How to get better at golf

The number one question on any serious player’s mind is: How do I get better?

How do I get better at golf?

On the surface, it seems like an easy question to answer (just get better! Hit balls, putt, chip, work out!) but when you dig deeper into this performance question it gets more complex. Just hitting balls on the range isn’t necessarily the answer, neither is spending more time on the putting green. The answer is more specific than that, and is about how you approach the entire improvement cycle.

It’s about finding the most efficient ways in which to spend time at practicing golf.

Instead, it becomes about finding the most efficient ways in which to spend time at practicing golf, i.e. what is the biggest bang for your practice buck? This principle is also called ‘The Pareto Principle’ or the ’80/20 principle’, which says that roughly 80% of the output comes from 20% of the inputs, or translated into golf terms, 80% of the results come from 20% of the practice that you do every time you practice.

So how do you figure out what you need to do? One excellent option is to use the Supercharged Improvement Cycle below which consists of 3 parts:

Anova.Golf’s improvement cycle – an improvement cycle that uses data and statistical analysis to supercharge performance.

  1. Collect. It all starts with collecting information from your On-Course performance. This is the ultimate proof of how your improvement process is evolving – your on-course results tell you exactly what happens during your practice and tournament rounds. This also establishes what your current performance level is so that you can see if you are actually improving. Your on-course performance stats is what all of your improvement efforts should focus on.
  2. Analyze. Here is where we put your performance into a relevant context. By themselves, the stats don’t really mean anything, but put into to a relevant and appropriate context, they have all the meaning in the world. So what is an appropriate context? It depends on what targets and goals you have as a player, but the key is to look at your current performance level, then decide what your target performance level is (this can be another player, team, tour average etc).
  3. Bridge. This is where we create a plan to to bridge your performance gap from the current performance level to the target performance level. This can involve many things and these are specific to each individual’s needs based on a statistical analysis and the input from an expert in the field, such as an experienced teacher.

Collect – Analyze – Bridge: The Supercharged Improvement Cycle.

What are you optimizing for? Avoiding a common pitfall.

If you are not measuring your on-course performance in detail, you end up in a situation where you don’t have any objective data to base any deep analyses on. Typically, what ends up happening for a player, is that he/she goes to an instructor and books a lesson (“I want to get better”). The instructor doesn’t have any statistical information about what actually happens to the player on the course, but still has to come up with something to tell a student during the hour or so that the student is there. Without other options based on data, many instructors have no other choice but to bring out a video camera and start filming the player’s swing to come up with technical solutions to this ‘improvement problem’.

So what we have done now is created an improvement process with Swing Technique at the top, and then we work everything else off that.

An improvement cycle that starts with Swing Technique as the number one priority will optimize for swing technique and not on-course performance, and this is not an efficient way of designing an improvement cycle if your ultimate goal is to get better at golf on the course.

Golf is, without a doubt, a very technical sport and technique is an important part of any improvement process and it may very well be the one thing that is holding the player back. Or it might not be that issue at all. The issue with the above method is that the improvement process has been started with the wrong priority as the player and instructor have put technical prowess at the top of the process, rather than putting on-course performance at the top. This is a very inefficient way to design an improvement process if your goal is to improve your on-course performance. This isn’t necessarily the instructor’s fault; it’s just extremely difficult to do anything productively other than working on Swing Technique without having any data on a player’s on-course performance as you are effectively ‘working blindly’.

The bottom line is that if you’re not optimizing for on-course performance, then you can’t be surprised when your on-course performance isn’t improving.

The bottom line is that if you’re not optimizing for on-course performance, then you can’t be surprised when your on-course performance isn’t improving.

The way to optimize for improved on-course performance

If your overall goal is to become a better golfer, then ‘On-Course Performance’ should be the number one priority when designing an improvement cycle. In everything we do, we should strive for improving the performance on the golf course.

We start with on-course performance, and work backwards. We do a statistical analysis, define what are target performance level is and identify performance gaps.

The key is optimizing for on-course performance.

Let’s consider an example here and say that you are a freshman on a college team and your immediate goal is to crack the starting lineup. The relevant comparison would then be the number 5 ranked player on your team as an appropriate target performance level and for the purposes of this example we figure out that the player has a performance gap on approach shots from 125-175 yards. Now what could be causing this? There can be many reasons to a performance gap in a skill and we should ask and test for a variety of possible causes:

  • Technique – does the player have an obvious technical deficiency causing the performance gap?
  • Does the player know how far his clubs are going?
  • Is there a way the player can come up with an alternate shot shape/pattern that will generate a tighter shot dispersion?
  • If the wind is off hurting and off the left, does the player know how this is effecting his distances?
  • How wide is the player’s dispersion and how does it change in different weather conditions?
  • Are the majority of the player’s shot ending up where he/she is aiming? If not, where should the player aim in order for the shot to end up at the desired location?
  • If the pin is tucked 3 paces from a water hazard, does the player adjust his/her aim appropriately?
  • How does the player’s performance vary from the fairway vs from the rough?

As you can tell, there are a lot of factors here that you can and should focus on that are also incredibly important, if not equally important to working on swing technique. In fact, swing technique is only one of many important factors to consider and test for during this stage in the improvement process, where the main focus on improving on-course performance is always kept as the number one priority.

We are trying to find the areas where the minimum amount of time spent practicing will generate the biggest possible positive result in improved performance

It is important to ask an experienced teacher for some help here. Your teacher, given all of the information you can show about your on-course performance and your target performance level, can help you design a practice regimen that is focusing on bridging the performance gap as quickly as possible. Your teacher can analyze the numbers and go through the above checklist to figure out the areas where the minimum amount of time spent practicing will generate the biggest possible positive result in increased performance.

We believe that what really makes a difference here is the player-coach relationship.

We believe that what really makes a difference here is the focus on on-course performance in combination with finding a teacher you trust that can help you design a practice plan. Armed with the detailed information on your on-course performance, in conjunction with a clear view of your target performance level, the stage is set to achieve incredible things.