PGA Tour players are the world’s best, so it’s natural for the rest of us to aspire to their levels of consistency and performance. As you prepare for your own 2015 season, though, don’t strive to emulate everything about their games. Certain behaviors will benefit you, while others won’t. Here’s what you should—and shouldn’t—take away from the guys you watch every weekend.
1. DON’T treat each shot like it’s a matter of life or death
Remember, golf is supposed to be fun, and it’s up to you to set a tone of enjoyment. Your life doesn’t depend on the game, nor does your job. Sure, you’re serious about your game, but just because Tiger or Bubba occasionally slams a club or lets fly with some salty language doesn’t mean you have to. Tone down the intensity. You’ll have more fun, and you’ll probably play better, too.
2. DON’T over-read your putts
Pace of play is an issue, so don’t follow the Tour player standard of measuring a putt from every direction. For everyday players, it’s best to take one good look, then rechannel all of that green-reading energy into hitting the putt with the right speed. A putt hit with the right speed can miss on the right or left by a couple of feet and still leave you with a gimme or a nice, low-stress comebacker.
3. DON’T spend day and night at the gym
Players like Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler virtually live in the gym. While playing elite golf for several weeks in a row requires fitness, you don’t have to pump iron for hours on end to shoot good scores. Of course, if you enjoy a good workout, by all means continue! Just make sure you’re staying fit because it’s good for you and you enjoy it, not because you think you have to get Rory’s six-pack abs.
1. DO copy good tempo
Be inspired by the rhythm and balance of Tour players’ swings. You can never go wrong by modeling your tempo after the swings of McIlroy or Adam Scott. Both players have beautifully balanced motions that are powerful while appearing to be effortless and tension-free. Note how Rory and Adam hold their follow-through until the ball lands; if you can do the same, it means you’ve made a balanced swing. If you strive for tempo, not technical perfection, you’ll be a better player.
2. DO play the percentage shot
Recreational players tend to swing defensively to an aggressive target, which never works out well. Instead, do the opposite! Tour players navigate a course by first trying to put the ball in play, and then, depending on the situation, by choosing somewhat more aggressive targets. As an amateur, however, you should live by this motto: Make an aggressive swing to a safe target. This combines an assertive swing with smart course management.
3. DO work on your short game and recovery shots
Tour players are human. Just like you and me, they drive it into junk and miss greens. What sets them apart is their short game. Pulling off recovery shots can keep a good round going and jump-start a bad one. It’s almost impossible to practice your short game too much.
KOSTIS TWITTER TIP: What’s next for Tiger?
Tiger’s return to competition in December was met with great anticipation. We saw a new full swing—and some uncharacteristically bad short-game shots. So what can we learn from Tiger’s travails? Swing changes take time and patience, and sometimes working hard in one area leads to the neglect of another. To avoid this pitfall, I recommend splitting your practice time into equal thirds: long game, short game and putting. That way, your whole game can stay sharp as you make changes.