After several years of playing golf and ingesting just about all of the written and video content there is out there about the game, it’s remarkable how often one topic seems to come up: consistency.
I’ve seen a number of publications where their readership was surveyed to find out what the most common issue with everyone’s golf games was, and being ‘inconsistent’ was, without doubt, the top response every time.
Consistency is a dangerous path to go down, as, like with many golfing topics, we seem to get sucked into using the pros as the yardstick to measure ourselves against.
Some simple questions to ask yourself: do you go to the range every day and hit hundreds of balls? Do you have full-time coaches and support staff? Have you worked towards golfing glory for your entire life, since you were a child?
If you answered no to all three of these (which I’m pretty sure you did if you are reading this) then having the consistent accuracy and distance of Rory McIlroy off the tee will never, ever, EVER be something you’ll emulate.
Despite this, everyone can definitely improve their consistency, and there’s no doubt that crafting a more consistent golf game is a sure fire way to improve your scores.
Breaking 80 is only 11 pars and 7 bogeys, but few of us are consistent enough to avoid that one infuriating triple bogey that seems to always blow up our round.
Unless your local track is Pebble Beach or Augusta National, it’s certainly not unreasonable to think that, with practice, you can eradicate the majority of those blow up holes from your game.
To become more consistent at golf, try working on stability, strike and rotation. Many golfers are far too active in their lower body and swaying back and forth in the swing can lead to inconsistency in low-point, causing fat and thin shots. Working on a good turn, rather than a slide, will assist this. Some foot spray or tape that provides strike feedback will also help you work on finding the middle of the clubface.
The sway is one of the most common swing flaws and something I was guilty of early in my journey of improvement.
Working with a golf pro at my local course, I was able to get feedback on my lateral movement thanks to his FlightScope, which we used every lesson.
A pesky head dip was also a prominent feature of my swing, so being able to switch off the lower body (a little, not completely, as your legs are needed for power) really helped to temper the head movement that lead to fat and thin shots.
Something I haven’t used so much – possibly because the markings the ball makes on my Ping g425 max are already prominent – is impact tape or foot spray that, during practice sessions, will help you to determine exactly where you are striking the ball.
If you have a regular miss, establishing this and working to fix it will do wonders for your consistency of strike.
As far as the general golf swing goes, finding the middle of the club and quietening down the lower body are definitely two great starting points for improved consistency.
Table of contents
Why is it hard to be consistent at golf?
It’s difficult to be consistent at golf due to the many movements that contribute to an effective golf swing, not to mention how punishing small mistakes can be. However, the biggest reason for inconsistency is golf requires constant focus to replicate the same routine and swing multiple times during a round. If you don’t have a regular routine and clear swing thoughts to focus on, you are relying on chance, not technique, to strike the ball well.
These routines begin with the absolute fundamentals of the golf swing, such as grip, alignment and the takeaway.
If, before you have even swung at the ball, you align too far left of target, straight away your mind will subconsciously recognise this and begin making adjustments to counteract your flawed aim.
The issue here is this: your hand-eye coordination won’t always get the adjustment right, so the result will be misses left and right, with the occasional straight shot.
Now, some people are incredibly good at pulling adjustments like this off, but if you’re like me, these habits just seem to accentuate over time to the point where you’re scratching your head wondering if it’s time to employ a golf coach – or even a sports psychologist…
Another one of these fundamentals many people get wrong is grip.
If you have a grip that is too weak, your natural strike will probably occur with an open clubface, sending balls off to the right.
The opposite, a strong grip, will lead to strikes usually going left (such as nasty duck hooks).
If you are constantly missing left, then you’re probably going to get quite annoyed by that and put in place measures, such as opening and thrusting the hips forward – something termed ‘over extension’ – to try and straighten out your ball flight, but this is an inefficient, inconsistent solution.
So, what should you actually do?
I’d strongly recommend purchasing the Golf Grip Trainer from SKLZ so you can be sure your grip isn’t the fundamental issue leading to inconsistency and start addressing other flaws in your game (or maybe even see instant improvements).
