When it comes to the game of golf, there are some common problems that every golfer will face at some stage or another.
The game of golf seems to present us with a never-ending supply of mistakes & problems to overcome; Whether it’s not being familiar with the rules, forgetting to rake the bunker, or making simple mistakes while setting up.
Yes, professional golfers are indeed at the highest levels of the game, but even they make common mistakes, like choosing the wrong club and even, on the rare occasion forgetting to sign their scorecard. Beginners also have to contend with the inevitable common problems that come with the game.
As a coach with nearly twenty years of experience working with professional athletes, it amazes just how many times I’ve repeatedly seen the same mistakes; but what I’ve come to realize is that the vast majority of the blame lies with the coach, not the player. Often, the student simply doesn’t know, which makes complete sense; you don’t know, what you don’t know, right?
There’s another old saying in the sporting industry “you’re only as good as your coach.”
I wanted to write this article to address some of the most common problems golfers of all levels inevitably face. Some of the troubles will make you laugh, some you’ll be guilty of, and others not, but one thing I can guarantee is that at some point in time, you will face one of the problems outlined below.
At least now, though, you’ll know how to handle it when it arrives.
Let’s get started!
1. Struggling To Read The Greens
Reading the greens is critical for good putting; you can have perfect technique and laser-like focus, but none of it matters if you can’t read the greens. Fortunately, just like most things in life, you can fix this problem with some practice and a little hard work.
There’s no doubt that putting is probably the most challenging part of the game, and it’s easy to see why. Undulations, different grains and grasses, the weather, and even the time of day can all affect the speed of the greens.
Speed is everything when it comes to putting because the speed of the putt will dictate the line you take. There’s no use being on the right bus if you get off at the wrong stop. Let’s take a downhill putt; the harder you hit the putt, the more likely you are of running it 3-4 meters beyond the hole, while the softer you hit it, the more break you’ll have to allow for.
You’ll also have to factor in what kind of putter you are; do you like hitting the bottom of the cup firmly, or do you prefer to caress the ball into the cup? Answering this question is paramount because it will determine the lines you choose when putting on the greens.
A good rule of thumb that most professional golfers follow, is to aim to leave the ball 30 cm beyond the cup; doing this guarantees that your putt will theoretically have a chance of going in. Remember, coming up short when putting is golf’s big no-no; Right bus; wrong stop.
Another factor to consider is the condition of the greens; do they look wet or dewey? or do they look dry and baked out? Wet greens will be much slower, meaning you’ll need to putt firmer and take a more aggressive line to the cup. On the other hand, dry greens will be quick, meaning you’ll have to allow for more break and putt with softer hands.
You will encounter different speed greens on nearly every round, particularly if you’ve teed off early, which will mean the greens on the front nine are more likely to be wet, while the afternoon sun will dry out the back nine greens making them slick to putt on.
2. Getting Out Of Trouble
No, I’m not reminiscing about my childhood school days, although like in those days, compounding your problems definitely won’t help the situation.
Biting off more than they can chew is one of the most common problems I see club golfers make. Too often, they vastly overestimate their own ability and try to play the “miracle” shot to get out of trouble; unfortunately, their problem is only compounded more often than not.
Learning to play safe will save you a lot of stress and anxiety and, more importantly, help to lower your score.
Take stock of where you are and never rush; look to each side, and look forward and back before making your final decision. Often, you’ll be surprised that hitting onto the adjacent fairway might be your best option, or even playing the shot 30 yards backward might give you a clearer path to the green.
Your main priority is to get out of trouble as quickly as possible, minimizing the risk of compounding the problem. Never try to play a shot you saw Tiger play one day while watching the TV; truth be told, the miracle shot works out no better for the pros than it does for you.
If you’re in too much trouble or your ball looks unplayable, you’re best advised to take a drop that gets you out of trouble quicker and helps speed up play; trust me, your group will thank you for it.
If you’re unsure, if you can take a drop, ask your playing partners or refer to the scorecard, which usually has the local rules written on the back.
3. Poor Set-Up
Understanding the critical role good set-up plays in the outcome of your shot will go a long way to determining your success as a golfer. You may have sound technique, great imagination, and flawless club selection, but none of it matters if your set-up is unreliable.
Having an inconsistent set-up leads to inconsistent shots; it’s really that simple. Most players fail to realize this, so it’s imperative to work with your coach on developing a solid and consistent set-up that you can rely on. The driving range is another good place to practice your set-up and, like most things, just takes a little bit of perseverance.
Excellent posture also goes a long way to ensuring your set-up is correct and in line with your intended target. Good posture makes it much easier to make solid contact with the ball, and the good thing is that it’s the same for every club in your bag.
