What Do Great Golfers Do That You Don’t?

January 10, 2022

by Nick Bockenfeld, PGA

Have you ever sat back and wondered, what is the difference between the guys that go low every time they play and yourself? Have you ever sat there and asked what they do differently?

How do they get that good? How did they break through that score barrier you are stuck at? Well, skilled players do a variety of things that you may or may not know about or know how to do, I find that these things are great separators.

Routine

Every dominant player goes through a routine, whether it is right before they play, the night before, or while they are playing. My routine is mental practice the night before. Then the day of I get to the range, and use my CTRL Swing Master to get my tempo and swing right on my 54 degree wedge, my 8 iron, my 5 iron, my 4 wood, and my driver. I have warm up models created for each of these and then I hit balls and get my tempo right on each model. Warming up with this routine helps me get to the same mental stage each and every time I play. I also go through a routine every time I hit a shot, from a short putt to tee shots on every single hole. A good pre shot routine just puts you in the right mindset to hit a shot. It gets you in the right headspace. Routines are all about getting into that right spot to play your best golf down to each and every shot you hit.

Mental Practice

One of the biggest things talented players do is they add mental practice to their physical practice to get more out of every second on the range. If you think about it it makes plenty of sense. Of course, you have to mentally practice as well as just hitting balls. Mental practice is just that, playing a round of golf in your head. Imagine each and every shot you are going to hit. I like to do a quick round of mental practice the night before I go play, but getting into a regular routine is great too. Some people might do it every single night, which isn’t a bad idea! So play a round at your favorite course, go through your mental routine, imagine each shot you hit down to the last rotation. This will add to your practice by a lot.  

Practicing with a Purpose

I’ve already written pretty extensively on this one. Practicing with a purpose is vital in order to get better in a timely manner. The best players in the world know how to practice, they are really, really good at practicing. They stay focused; they know when to stop practicing, when you no longer have any good shots left to hit you leave the range. Practicing with a purpose is efficient practice. It's knowing what is going wrong and how to fix it. It's knowing what to work on. I personally like to use my CTRL Swing Master to help me practice with a purpose of getting more consistency on my models. Whether putting or chipping.

Short Game

The best players in the world have the best short games. If you look at any scratch golfer, they can chip and putt pretty well. Even the ones that are really good at ball striking are way better than average when it comes to short game. I myself constantly rely on short-game in order to shoot halfway decent scores. I don’t hit a lot of greens, but I can get up and down from everywhere. I’ve shot even par without hitting a green. A great short game makes up for a lot of sins. I constantly play with my wedges to find what feelings, what shots work best for me, and how to hit them. Go learn how to chip and pitch and your scores will drop drastically. If you can get up and down from anywhere on the course inside 100 yards, you will constantly beat your competition and shoot the best scores of your life.

Visualize and Attack

Visualization is way more important in golf than most players seem to think. Before I hit any shot, part of my pre-shot routine is to visualize the shot I want to hit. First thing I do is decide the shot I want to hit based on the obstacles in front of me, where the pin is, what my lie looks like, if I have mud on the ball, if I am in the rough or fairway, downhill, sidehill, up hill and what the wind is doing. A lot of factors go into choosing the shot. Next, I visualize the shot. This is one of the most important parts of any pre-shot routine. I imagine the swing; the ball coming off of the club; I imagine the spin and the ball flight, how much the wind might blow it, and how it bounces and travels up to the very last rotation of the ball. This helps me to lock in on a feeling that I am trying to get. If I imagine a 10 yard draw as my ball flight, I go ahead and take practice swings to try to commit to a feeling that matches the flight I visualized.

Confidence

One of the things I see about a lot of players is they may pick a shot and they might not be confident they can hit that shot, but THEY STILL STEP UP AND TRY! You are setting yourself up for failure by doing this. If you are not 100% confident, do not take a swing. That's not to say wait until you get confident, pick another shot, visualize it, feel it, trust it. See, Feel, Trust. Just like in 7 days in Utopia. You must trust it, if not don’t hit the shot. If you have a club in your bag that you are not 100% confident in every time you use it, take it out of your bag when you play, there is no reason to have it there to tempt you to pull it out and swing it, when you won’t hit it well.

Course Management

Course management is a tricky subject, but every good player understands how to get around a course, especially if they have played it more than once. They understand what their ball flight is, what their miss is and where they are able to miss and still get up and down. If you have a tendency to leave it out to the right and there is trouble right, aim left of the green if you have to, but don’t let yourself go right. Play for a miss to be good. Great players understand their games and where to miss them. I know that I tend to hook drivers right now, so if a hole has a penalty area left, or left is dead and the right side is wide open, I aim way right and let myself hook it, especially in a tense situation like when you are playing for money. Your mistakes tend to come out when there is something on the line. So I aim way right and swing hard, if it hooks, great, I’m in the middle of the fairway, if i hit a draw, I’m right side of the fairway, if I hit a straight shot I’m in the right rough and that is okay! If there isn’t a place, you can miss and the match or hole doesn’t demand a driver, don’t hit the driver unless you’ve been hitting it perfectly all day and built up a ton of confidence in it! The other part of course management I want to talk about is knowing a scoring yardage. What yardage are you the best from? I am really good from 130 yards, or 85 yards right now, so I am going to play to hit that yardage if I don’t have a chance at hitting the green. This may mean laying back with a 3 iron to ensure that I can hit my 130 yard shot into the green instead of a 50 yard shot. Closer is not always better! The harder the course you play is, the more necessary good course management is in order to score.

Conclusion

All of these things are things great players do really really well. They know how to get around a course; they know how to get ready to play that course, and they are able to visualize the shots they want to hit, commit to the shot and then hit the shot. Great players have a short game they can rely on when they have a bad day. Great players can get out and grind a good score out no matter what the conditions are because they understand how to play the course. Work on these things and you will get better at golf immediately.