Instruction

Peter Kostis: Myth Busters, Golf Edition

Hot Tip From a Hot Golfer: Natalie Gulbis on Phil Mickelson's Short Game Drill
Natalie Gulbis and Phil Mickelson share a coach in Butch Harmon. They also share a favorite short game control drill whose genius lies in its simplicity.

No one wants to see the game grow more than I do. That's why it's important to make the sport less daunting, especially for new players. There are many misconceptions about what it takes to become a more accomplished golfer, and abiding by these ideas will hurt, not help, your game. So allow me to debunk some "myths" once and for all. Here's what's absolutely unnecessary to becoming a better player.

MYTH: YOU'VE GOTTA HIT THE GYM

Don't get me wrong—I'm in favor of a fitness routine to improve your quality of life (or your golf game, for that matter), but getting ripped is definitely not a requirement for shooting lower scores. (How often did you hear about Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan working out?) Tour players need to be able to walk dozens of miles every week, but you don't. For the weekend golfer, stretching (to increase flexibility and avoid injury) is a more important focus.

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MYTH: VIDEO EQUIPMENT AND LAUNCH MONITORS ARE ESSENTIAL TOOLS IN A QUALITY LESSON

To determine whether or not you had a good lesson, ask yourself one question: Am I hitting the ball better at the end of the session than I was at the beginning? Don't let today's technology fool you into thinking that you're improving. Launch monitors and video equipment can make a bad lesson seem better than it was because they generate so much information. In fact, stats-based analysis can overcomplicate your issues rather than solve them. An instructor's advice is often a more practical guide to improvement.

MYTH: YOU SHOULD SWING LIKE A STAR

This one's a killer. You wouldn't play with a Tour player's clubs, so why would you emulate their swing? Rory McIlroy is 26, and like him, many Tour players are at their peak flexibility and strength. These are not swings that most recreational golfers can impersonate. If you have to look to a model, I'm a fan of older swings, like Sam Snead's, that let players turn freely and avoid stress on any one part of the body. Still, it's best not to copy anyone. It's smarter to focus on a better turn and your hand action. Improve what you already do well.

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MYTH: GETTING BETTER REQUIRES HOURS OF RANGE TIME

Guys like Vijay Singh and Padraig Harrington hit tons of balls, but unlike you, golf is their profession. If you enjoy "digging it out of the dirt," be my guest. In my experience, though, a focused, 45-minute range session is perfect for amateurs. Take any longer than that and you get tired out, and it becomes difficult to apply proper focus and technique.

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MYTH: ADDING BIG-TIME YARDS OFF THE TEE IS EASY

Here's the truth: Most golfers can't significantly improve their tee-shot distance. So rather than working on tapping into a power reservoir that isn't there, a faster, more effective way to save strokes is to reduce your number of three-putts and duffed chips. Your short game is the shortcut to lower scores.

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