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Golf tip of the week: Game-plan for improvement

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Throughout 33 years of competitive golf, with 15 of those years traveling the Americas as a professional, I have been blessed to be around golfers and golf games of many varying degrees. Despite the many amateur, or, novice golfers commonly stating how their golf games were so different from mine, I, on the contrary, actually started to see and believe how our challenges with the game were very similar.

When asked to submit a brief golf tip for the Journal this past week, I initially started to reach for the nearest Golf Digest article on “how to add 30 yards to the driver.” Everyone wants distance, and, I figured some jargon on how a delayed release, or, some exponentially increased shoulder turn that we all “should be able to achieve” would be thoroughly enjoyed by the readers. But instead I felt a calling to briefly discuss my findings of similarities between the everyday golfer and the professional.

The first similarity I’ve noticed between all golfers is the desire for improvement. Although the improvement process can be very precarious at times, it has become easy for me to predict who will succeed on this front. All golfers who were able to advance had a sound game plan for improvement based off a specific, time-based goal. These goals should be written down and revisited daily. Whether it was to lower their handicap by 10 percent, take one lesson a month, or an extra hour of chipping practice every week, as long as they consistently strived to reach their goals, their games developed.

Secondly, another trait I’ve noticed directly affecting all golfers is their “self-talk.” Whether it was a friend on tour or the 30-handicapper I played with in the pro-am, I have never seen a golfer reach his or her potential when the self-talk is consistently negative.

Examples of poor self-talk would be statements such as “I always three-putt,” and “I never play good after I have a great warm-up.” It should be noted that by simply feeding your subconscious these thoughts, you are increasing the likelihood for them to happen. On the contrary, the players that I hear talk with a positive vibe have always prevailed in the long run.

The last similarity I will mention today is the task of taking the lesson/practice tee swing to the golf course. Every level of golfer deals with this obstacle. The characteristic that I have seen offset this challenge the best is to get some on-course instruction. Now this “lesson” could be as easy as having your regular playing partners mention something they see occurring different on the course than the range, or asking your instructor to take you out to play a few holes during the next lesson rather than hit balls on the range. Being observed on the field of battle is a valuable experience for tour players and amateurs alike.

The binding thread for golfers of all skill levels is improvement, and the first step toward that improvement is embracing the positive.

(Wil Collins is a former PGA Tour member, current PGA of America member, and Arroyo Del Oso golf coach)