How to Get Back into GolfPublished on 03/14/2023 · 10 min readStruggling to find your game? Golf Expert Adam Ditcher shares the lessons he's learned when trying to find the magic on the course again.
Golf Expert Ethan Wooten playing the 18th hole at Kapalua Plantation on Maui. Photo courtesy of Ethan Wooten
Ever watch the PGA Tour, and someone who you haven’t seen in a long time on the leaderboard is suddenly in contention? They generally shoot one of the better rounds they’ve had in years, and their post-round interview generally consists of comments like, “I just struggled to find my game for quite a while.” Everyone from a new golfer to a lifelong fan of the game can relate to the ups and downs on the course that they hear the best in the world discuss on television. One day you wake up, go play 18 with your buddies, and are shooting new personal bests. The next time you go to play you try to recreate the magic, just to find out you feel as if you don’t know how to even hold the club properly and your ideal golf swing is nowhere to be found. Success in golf is a fleeting feeling, and the roller coaster ride of the game can provide a huge toll on your mental state. Even the best players get to a point after enough trials and tribulations that they want to just walk away from the game, even if it isn’t a permanent hiatus.
So, how do you get yourself up and ready to get out of a funk when bad shots seem to be all you’re capable of producing anymore? There are many reasons why someone could be lacking enough enjoyment in golf to want to step away from the game. One of the most common reasons is just a lack of success or not seeing the results that you used to.
As I write this, I personally am struggling with this exact dilemma. My game started out on a tear at the beginning of the season. I played some of the better golf that I had played since way back in high school when I used to have much more free time to practice and play. However, as the summer months rolled in, my game quickly began to leave me, and as a result, my motivation for getting out on the course, whether it be a round or just working on my own game, has faded. As a Curated Golf Expert, PGA Tour fan, and occasional caddy, I have plenty of ability to interact with the game I love without actually having to struggle through playing a round myself. So, in full transparency, I write this article not only to help others find the means to get back out there and find that magic on the course again but to assist myself in the same journey.
Take a Break from the Course
One strategy that has been passed along to me by others, including PGA Professionals, is to avoid going to the golf course altogether. Focus on just working on the swing and fixing the fundamental issues that are the root cause of the errors you’re seeing in your shot execution on the course. By focusing more on shots and shot execution, and less on results, you can see progress creep back into your game. The process is long, and often takes time and practice, but getting back into the groove of your swing is a grind, and the time you spend practicing will pay off in the long run. One of the most common reasons I hear why players feel they aren’t executing on the course is a lack of practice or time playing golf. Unfortunately, few things make progress like good old-fashioned practice and grinding out some swing issues. Focus on the fundamentals: get your hips through your swing, keep your head down, focus on taking the club back on the plane you feel best on, and maintain a good tempo throughout your swing.
Make the Most of Range Sessions
When you go to the range, begin in the shorter part of your golf bag with your sand wedge and pitching wedge. Then start hitting some mid irons, gradually moving up the bag into hybrids, fairway woods, and finally the driver. Then work on any problem clubs or focus your attention on any bad habits you’ve identified after working all the way through your bag to start your range session.
If you are in need of drills to work out certain problems within your swing, there are plenty of websites like Golf Digest that offer articles on a wide variety of golf tips, tricks, and drills to help with whatever aspect of your game you feel needs work. If you are unable to self-diagnose what is happening, look into getting a golf lesson from your local professional, who will be able to help you to diagnose your swing issue and give you things to focus on. Sometimes, just some simple instruction and guidance can make a huge difference and help you to feel comfortable over the ball again.
Commit to Practice
Now, if you are like most weekend warriors and unfortunately are unable to spend countless hours a week working on your swing because of this recurring conflict every week that most people refer to as a “day job,” you have some decisions to make when it comes to how you want to approach your golf game. The first is to try to find a way to prioritize your practice in your schedule. Pack your clubs on your way to work and commit yourself to going to the driving range after work on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Early in the year, signing up to join a golf league can be a consistently scheduled time for you to get to the course and at least get some swings in, even if you’re unable to make it to the range for hours on end. Every little bit of practice will help you to work through your funk.
