Insanity or Change is Good

There’s a common saying that defines insanity as “doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.”  It’s amazing how that applies to golf for so many of us.  We practice the same things, approach the golf course the same way, swing the same way . . . but we expect to get better.

Is this really realistic thinking?

I get many questions about practicing techniques, moving it from the range to the tee, etc.  But this expression of frustration from 1st Lt, Dustin Culbertson maybe says it best.  Dustin wrote, “I just get on the bogey train and hang on.  Each hole seems the exact same: either my drive will be off line or my approach will be off line, I’ll chip onto the green and 2-putt.”    Dustin wanted to know how to hit more fairways and greens.

Before I answer, I’d like to express my personal appreciation to Dustin for his service to his country.  And I hope you all will join me in telling him how much we appreciate his choice of service to others.  Hooray for Dustin.

Now, Dustin, let’s begin by breaking this down into how you approach the game in general.  In the effort to stop the insanity, I’m going to share Five Changes for all of us to consider or alter to our own needs to get better this season.

First of all, I’m a big fan of professional instruction, but statistics say that only 12% of golfers have ever taken a professional lesson!  Whether you do or not, you should invest time in learning the golf swing.  There are some great books out there that break it down.  My personal favorite is Hogan’s “Modern Fundamentals of Golf”, but I’m also a fan of Jim Hardy’s treatise on the one-plane and two-plane swing methods – very enlightening.  The key is to build your knowledge and understanding of a fundamentally sound swing.

So Change #1 is learn, learn, learn.  Only through expanding your knowledge of the golf swing can you begin to improve.

Change #2 is to commit to incorporating one new thing into your golf game each month, quarter or season, depending on your activity level.  I suggest starting with your grip, as most golfers do not have a great hold on the golf club and that alone will improve your ability to release the club and improve your impact quality.  A good grip will FORCE you to make a better swing . . . and a bad grip will prevent it effectively.  Posture and set up are easy to alter, as is your set-up consistency.  Swing changes come harder, but are necessary to build a better golf game.  Have fun with the learning process, OK?

Change #3 is to alter your practice routine.  Go to the range with a goal . . . and a procedure for achieving it.  Don’t just go “beat balls”.  A tip from Harvey Penick was to never hit more than 4-5 balls in a row with the same club – vary it up.  Hit all kinds of shots when you are on the range – not just full swings.  Have fun, make it a game, replicate a round of golf at your course by hitting drives, approaches, recoveries, pitches and chips.

Change #4 is to spend more time on your short game (surprise, surprise, right?).  No matter what your handicap, you will shave more strokes from 25 yards and in than you will at full swing range.  Practice chipping, pitching, sand play and putting . . . a lot!

And Change #5 is to re-think how you play your golf course.  Practice looking at each hole through “new eyes”.  I’ve talked about this some in the past, but there is a multitude of ways to play each golf hole.  A medium length par five, for example, might be played with a hybrid off the tee, mid-iron to 125 yards or so, and then a short iron approach.  Try it.

On a long par four that gives you trouble, what if you hit a fairway wood off the tee, then a mid-iron to a wide spot in the fairway short of the heavily protected green, a pitch to the flag and maybe a nice par putt, but probably never a double?

On any hole with a sucker flag position, what about playing long or short, wide left or right, to a safe chip and putt or long two-putt range?

My point is to get out of the rut of doing the same things and expecting different results.  If you all have other changes to share with us, please do so, and sound off on my ideas if you would like.

And Dustin, thanks again for your service to our country.  Hopefully you can use some of this to improve your scores on the course.

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