Will playing more golf help you to improve?

By Ian Hardie
NZPGA Professional

There wouldn’t be a week that goes by where I don’t hear a golfer say something like:

“I don’t get out to play as often as I would like to but I’m sure I would be a better golfer if I played more often than I do now.”

Other variations that golfers will use are:

“If I could play every day of the week, I could finally get to a single figure handicap.”

“If I could play every day of the week, I could finally get to a scratch handicap.”

“If I could play every day of the week, I could finally get down to that 18 handicap.”

Obviously, the statement differs depending on the current (and desired) skill level of the golfer talking to me but the overall theme is the same.

Almost all golfers believe they would be better at the game if they played more often.

Seems like a fairly logical idea doesn’t it?

Well, maybe for some golfers this is true but in reality, it doesn’t actually work like that for most golfers.

Take a look around most golf courses and it doesn’t take long to identify that there are a few golfers out there who actually do play almost every day of the week.

Most of them though, aren’t getting any better at the game of golf as a result!

You may even know a golfer like that and if you take a minute to think about them – you will realise that they are probably playing on a pretty similar handicap currently, that they were on last year and the year before - despite playing golf almost every day of the week.

In fact, they may actually be finding that their handicap is increasing over time, rather than decreasing as most golfers would expect.

This is because improvement at the game of golf requires more effort than just going round and round the course playing the same shots and thinking the same things, every game.

No doubt, you will have heard that famous quote “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

It applies directly to golf, the same as it does for many other things in life.

So, how much golf does a golfer need to play to really get better?

Obviously, it varies from golfer to golfer but luckily I do have an example (from back in the mists of time) when I was a young golfer, that may be a good guide.

I need to go back in time, to a summer holiday in my teenage years, where over a period of about 6 weeks I cut my golf handicap in half from 22 to 11.

That’s right, in half in 6 weeks!

You are probably wondering how that happened so quickly and no doubt you will be thinking that it was the result of something like an intensive series of golf lessons or the acquisition of newer and more technologically advanced golf clubs.

It was neither of those two things.

In fact, I can’t remember doing, thinking, being taught or buying a single thing that was any different to what I had at the start.

The one thing that made it possible to cut my handicap in half over a six week period (not that it was my intention before I started in any way) was playing golf.

A lot of golf.

Over that 6 week period, I played almost every day – probably missing about 5 days.

Something that a lot of you would no doubt love to be able to do but as I’ve covered above, not necessarily enough to really improve like I did.

Thinking back, the real deciding factor that allowed me to drop my handicap by half over that 6 week period was playing golf at an even higher rate than once a day.

On most of those days, I played at least 36 holes and on occasion 45 holes.

That’s right 2 to 2 ½ rounds a day for about 4 of those 6 weeks – was the key to it all.

Well, that’s what I’ve always thought...

Thinking back, I believe that there were in fact, three things that contributed equally to that dramatic transformation as a golfer.

The first was obviously the building up of my ‘golf muscles’ through hitting thousands of golf shots in a short period of time – something that may actually be able to be duplicated by spending a much shorter period of time on the practice tee – back then though, like most golfers.

I wasn’t that interested in spending hours on the practice tee, I just wanted to play as many holes of golf as I could.

The second thing that made the difference in that short period of 6 weeks, where I played the equivalent amount of golf to what most golfers would play over one or two years was that it allowed me to effectively gain a massive amount of course management experience in a very short time.

That’s probably what made the most difference to my scores!

The third thing was something that I wouldn’t have been aware of back then but I spend a lot of time talking to golfers about now – when you are playing a lot of golf – you stop thinking about how to hit the golf ball and just get on with hitting it.

Any frustration over poor shots is dissipated as your focus is simply on playing the next shot, the next hole and the one after that.

In the end you simply figure out a way to hit the golf ball that works for you, then you get on and do it – you don’t think about golf swings at all.

It’s just you deciding on where you want the golf ball to go and playing the shot without any other thought in your mind.

So, will playing more golf help you to improve?

It might do, depending on how much effort you put in.

Play well.