If you have the means, getting some type of practice setup at your house can provide the accessibility you need to get reps in at a moment's notice if you have a little downtime. Even some of the at-home options I discussed in an earlier article titled How to Make the Most of Your Winter Golfing can suffice if you aren’t quite at the point where a backyard practice green or artificial turf isn’t a practical option for you. Also, don’t overlook the assistance that hitting into a backyard golf net can provide—despite not seeing the outcome of the swing, the repetition of plenty of swings into the net can help build habits that assist your game in the long run. Net reps can help you to focus on swing mechanics and give you a better feel throughout your full swing. If your backyard has the space, set up a target somewhere and do some short game work. Focus on your chip shot, pitch shot, and other shots with your wedges that are extremely feel-oriented and require repetition.
Finally, make sure that the controllable aspects of your game are in sync. Be sure you are playing the right tee box for your skill level, and aren’t making the game even more difficult for yourself. Check that your grips are intact and don’t need to be replaced. Keep an extra rangefinder battery in your golf bag in case yours needs replacing mid-round. The more of these small, controllable things that you can make sure are taken care of before you hit the range or course, the better. Especially when your heart isn’t in the game, it only takes something small to cause you to lose focus or interest in your round and wish you hadn’t gone to the course that day. Try to minimize what you can so that you can focus on your game and not every other distraction that comes along with the game.
Of course, option number one is much easier said than done. It can be expensive to invest in more practice, especially if you want the convenience of practicing at home. It is also time-consuming to work out swing issues, and there are plenty of things that come up in the life of the casual amateur golfer that makes it impossible to have the level of free time that is required to really work through a swing problem.
So, option number two is something that arguably is just as difficult as option one, but in a very different manner: acceptance. Listen, nobody enjoys playing mediocre golf, and anyone from a beginner golfer to a former college golf standout has had a time in their life where they were playing better golf than they currently are—sometimes substantially better than whatever shambles their game is currently in. Plenty of people used to play more or used to have better outcomes on the course. It is perfectly okay to be in a slump in your game, and every golfer who has ever picked up a club knows the feeling of what you are going through.
Focusing on your mental game, accepting that you are going to have ups and downs, and enjoying the game for more than just the number you see on the scorecard can really be refreshing, especially for those of us who have played any type of competitive golf at one point or another. Grab some friends, buy a six-pack of your favorite beer (if you are of legal age), and just go to have a good time relaxing with some of your favorite people. If you’re in need of some new golfing buddies, give my article How to Inspire Someone to Pick Up Golf a read. Honestly, some of the same appeals in that article, such as spending time with friends, being outside, and getting to see beautiful courses, are the intangible aspects of the game that cause people to fall in love with golf in the first place. These wonderful aspects of the game we love can get easily lost when your game is falling apart, and focusing back on these enjoyable aspects of the game that have nothing to do with what type of round you are having on the course can really bring everything into perspective.
Don’t Forget to Splurge on Yourself
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the other ideas I’ve tried to help a funk, including some retail therapy. Sometimes a new golf club, some new apparel, or switching up the golf ball you play can provide that little change that sparks a flame in your game. This is far from a guaranteed fix, but when everything seems to be going wrong with your swing to the point that you aren’t even interested in golfing anymore, something as simple as getting different clubs can be a big deal. It likely will not fix your issues, but can at least spark your interest in the game again and help motivate you to find your way back to the wonderfully maddening game of golf we all love in our own wonderfully varying ways. Be sure to speak with me or another Curated Expert for our own tips and thoughts—we’d be happy to help you to rediscover your love of the game and assist with any retail therapy you may need.
Finally, be sure to always remember that this too will pass; good golf is not gone forever, and someday that birdie or par will go back to feeling easy and natural again. The peaks and valleys of the game are maddening, but it wouldn’t be golf without them!