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Rookie Mistakes: Common Golf Errors and How to Avoid Them

Avoiding the (Sand!) Traps of common Golf mistakes



Bunker avoidance!


Hey there, fellow golf geeks!


If you're like most of us, navigating the world of golf, especially as someone who is improving, can sometimes feel like trying to avoid deep sand traps on a windy day! Perhaps your’re on your journey as someone with a handicap between 10 and 28… Well, I'm here to share some insights and personal stories from my journey as a golfer to help you sidestep common pitfalls and improve your game.


I’ve been playing golf my whole life. My only dream growing up was to be a pro golfer. Unfortunately I was never good enough, but more importantly, I felt confused as to how to get better. I’m nearing my (saying this quietly) 40th year on this planet and I wish I knew then what I know now about how to get the best out of yourself on the course!


Within this blog are some key aspects of golf, that I feel if focused on, will help golfers really looking to improve in 2024.

 

Mental Approach


Maintaining Focus

Stay in/FIND! the Zone

One of the biggest challenges I've faced on the course, which I see many others struggle with, is maintaining focus. Remember that time you were on the 16th hole, playing well, and then your mind drifted to your finishing score? Next thing you knew, your next shot was slicing right into the woods. I had experience of exactly this as a junior. I was 1 under par stood on the 16th tee of the East course at Wentworth, thought about what score I was on and what it would like to be to finish under par for the first time. I finished 8,7,6 (quad, quad, double)!!! I didn't get near under par for the next 2 years!


The key factor I neglected was staying present. Practice Mindfulness! Yes it sounds a little “new age hippy” of me, but I honestly tell you it works!  


Practice focusing on the present moment – just you and the ball. Simple breathing techniques before each shot can work wonders.

 

Embrace the Good and Bad

Staying positive is easier said than done, especially after a poor shot. But here's a trick: for every bad shot, remind yourself of a great one you made earlier. This mental balancing act keeps frustration at bay and helps maintain a positive outlook.

A notebook is a really good idea. I have a small notebook detailing the good shots I’ve hit. I add as much information about the shot as possible to help with visualisation. The wind direction, the lie, the weather, the noises, everything!! This really helps to recount the shot in future. A great way to instil some positivity!

 

Managing Frustration and Expectations

 

Keeping Cool Under Pressure

Bad Days Happen

We've all been there – those days when nothing seems to go right. I remember a tournament where my first three holes were disasters. Instead of spiralling, I took a step back, adjusted my expectations, and focused on enjoying the game. By the back nine, I was back in my groove. Remember, golf is a game of patience and resilience.

 

Understanding the Fundamentals

 

Back to Basics

Grip and Posture: The Foundation

The grip might seem basic, but it's where many errors start. A grip that's too tight can restrict your swing and reduce power, a weak top hand might mean you lose shots to the right, conversely a strong bottom hand may lead to hooks. The myriad of symptoms from a bad grip are endless! I like to think my grip is fairly standard, but my bottom hand has a tendency to get weak and over the top. In terms of grip pressure, my main issue has been with chipping. I have (pretty much!) overcome a bad case of the yips, which is a whole story in itself!  

 

Align Your Way to Success

Alignment and stance set the stage for your shot. Misalignment can send your ball in unintended directions. A useful tip is to practice your alignment with alignment sticks during practice sessions. It's a simple tool, but incredibly effective.

 

The Swing

 

The Art of the Backswing:

An overzealous backswing is a common rookie error. It's not about how far back you can go, but how controlled and balanced your backswing is. I learned from a pro that visualizing a pendulum helps maintain a smooth, controlled backswing. There’s a lot of talk about speed in the game now and I myself have fallen down that trap. Us amateurs get far more from a well struck shot than trying to swing out of our shoes!

 

Downswing and Impact: Timing is Key:

The transition from backswing to downswing is critical. Rushing this phase can ruin your shot. I remember practising with a metronome app to get my timing right. It might sound odd, but it helped synchronise my swing rhythm.

I’m doing a lot of work on this myself at the moment. I get very quick, so much to the point that there is little to no transition at all. I get quick, hands get behind me and I flip it.

One of my main swing thoughts is waiting at the top. I do drills on the range around this, where I take the club up to the top and stop. From there I give myself time to keep my hands more in front of my body.

 

Follow-Through: The Finishing Touch

A complete follow-through is essential for power and accuracy. A friend once told me to pose for the imaginary camera after each shot. It felt silly, but it trained me to complete my follow-through. Paddy Harrington says something similar.

 

By the way, he’s a great follow on social media!!! His insights are insane!

 

Course Management

 

Club Selection: More Than Just Distance

Choosing the right club isn't just about distance. Consider factors like wind and hazards The amount of times I’ve stood on a short par 4 and just wailed on driver when I should have opted for an iron.  I’ve had so many doubles from this approach, I don’t even want to recall!! The more I play within myself, the better I am able to choose the right approach. Figure out where your misses are and swing aggressively to conservative targets

 

Practice and Improvement


Structured Practice

Random practice shots won't cut it. Create a routine that targets different aspects of your game. I like to divide my practice time between long shots, short game, and putting. Consistency is key. Create games like hitting different shapes and flights. Aim left or right of targets and give yourself points for missing the target on the right side!


Professional Guidance

Even the pros have coaches. Don't hesitate to seek professional advice. I once had a lesson that completely changed my approach to iron play. Sometimes, a fresh perspective can make all the difference.

 

The Journey of Improvement

In golf, as in life, it's about the journey, not just the destination. Embrace each round as an opportunity to learn and grow. Remember, even the pros had to start somewhere. Keep practicing, stay focused, and most importantly, enjoy the game. See you on the links!

 

Additional Resources

For those looking to dive deeper, check out some of these resources I've found invaluable:

"Golf is Not a Game of Perfect" by Dr. Bob Rotella – in fact any of his books are a great read/listen!

Zen Golf” by Dr. Joseph Parent

The Inner Game of Golf” by Timothy Gallwey

Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book” by Harvey Penick


For more title recommendations, please leave me a comment or for any books you recommend, share below!!!

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