We’ve all had our low points as golfers.
We’ve all shared that feeling of walking off the 18th green having shot way over your handicap for the sixth-straight week.
We all know what it’s like to feel completely helpless and no matter how many hours we put in at the driving range, we can’t seem to make any improvement when we step out onto the golf course.
We’ve all spent endless hours trawling YouTube for the answers, only to leave ourselves more confused than we were to begin with.
We’ve all had that terrible feeling of standing over the golf ball not knowing whether you’re going to hit a hook or slice, completely devoid of confidence.
We’ve all, at some stage throughout our golfing journeys, asked ourselves: Why do I suck at golf?
The main reasons you suck at golf are:
- You don’t practice enough
- You don’t get regular lessons with a golf instructor
- You don’t play with people who are better than you
- You don’t play competitively
- You don’t do any on-course practice
- You don’t hit enough fairways
- You don’t make solid contact with the ball
- You don’t hit the ball very far off the tee
- You don’t get up-and-down enough
- You don’t make enough putts inside six-feet
- You don’t have the belief you will improve
Of course, there are plenty of technical reasons why your golf swing is failing you – whether it’s a poor takeaway, incorrect hip turn, terrible clubface control or that your putting grip isn’t reliable when you finally get the ball onto the green.
But, in a nutshell, the reason you suck at golf is likely a combination of the dot-points on the abovementioned list.
I know this because there have been many times I’ve walked off the golf course after a horror round, ready to nearly give the game up completely.
I’ve asked myself time and time again why I suck – hell, at my most desperate I’ve even Googled the question hoping to find an answer online (just as you have done to arrive at this article).
You shouldn’t feel ashamed at that, because I have stood in your shoes and know how demoralising golf can be when nothing – no matter how hard you work at getting better – seems to go right.
But I promise you there is light at the end of the tunnel, and in this article I’m going to give you some actionable steps you can take to stop sucking at golf and rekindle your love for the game.
How can I get better at golf and stop sucking?
The only ways you can get better at golf and stop sucking is to:
- Practice more often, and with intent
- Get regular lessons with a golf instructor
- Play with people who are better than you
- Play competitively
- Do more on-course practice
- Hit more fairways
- Improve your ball-striking
- Improve your distance off the tee
- Get up-and-down more often
- Make more putts inside six-feet
- Believe you will improve and never give up
Unsurprisingly, the way to stop sucking at golf is to reverse all the things that are making you suck in the first place.
Now, while these steps may seem pretty straight-forward when written on a list, they can also seem overwhelming – especially for casual golfers (most of us) who work full-time jobs and struggle to play more than once a week.
But, don’t worry: below, I’ll break down each of these tips in more detail to explain how you can weave them into your busy schedule and start seeing better results in your golf game.
1. Practice more often, and with intent
One of the likely reasons you suck at golf is simply because you don’t practice enough – and when you do, it’s not quality practice.
There are so many elements to golf that you need to become competent at if you wish to be a single-figure player including building a sound, consistent swing with driver, woods, hybrids and irons; accurate wedges inside 100 yards; a deadly short game; and a rock-solid putting stroke.
Whether you practice on the course or in the comfort of your own home – on a practice net or indoor putting green – the key is to set goals and work towards them.
For example, if you’re struggling to compress the ball properly, dedicate your practice to improving your shaft lean.
If you’re struggling with chipping, set up a basket and practice hitting high and low shots at your target.
Simply bashing golf balls aimlessly on the range, while it’s great fun, may not be the best way to progress your game.
2. Get regular lessons with a golf instructor
Your teacher, ideally, should use latest swing analysis technology (such as Trackman or FlightScope), have a personality you get along with, is within your budget, have the same goals as you, and have a proven track record of getting fast results.
You can always try to teach yourself, but personally I’ve made big gains since incorporating regular lessons into my schedule.
3. Play with people who are better than you
While there are times when it’s great to golf alone, one of the best ways to rapidly improve is to play with people who are better than you.
There are several reasons for this: you’ll tend to rise to standard of those around you; you’ll be able to watch what good players do on the course and emulate it; and you’ll likely pick up some great tips or pieces of advice you can incorporate into your own swing or course management strategy.
Put it this way – do you think you’d learn more by playing 18 holes with a 36-handicapper or a scratch golfer? Of course, it’s the latter.
Next time you’re booking your weekend tee slot at your local course, try and join in with a group of players who have lower handicaps than you – it won’t be long before their skills rub off on you.
Which brings me to the next step to not sucking at golf…
4. Play competitively
Whether it’s a strokeplay, stableford or par format, putting yourself in a competition setting will teach you to perform under pressure.
While it can be deflating when you shoot over your handicap, it’s extremely rewarding when you post a personal best score and start seeing that handicap drop lower, and lower.
The key is to keep showing up and giving your best, rather than taking the easy route and stop playing competitions after you have a few bad rounds.
5. Do more on-course practice
How many times have you had the best pre-round range session ever, only to step onto the first tee and blaze your drives 50 yards off target? I’ve lost count myself.
This is why it’s so crucial to incorporate on-course practice into your regular routine.
When at the range, we tend to hit ball after ball with the same few clubs and get into a rhythm – naturally, your ball-striking begins to improve and you think you’ve made huge progress.
However, as soon as you step onto the tee block at your local course, the fairway suddenly seems narrower, you begin to notice all the trees and hazards lurking nearby, and you tense up – which often leads to bad shots.
Practicing on-course teaches you to ignore all the surrounding distractions, align yourself correctly to your target, develop a repeatable pre-shot routine, and hit each club as good as the next when required.
