It’s true: Few things are as embarrassing to a golfer as a high handicap. But because everyone comes to the game with their own unique strengths and weaknesses, there’s no one way to lower your handicap. Instead, it requires trying different things to figure out what works best for you.
Here are 12 common, simple ways to lower your handicap—and keep it there. Try them all, or mix them up to find out which ones work best for you.
1. Play against yourself.
Some golfers suggest playing solitary rounds as a way to focus on your game: how far you hit with each club, how you swing, how you execute drives and putts. Without the pressure of having to hurry up for other players, you’ll be in a better position to truly advance your game.
2. Play against better players.
Instead of settling for people you know to play well against, try playing rounds with golfers you consider a step above your level. That way, you’ll have more opportunities to study how lower handicappers play, and you’ll improve how you respond to tournament-style pressure.
3. Develop a pre-shot routine.
If you want to lower your handicap, you can’t play rushed. Set up a system where, before you swing, you practice a certain number of swings, take a drink of water (or swingOIL), or just take a deep breath. You’ll calm your mind and center yourself.
4. Check your clubs.
Sometimes, the culprit of a high handicap can be the poor quality of your clubs. If they’re too worn-down, they’re likely to interfere with your game. Yes, new clubs are an investment. But they could be a simple way to knock your handicap down a little.
5. Get out of the sand with less strokes.
We all find ourselves in sand traps. When that happens, you can swing wildly (wasting valuable strokes)—or you could instead develop a better escape plan. One popular method: putting weight on your front leg and swinging hip to hip.
6. Putt, putt, putt!
You could raise your handicap if you over- or underestimate the mechanics of your putts. Golfers suggest many ways to practice sinking more putts. The important thing is to treat your putts with the same emphasis as you do your drives.
7. Avoid too much clubface rotation.
Are your wrists rolling too much as you move through your swings? If so, that could be one reason why your handicap is higher than you’d like. For more precise shots and balls that fly straight and true, try to keep your clubface as steady as possible.
8. Play in all kinds of weather.
Practice your game in all kinds of weather, including less-than-stellar ones (when it’s too hot or too cold, when it’s rainy or windy). Not only are you bound to improve your game, you’ll avoid bad scores that could blow up your handicap.
9. Keep your swing smooth and focused.
Stiff muscles, low energy, lack of focus—make sure, before you play, you’re in the best possible shape to succeed. One way is with swingOIL, the ultimate golfer’s supplement drink that’s packed with 7 key ingredients to help you get loose and swing smooth.
10. Choose accuracy over distance.
Here’s a tip from the pros: focus on accuracy in your swing over distance. To improve the accuracy in your game, professional golfers recommend aiming down the left or right sides of the fairway, not the center (as amateur golfers tend to do).
11. Make sure you exercise (golf doesn’t count).
Exercise routines that aren’t rushed, and that cover every major muscle group, can build your strength, prevent handicap-raising injuries, improve your range of motion, and provide a host of other great physical and mental benefits.
12. Keep a record of your progress.
You can’t improve your handicap if you don’t record your progress. That means keeping a small notebook (or app) handy to chart your score with each game. It can also be helpful to drill down into smaller categories, such as how many putts it takes to sink the ball.
Disappointed with your handicap? There’s no need to put away your clubs forever. Just because you’ve currently got a high handicap doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.
Handicaps, like almost everything else in golf, can always change.