Golf is a vast game. There are more different kinds of shots to be hit than anyone can master, much less a recreational golfer for whom golf is a part-time hobby.
Yet, when we practice, we hit a bucket or two of balls, spend a little time chipping around the practice green (if you can find one that allows chipping!) and spend a few minutes putting.
And wonder why we don’t get better at it.
To explain why, I would like to refer you to this interview with Bill Evans, a legendary jazz pianist, talking about this very problem in regard to learning his craft.
That’s it, isn’t it? We try to take on all of golf all at once and as Evans said, that only leaves us confused and with nothing to build on.
If you’re reading this post, odds are you aren’t a beginner. You have been playing golf for a while and have your own ideas of how to hit the various shots that are necessary.
But if sometimes they work and other times (most times?) they don’t, there’s work to be done that won’t get done by going to the range one more time and doing what I described above, one more time.
Or however many more times.
You have to pick one thing and work on it until know what you are doing and are really good at it, before you move on to something else.
Let’s start with greenside chipping. This is the easiest shot in golf to get good at.
Get a lesson. If you taught yourself to chip, you really don’t know how to chip. I had been playing golf for over fifty years before I had my first chipping lesson. Nothing the pro taught me was what I had been doing, and what he taught me worked.
Next, prepare to spend fifty hours practicing what you learned. If you have a full-time job, it might take you three or more months to get to the range for that much practice.
And when you get to the range, practice chipping only. Don’t worry, your swing won’t go away. It’s just that if you hit a bucket of balls first you will use up some your concentration on that and that’s not why you came to the range.
Keep going, not until you reach being good, but have settled into being good. You know what you are doing and you know you can chip close from anywhere. Then you can move on to something else.
Choose from pitching, bunker play, putting, short irons, medium irons, fairway woods or hybrids, driver (save the driver for last–it’s a distraction, and you don’t need a driver to play golf, anyway.)
Take these skills one at a time. Spend the time it takes to learn how to do each one the right way so you’re good at it. As Evans said, make your practice real and true.
I promise you be playing a different game than before.
After you have these basics down, then you can move on to working the ball with your swing, learning a variety of short shots, and so forth, and all of it will work because you are building them on a solid foundation.