6. Hit more fairways
It seems like an obvious tip, but unless you possess Tiger Woods’ recovery game, in order to score well (and stop sucking at golf) you need to hit fairways.
We’ve written some articles on hitting draws and fades off the tee; lowering your ball flight into the wind; and increasing your attack angle to add extra distance that can help you drive the ball better and land it on the short grass more often.
If you’re someone who struggles with the big stick, it may even be worth taking hybrid or even a driving iron to help find the fairway more often – while you’ll have longer distances into the green, at least it won’t be obstructed by trees or knee-high rough.
7. Improve your ball-striking
One of the biggest things separating average and elite golfers isn’t chipping or putting, but ball-striking.
You don’t see the pros taking two or three whiffs at the ball each time they’re in the fairway – all of which quickly begin to add up for the average golfer over 18 holes.
If you can make solid, consistent contact with the golf ball it allows you to confidently calculate your yardage gaps for each club (especially crucial for playing in windy or wet conditions), which enables you to start attacking more pins and give yourself more looks at birdie putts.
Quality ball-striking is a biproduct of a correct takeaway, proper rotation of the hips, powerful movement of the legs and adequate shaft lean at impact, all of which we’ve covered extensively in other articles.
8. Improve your distance off the tee
Statistics show a clear correlation between how far you hit the ball, and how low your handicap is – the farther you hit it, the more likely you are to shoot lower scores.
It makes sense: if you can bomb driver 300 yards down the fairway instead of 250 yards, it could be the difference between hitting a wedge or 7-iron for your approach shot into the green.
There are some easy ways to add distance to your game – including lengthening your backswing, increasing your attack angle off the tee, and simply swinging faster – all of which I’ve explained in some other instructional guides that I recommend you read.
Devote some time to hitting it longer, and you’ll be surprised how quickly your scores will come down.
9. Get up-and-down more often
While we’d all love to hit 100 percent of greens each round, sadly even the best players in the world miss the putting surface with their approach shots – and more often than you may think.
The difference, however, is they get up-and-down for par more regularly than the average player, who often register a bogey or worse when faced with the same challenge.
The key to improving your golf is finding a way to chip the ball closer when you’ve failed to hit the green: whether it’s using the bump-and-run technique, adding a chipper club to your bag, or developing a Phil Mickelson-esque flop shot.
Getting up-and-down more often is crucial if you want to get better at golf.
10. Make more putts inside six-feet
Another area where elite golfers outperform average golfers is with the putter in hand.
While everyone is prone to the occasional three-putt, the best players in the world are deadly inside six feet – you’ll find that even the top golfers at your local club eat short putts for breakfast.
It’s hard enough getting the ball onto the green in regulation as a high or mid-handicap player, so the last thing you want to do is waste shots unnecessarily with the flat stick in hand.
Grab yourself an indoor putting mat, set it up in your loungeroom at home and start nailing those short putts – it will shave shots off your score without having to change anything else in your swing.
11. Believe you will improve and never give up
Above all else, the only way to stop sucking at golf is to believe you will get better and never give up.
Golf is one of the most rewarding, frustrating, addictive, demoralising and difficult games in the world to play – but the feeling we get when we hit a perfect drive or sink a long putt is what keeps us coming back time and time again.
When things aren’t going your way on the course, it’s important to remember why you love the game and not be too hard on yourself. Even the pros have bad days.
Don’t throw in the towel, keep practicing, stay positive and your fortunes will turn around for the better, even though they might not seem like it at the time.
Of course, there are times where no matter how much we work on our skills, no matter how good our attitude is towards learning, no matter how hard we try, there will always be one nagging question lingering in the back of our minds…
Is it possible to never get good at golf?
Some golfers may eventually reach the limits of their ability and be unable to get their handicap any lower. While physical restrictions may prevent certain people from becoming single figure or scratch players, if you are young, fit and healthy there is no reason why you can’t be a very good player with enough practice and guidance.
Obviously, the younger you are, the more time you have in front of you to dedicate to your golf game – which works in your favour if you’re trying to get really good at the game.
It makes sense that someone who starts playing golf in their teens or 20s has more chance of becoming an elite player than someone who takes up the game in their 40s, 50s or older, purely because they have more years up their sleeve to devote to practice.
However, it’s important to enjoy the journey along the way and not get too focused on your handicap as this added, self-imposed pressure will likely hinder rather than help your progress.
Why is the golf swing so difficult?
The golf swing is difficult because it has so many moving parts. You have to coordinate your legs, hips, core, chest, shoulders arms, wrists and hands to create a perfect motion – all of which happens in less than one second from start to finish – meaning there is lots of room for error.
When it comes to ball sports, I’d argue that golf is the hardest to play – and the golf swing one of the toughest skills to master due to the hand-eye coordination required.
In soccer, the ball is big and round and the net is wide. In tennis, the racquet is many times the size of the ball. In basketball, you can throw the ball with your hands.
In golf, you have to hit a tiny ball long distances with a tiny clubhead (fixed to a long, steel stick) with the aim of getting it into a tiny, tiny hole.
The sport couldn’t be harder if it tried and is the reason why only a small percentage of players worldwide make it to the truly elite level.
At some point in our lives, we’ve all asked ourselves the question: why do I suck at golf?
However, what we should be asking is: how can I stop sucking at golf?
Start by following the tips above – even if it’s focusing on one at a time – and you’ll put yourself on the right path to improving your game.
It won’t happen overnight, but if you practice, keep believing in yourself and stop dwelling on the negatives, golf will become a lot easier, more enjoyable and suck a lot less.