Tip: club choice can make a huge difference
The easiest way to improve your consistency is club choice, as it is more down to decision making than actual execution of the golf swing.
Frustratingly, people often hit fantastic shots for zero reward on course, purely as a result of making poor choices.
For example, say you have a 150 yard carry over water to hit a green with plenty of space behind the pin.
You know a 9 iron will make it if you get it pure and you want to stuff it in close to impress your mates.
You make a pretty good strike, let’s say 8.5/10, only for the ball to hit the bank and trickle back in.
It’s situations like these where we have to put the ego to one side and choose the smart play: taking the extra club to fly the water comfortably and find the back of the green.
The same goes for tee shots, with too many people out their being driver obsessed.
A 300-yard Par 4 with trouble everywhere is not a driver hole, and a safer iron shot (or even a hybrid) to set up a perfectly angled wedge is going to – over the long term – reap far more consistent results.
There are copious amounts of YouTube videos out there where good golfers go low with nothing more than a 7-iron, wedges and a putter in the bag, so we underestimate just what can be achieved with shorter, well-placed shots.
If you’re someone who struggles with driver off the tee, I’d strongly recommend you try out a driving iron (we’ve listed our top picks here).
Why is my ball striking so inconsistent in golf?
Inconsistent ball striking usually comes down to poor weight shift, club path and contact with the club face. If you rarely find the centre of the club then you’ll probably lose distance and see misses right and left, while incorrect weight shift can lead to both fat and thin shots. Finally, if your club doesn’t stay on plane throughout your swing, you’re unlikely to promote a consistent ball flight and direction.
Let’s take a deeper look at why these three elements are usually responsible for inconsistency in your golf swing, and what you can do to try and correct any deficiencies.
Step one: Striking the centre of the face
If we look at strike on the clubface first, toe strikes will likely see you hook the ball while heel strikes will probably promote a slice.
If you want to develop a consistent flight, you really need to find the centre of the club as often as possible.
Athlete’s Foot Spray may sound like a bizarre intervention, but adding a light film of this on the clubface before each strike at the range will provide you with instant feedback about where on the clubface your ball is making contact.
If you continually find the heel or hosel of the club, which could be causing outright shanks, standing a little farther away from the ball or setting up with the ball more towards the toe could be the fix you need.
Step two: Keeping your club path on-plane
Another key factor to a consistent golf swing is getting the club to come down and through the ball on-plane so that, as long as your clubface is square, the ball will travel on a fairly straight trajectory.
Now, how to get the club on plane is beyond the scope of this article, given that you could have a swing that’s too shallow or over the top, topics we have discussed in more detail elsewhere.
One thing that I do recommend is filming yourself completing a few swings at the range with a golf training app, as this will help you determine whether your swing comes over the top of plane, too shallow or perhaps even on-plane, meaning your quest for consistency may actually lie elsewhere.
I recommend getting a simple tripod to hold your phone as, if you are anything like me, you don’t generally go to the range with friends.
Check out our full guide on recording your swing here.
Step three: Master the weight shift
Weight shift is another complex matter, but when looking for a consistent low point – which will help you catch ball first, then ground more often than not – harnessing effective rotation is really the key.
When I started playing golf I fell into the same trap many others do, thinking you had to slide forward in order to make a downward strike on the ball.
However, all swaying back and forth did was create a really inconsistent low point that caused both fat and thin shots.
Later, I learnt the art of rotation and the need to pivot around the spine with a stable lower body, not rock back and forth through the ball.
Practicing this by holding an alignment stick across your shoulders while completing some ‘shadow’ swings is a great little drill as the stick will provide real feedback about where your shoulders are aiming.
Ultimately, your backswing should cause the stick to point to the right of target before your follow through moves it to be pointing left of target.
Another alignment stick in your belt buckle will allow you to visualise similar hip movement too.
