Not every player gets to practice before every round with his teacher hovering behind him, watching his swing, checking for malfunctions, making sure everything is working just right. Just those on the PGA Tour.
And not every player has the luxury of going for a lesson or visiting an instructor on a periodic basis, usually because the cost can be prohibitive.
So, how do you become a better player? What is it that you need to know to improve your game and lower your scores, which is the desire of every player who has ever teed a ball, hoisted a club and tried like heck to make the ball go high, straight and, yes, especially long?
Well, short of having a certified PGA teaching professional on your payroll, or taking one to the golf course every time you play, the Post-Gazette has asked five local professionals and PGA-certified instructors to provide a list of the top 10 tips a player should know and work on to become a better player.
Consider it the PG’s version of Harvey Penick’s “Little Red Book,” a compilation of teachings, lessons and musings designed to help players understand the work, preparation and execution that is required to lower scores and make golf a more enjoyable game. Or just less frustrating.
The participating professionals are John Aber, head professional at Allegheny Country Club; Eric Johnson, director of instruction at Oakmont Country Club; Kevin Shields, teaching professional at Rolling Hills CC; Sean Parees, teaching professional at Quicksilver GC and Robert Morris University Island Sports Center; and Jim Cichra, director of instruction at the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center.
The tips are designed for players of all skill level, but primarily are geared toward the average player. And, with the average score in this country over 100, there are plenty of players in search of lessons to improve their game.
The tips are not listed in order of importance. Also, keep in mind there are other tips that could be more useful to a player’s specific need. Still, these lessons represent a compilation of suggestions players should heed if they want to become a better player and shoot lower scores.
1. Identify your weakness
Eric Johnson, who formerly worked with former European Ryder Cup member Per Ulrik Johansson, said the first thing a player has to do to get better is figure out where his game is weakest.
“When I worked with Johansson, the first thing that I did before every lesson was to look at his tour statistics,” Johnson said. “That gave us a clear path on what we were going to work on during his lesson. Unfortunately, you do not have PGA Tour statistics to look up.”
This is what Johnson suggests:
Keep simple statistics of your own — fairways hit, greens in regulation, short game up and downs and total putts. From this, you can determine your weaknesses. The best solution that I have found for keeping statistics is shotbyshot.com, which helps you electronically track your rounds and gives you a handicap for each part of your game. This can provide a much more in depth look at your statistics and give you an idea what you need to work.
The more information you have, the easier it is to solve a problem.