Amateur’s have to learn the game of golf and for a complete novice, it can be daunting. It’s not enough having to learn to swing the club properly and connect with the ball consistently.
You have to learn all about how to practice properly, the etiquette of the game as well as the rules of golf.
Outlined below are the top ten mistakes that most amateur hackers tend to make either before they play, practising or during play out on the course. How many of these mistakes do you make?
1. Not warming up properly
Although it may be portrayed as a somewhat sedate sport, golf actually places some acute physical demands on key parts of the body. The stresses felt in the muscles of the shoulders, arms, back and legs can be quite rigorous. As such, it is absolutely vital that you arrive at the course in plenty of time to warm up properly.
This doesn’t mean an hours exercise, just gently warm up the muscles, start with putting and pitching before moving onto to some half and ¾ shots before attempting a full gentle swing to ease all the muscle groups into action.
This is especially crucial if you have not played for a long while or are not used to the demands of golf. I have witnessed first-hand a golfer rush to the tee without any warm up after arriving late at the course, place his ball in the ground and without so much as a practice swing, try to launch the ball 300 yards down the fairway. The resulting muscle pull in his back, left him unable to play another shot that round, or any round for several weeks.
2. Not checking their equipment before playing
Life generally runs smoothly and most of the time we get to the course and take our bags out of the car, trundle down to the putting green to begin our warm up without even thinking to check our clubs. Even the greatest caddies in the world, as Ian Woosnam found out below, sometimes fail to check if they have the right things in the bag.
If the kids have been playing with your clubs, or they’ve been under the stairs for several months or the shaft on your driver looked slightly suspect towards the end of last year, the time to discover this is at home when you can resolve it. Not when you are stood at the first tee of the first medal of the year, realising that you are going to be putting on the green with your three iron as your putter is still in your son’s bedroom.
3. Using the wrong ball for their game
I’ve seen many a high-handicapper losing £30 worth of ProV1x balls on a typical round. As a beginner and high handicapper, you really need a ball that offers distance so use a more durable ball that offers additional distance over control. Not only are they cheaper to replace when you lose them, but they offer a tad more distance with every shot you play.
Only when you reach a level where you have the skill to control a golf ball when it lands on the green, should you consider switching to a softer and more expensive ball.
Using an expensive golf ball if you don’t have the skills to use it, just makes replacing them more expensive and won’t help your game or bank balance. If you’re environmentally conscious too, then you should really consider switching to this fabulous range of Dixon eco-friendly golf balls.
4. Overestimating how far they can hit a club
We may all marvel at Rory McIlroy or Tiger Woods hitting a 5-iron 220 yards, but when you are stood over a shot of similar distance, don’t assume that because they took that club, you should too.
Many amateur golfers erroneously assume that because they hit one drive on the range 270 yards, that they will hit the ball this far on every shot. They filter out the other 99 shots that travelled between 0 and 220 yards, and simply focus on the one long shot they hit.
A good rule of thumb that I personally use, is to judge the distance to the hole and depending on weather and course conditions, either play a club more, or even 2-clubs more if the wind is against me, or I am hitting uphill. I’ve found since doing this that I hit more greens, and still very rarely hit my approach through the green.
5. Keeping the grooves on your clubs clean and effective
One of the biggest frustrations for amateur golfers is when they do hit the ball cleanly onto the green, they see it race on through the green without any spin being applied. Often they may blame their ball or poor technique for this, but often it is simply a case that the grooves on their clubs need redoing.
Clean, crisp grooves help grip the golf ball when the head hits the ball. This helps impart more spin on the ball, especially with lofted clubs, so get used to cleaning the grooves on your clubs after every shot and every round and get them re-grooved at your local pro-shop when you feel performance starting to fall.
6. Teeing the ball up in front of the tee box.
One of the most common mistakes is players who tee their ball up just in front of the imaginary line between the two tee boxes. This is a penalty stroke and in strokeplay is a two-shot penalty and the player must retake the shot behind the tee box (if they continue to play and fail to rectify this, that player should be disqualified).
In matchplay the rules are slightly different however. If a player tees off in front of the tee box then their opponent can ask them to play the ball again, or accept the shot. So, if a player hits the tee shot from in front of the tee box in matchplay and hits the middle of the fairway, his opponent can ask them to take it again. However, if they smash the ball into the trees, they can accept that shot and let the player continue.
7. Dropping a lost or unplayable ball from the rough.
If your ball is unplayable or lost, do you just drop a ball from your bag on the fairway and play from there? Many amateurs do but this is wrong.
If your ball is unplayable then you have three options. You can either go back to where the ball was originally played and play the shot again (penalty one stroke), play the ball from a position two club lengths from where it lies but no nearer the hole (penalty one stroke) or take a line from the hole to where the ball lay unplayable and drop the ball on this line two club lengths or more behind where the ball was unplayable (again for a one shot penalty).
8. Not practising the shots they need to at the range
One of the biggest mistakes amateurs make is when practising. At the range they will devote 70% of their balls to hitting their driver, fairway woods and longer irons, 20% of their time to using mid to lower irons and 10% of their time pitching.
On an average round, a high handicapper may use a driver 13 or 14 times out of 100 shots, their fairway woods and higher irons even fewer times, their mid to lower irons for around 20-30 shots and their wedges and putter for all their remaining shots, usually well over half the rounds strokes.
Remember the famous adage, driving for show, putting for dough and you won’t go far wrong. Pitching and putting are key elements of golf and you need to work them as rigorously if not more so at the range than driving the ball or hitting long irons.
9. Grounding your club in a hazard
Many amateurs will unintentionally ground their club in a bunker or water hazard when considering their shot and this is actually a penalty. Grounding the club in a hazard is not allowed and players must not do this, as Dustin Johnson unfortunately found out in the video below.
10. Lack of Etiquette
Manners are imperative on a golf course, so it is vital for amateurs to remember some key rules. Play at a decent speed, let quicker groups behind you play through, if you lose a ball only spend five minutes maximum looking for it (and wave the group behind through). Don’t talk or have your phone on loudly while on the course, especially when others are taking shots and don’t walk on the line of others putts.
Images Courtesy of Gorilla Golf, Dixon Golf