If the sticks more or less point towards the target and stay there in backswing and downswing, you probably have yourself a slide that could be the reason behind inconsistent ground contact.
How long does it take to become consistent at golf?
Becoming a really consistent golfer can take years, if not decades. While the pros dedicate their entire lives to becoming insanely consistent and skilled, most of us juggle work and family alongside trying to improve our golf game. The average person can definitely make improvements over a few weeks or months, but crafting a consistent, repeatable golf swing should be considered a long-term endeavour.
One of the things I find most frustrating about golf is the fact that practice and time spent working on your game is by no means guaranteed to translate to improvement.
Take running for example: every time you lace up your shoes and put a few miles under the belt, your body is getting fitter.
Every 100 balls you hit at the range is not guaranteed to make your swing more consistent, and sometimes it can even make you feel worse about your golf game!
Practice doesn’t make perfect when it comes to golf, unless the practice is good quality practice and working towards developing good habits, not bad ones.
This is why getting a few lessons from a golf coach or PGA pro is really useful to try and get your game on the right track as they can give you drills and a training program tailored to where your game is at.
I’m certainly not encouraging a weekly lesson that will no doubt break the bank for most people, but a check-in every couple of months to keep steering you on the right track will probably help you greatly in honing a more consistent swing over the course of months, if not years.
How do you fix an inconsistent golf swing?
There are many ways to fix an inconsistent golf swing depending on the bad habits and flaws that are the root cause. Generally, developing a rotating swing as opposed to a slide will eradicate fat and thin shots, while fundamentals such as a neutral grip and sound set up will help create a swing that is more repeatable.
I have spoken about grip earlier and how a grip training tool is a really cheap and effective way to ensure you are holding the club in an optimal way.
A bad grip will need compensatory actions and movements to counteract it, and these sorts of movements will usually be very inconsistent.
Similarly, developing a rotational swing, rather than a sliding one, will help fix fat and thin shots and create a more consistent grounding of the club.
In fact, a golf pro I received lessons from for a while – who did help me shift my handicap down quite a bit – believed good rotation, as opposed to lateral movement, was the key to more consistent golf.
I do want to stress, though, that my calls for rotation don’t mean there is no weight transfer in the feet at all; there should be a clear shift of weight into the back foot during the backswing, then into the front foot through the downswing.
The big thing to watch out for here is where you feel that weight in your back foot.
I’ve been taught by many high-quality golfers that the thing to observe is a shift in weight into the inside of the back foot, not the outside.
If the weight moves into the inside, you can still rotate through a stable base without the right hip buckling into a swaying motion.
If you allow weight to transfer too much into the outside of the trail foot, it can roll and cause the hip to move laterally away from the ball.
If you do this, you need to make a compensatory move to try and shallow the club at the right point, something incredibly hard to get right all the time.
A pressure board can be a useful tool to monitor your weight shift and ensure it is moving back and forth throughout the swing.
If you love your golf tech and really want to nail that weight shift into the inside of the back foot, the Salted Smart Insoles are a remarkable tool that slip into your shoes to gauge pressure.
The info they receive is sent straight to an app so that the data can be viewed and analysed on your iPad or smart phone.
How do I improve consistency off the tee?
To improve consistency off the tee, it is vital to make smart decisions, exercise good course management and avoid hazards. Most amateur golfers don’t have a strong recovery game, so laying up short of bunkers or aiming towards safety when out of bounds is present are smart plays. For mid handicappers, loft is generally your friend with driver, so purchasing a big stick with about 12 degrees of loft will help you hit the ball straighter and find more fairways.
There are a number of adjustable drivers on the market that are well worth experimenting with in order to increase forgiveness.
By jacking up the loft and shifting weight farther back, you should find improved accuracy off the tee and more consistent drives.
A couple of options worth exploring are the Epic Max from Callaway and the Cobra RAD Speed XB.
However, some of the best golfers out there (amateurs that is) don’t pull driver all that much.