Staying relaxed and slightly bent at the hips will allow your arms to hang naturally, making it straightforward to find the correct position each and every time. Remember, there is no “right or wrong” set-up; the critical thing is that it works and is repeatable.
4. Clubface Allover The Place
Is your clubface all over the place? Having the clubface not aligned squarely while setting up is another common mistake I see amateur golfers make.
Ensuring your clubface is square, particularly at the moment of impact, can dramatically increase your chances of hitting a dead straight ball. The same rings true for a tennis player who needs to ensure the racquet face is square and the strings are pointing in the direction they wish the ball to travel; if the strings are pointed up, the ball travels in that direction, golf is no different.
Ensuring you have the correct grip is probably the most important thing you can work on to ensure your clubface is square while setting up. An “open” or “closed” clubface will cause you to overcompensate, leading to problems during the swing and your ball ending up in the water hazard.
Changing their grip is something that most players struggle with, probably due to how uncomfortable it feels. Far too many players abandon their new grips without giving it ample time to work and feel better. One thing that always amuses me is the look on the player’s face when they see the ball actually traveling in the direction they want; now, all of a sudden, the “uncomfortable” grip feels a lot better.
5. Poor Balance
I know I sound like a broken record, but losing your balance is another one of the biggest mistakes I see amateur golfers make, and more often than not, it ruins what otherwise would’ve been a great shot.
One of the best ways to check your balance is recording yourself the next time you’re on the practice range. Taking a video works particularly well if you don’t have a coach to help you identify if and when you’re off balance. Technology is fantastic these days, and there are plenty of free coaching apps you can download that let you analyze your swing in slow motion.
Undoubtedly, though, the best way to improve your balance is to “hold” your finish; this sounds easier said than done, but learning to hold your finish can work wonders once you have it down pat. Most players struggle because as soon as they hit a bad shot, they want to forget about it and immediately hit another one.
Golf is as much a “feel” game as it is technica,l so getting a feel for when you’ve hit a bad shot is essential for continued improvement. Focusing solely on the result will only get you into trouble, and it takes your focus away from what you should really be concentrating on; your swing mechanics
6. Lack Of Practice Swings
Without stating the obvious, you have 14 golf clubs in your bag, and all of them are different in length, but you’d be surprised to learn that many beginners either forget this factor or overlook it entirely.
While you’re out on the golf course, you’ll be hitting a variety of different shots with each of the clubs. If you don’t adjust to the varying club lengths, you’ll either take huge divots out of the fairway or “thin” the ball, both of which are detrimental to your game and, to be honest, can leave you feeling pretty embarrassed.
Your best bet is to take 4-5 practice swings before every shot you play, and when you’ve gone from hitting a long iron to a short iron, the more practice swings, the better. This way, you’re sure to give yourself the best chance of making clean contact with the ball.
The practice swing also gives you the chance to build up some rhythm and tempo before pulling the trigger on the shot at hand. A few practice swings take less than 30 seconds at the end of the day, and the rewards are well worth the effort.
7. Getting The Ball Airborne
Many high handicappers, particularly beginners to the game, fail to understand one simple golfing philosophy; “To get the ball up; you’ve got to hit down.”
Time and time again, I see beginners to the game trying to “lift” the golf ball, which almost always results in “topping” or “thinning” the ball. One of the best exercises to combat topping the ball is to place a used tee in front of the ball. The tee should be on the side closest to the target, forcing the player to sweep the tee up after making contact with the ball.
This is an excellent drill because it also causes the clubface to square up, so you’re effectively killing two birds with one stone. Understanding the simple philosophy of “hitting down to hit up” will transform your game and allow you to swing with confidence.
8. Poor Ball Position
Ball position is one of the primary factors in determining ball flight and direction. Many club golfers and high handicappers pay little to no attention to their ball position and simply step up and blast away.
Understanding how the ball’s position affects your flight and direction can reduce your mishits and allow for much greater consistency when striking the ball. If the ball is too far forward in your stance, you’re likely to hit take a pretty big divot or hit what we call a “fat shot.”
Ball position can also help you play different types of shots like flop shots or knock-downs. A flop shot is where you need to get the ball up quickly and land softly, i.e., over a bunker to a shortcut pin. In this case, you would play the ball off the front foot and slide the club underneath.
A knock-down shot is used to penetrate the wind by keeping the ball nice and low. To play a knock-down shot, you simply place the ball back in your stance and take your normal swing. The ball being back in the stance causes the ball flight to stay low and helps hold its line much longer.