Be realistic with your game and set reachable goals

By BETSY LAREY – Gazette Columnist

More often than not, I see players who finish a round frustrated because they didn’t think their score that day reflected their abilities. How many times do you end up dissatisfied with your round? If the answer is most of the time, I think you should be honest about what your skill level really is, and decide how much time and effort you are willing to put forth to improve.

A few years ago I wrote a column titled, "Why do you play golf". The point was to get you thinking about your goals. If your goal is to significantly lower your score, then you need to be honest and make an assessment about how much time and effort you’re willing to put forth to accomplish that goal.

If you’re happy just being outside and enjoying the view, then don’t be so hard on yourself and accept whatever number shows up on your card. If you are somewhere in between, then I think you need to do a skills assessment and find out where you are leaving strokes on the course.

Many amateur golfers have unrealistic expectations. If you wish to become a competitive player, you must be prepared to put in the hours of practice necessary to attain that goal. If you are comfortable being a weekend wedge warrior with little or no practice sessions, your goal should be to enjoy the game at your present level of play. Most amateur players fall somewhere between these two extremes.

So what should you do if your game has headed south? First, you need a diagnosis on what the trouble is. I always suggest enlisting the help of a competent LPGA or PGA Teaching Professional. Far too often a student comes to a lesson armed with the helpful "suggestions" from a spouse or friend who is a "really good golfer." Being a good golfer does not automatically make one a good teacher.

Your golf swing is probably a lot better than you give yourself credit for. Many times I’ve had a new student come to the first lesson and say "My swing is really bad, and I’m totally frustrated because I can’t score and I have no confidence when I’m on the golf course." Ouch! Don’t be so hard on yourself. My take on it is you don’t need a perfect golf swing to play a respectable round of golf.

What you do need is an understanding of the basic fundamentals of the golf swing and the ability to replicate those fundamentals consistently. It all starts with your GPA; the grip, your posture and your alignment to the target. This is the least complicated part of golf and the easiest to master because it’s the static part of the game. The dynamic part (the actual swing) takes more work because you’re in motion vs. a stationary position.

Once you’ve received a diagnosis of what the problem areas are in your game, you need to be realistic about your goals vs. the time and effort you are willing to put forth in order to improve. If you don’t have the time to practice faithfully, you’re better off picking one or two things that will have the most impact on your game.

Whether you need a complete overhaul or some minor adjustments, keep in mind that it takes plenty of practice to blend the changes into your muscle memory. There are exceptions to every rule, but generally you will not become noticeably better overnight. As a matter of fact, there is usually a little regression before progression. When initially practicing the mechanical elements of a swing change, many individuals think they are doing something wrong because they are not getting the desired results. They may be practicing the proper correction but it takes time before the rest of the body can incorporate a swing change into the overall golf swing.

Everyone learns at a different rate. As a result, there are no set time frames for improvement. One thing I can promise you is that if you are willing to accept instruction and will make a dedicated effort to practice, you will get better.

Betsy Larey is an LPGA Teaching Professional who enjoys writing, researching and playing golf. You can reach her directly at [email protected].