Now, the pros do need a threatening big stick due to the length of the courses they play, but given the tracks we mortals frequent are so comparatively short, you might find a 2-iron provides more than enough distance and greater consistency.
A 2-iron might still be a bit hard to hit for many, but hybrids, 5-woods, even 7-woods like the high-lofted Taylormade SIM 2 options are shorter but more reliable lay up options than driver off of the tee.
Through having different options in the bag to practice with and feel more confident using, you can trial a range of course management strategies and find the safest, most effective route to the flag on every hole at your local course.
Why is my scoring so inconsistent in golf?
It is likely your scoring is inconsistent because you fail to adhere to a consistent set up and routine when you play. While it is normal for there to be fluctuations in your scores – everyone has good and bad days – if you find huge variations in your output, then it is vital you develop a pre-shot routine and stable set up to try and replicate a good swing as often as possible.
I do want to stress that it is perfectly normal for your best to be as much as 15 shots better than your worst and everyone is prone to a nightmare round here and there, but developing a methodical pre-shot routine can really help eradicate two or three wasted shots each round.
It’s really easy to get lazy when we play, but given the small errors we make can have huge impacts on the results we see, keeping everything as similar as possible is important.
As a starting point, try having a consistent number of practice swings – I like two – and develop a clear strategy for aligning yourself to your target.
Picking a point far off in the distance to aim at and tracing it back to a leaf or tuft of grass just before the ball can ensure your aim is dead on target.
It’s best to work on your set up at the range prior to playing an actual round so that you aren’t tweaking things and experimenting mid-game,too.
It’s nearly impossible to fix a swing while on the golf course, so working on things prior to going out onto the course with one or two particular swing thoughts or checkpoints for your set up will make it more likely you’ll feel comfortable over every shot.
Finally, and this is possibly the biggest factor that can lead to inconsistent scoring, don’t get sucked into showing off to your friends or taking on shots you can’t pull off.
Most people play the same course each week – the course they hold membership at – and there’s nothing wrong with having a particular strategy about how you play each hole when conditions are fairly consistent.
If you have a wonderfully reliable 4-iron that you flush to wedge range each time on a certain hole, then pulling out driver here and there to have a lash at the green may not be the play.
Yes, you might pull it off occasionally and have an extremely short second shot, but the big miss could spoil your hole, so why risk it?
What kills consistency in golf?
A poor set up and loss of balance in your swing are huge consistency killers. Pair this with poor attention to detail, such as a failure to clean your clubs or replace a damaged ball, mean that you’ll be making it incredibly difficult to play consistent golf through a repeatable swing.
For example, if you have a different routine to how you line up your shots every time you stand over the golf ball, there’s every chance that you will turn a good shot into a bad one purely by hitting it well but in the wrong direction.
As silly as it sounds, next time you are at the range, go through the motion of stepping off the ball, lining up with something on the ground or in the distance, then setting up and playing your shot.
Do the same thing every time and you’ll help your chances of hitting consistent shots.
No matter how good your set up is, swinging out of your boots each time is a recipe for poor balance and, with it, poor strikes.
It’s crucial to swing within yourself and maintain a smooth tempo so that your body doesn’t rock around too much and cause the club to come in on a bad path or angle.
You may also find that stiff muscles are the reason you can’t maintain balance and you could benefit from some pre-round stretching, too.
Do both of these things and you might STILL find good shots diving out of the air to the right or flying in a bizarre fashion.
If you often find yourself witnessing this on course, ask yourself when the last time you cracked a fresh ball was.
I understand completely that new balls are expensive and there’s nothing worse than blazing a fresh one into the drink, but if you are using and old and chipped Chrome Soft then, aerodynamically, it probably won’t perform as well as it could, no matter how well you are hitting them.
Believe it or not, like most things in golf, there is no secret to overnight consistency, but there are many things you can implement to get yourself onto the right path.
The gear you use, your set up and even the pure mental decisions you make will all have an impact on how consistent you are as a golfer, so master these elements and you’ll likely see your scores become less erratic and hopefully lower, too.