, will help you implement those factors into your golf game.  All important!  Secondly, you see someone that is hitting the ball well.  Hitting the ball solidly, keeping the ball in play, and if they get into trouble you see how they manage to get out of it.  Now this won’t instantly translate into you hitting the ball more solidly, but it will make you elevate your game to try and be more competitive.  You start ingraining bits and pieces from their game into yours, and before you know it you start playing better.

That is undoubtedly one of the biggest reasons my golf game has gotten to where it is.  I learned from playing with, and watching better players.  I still do it today.  When I’m playing, I’m always watching what my playing partners are doing.  In my competitive rounds, when I’m paired with someone that is recognizably a better player, I silently observe them the entire round.  Believe me, what they are doing WILL wear off on you.  I can promise, when players on the PGA Tour got paired with a Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, or Arnold Palmer in their prime of playing, their competitors were learning as much as they could just from watching those guys play a round of golf.

So don’t be nervous about stepping out of your comfort zone, and playing with some better players.  Before you know it, you’ll be the better player that others are wanting to be paired with!