Have you ever tried to golf after a long hiatus? A snowed-in winter? A scorching summer?
“It’s like riding a bike,” you might think. “I’ll never forget.”
And maybe you step up to the tee and you think of all those little details from the private lesson you took three years ago. Turn the hip, keep the head down, drop the arms, follow through, do the little foot twist, and presto! You’ve hit a beautiful arcing shot that sailed over the range. You are Tiger Woods, reincarnated.
Except when you line up and hit Ball #2, it thunks into the grass and you look around, confused and embarrassed, wondering what uninvited force of nature decided to challenge your golf prowess.
That’s because golf isn’t like riding a bike. Golf is golf. It’s a sport, something that requires training and dedication. And to play well, you need to play often.
Playing on the Regular
One of the perks of golf as a sport is the ability to play without really playing – as in, you can regularly go to the range and casually hit a bucket of balls without shelling out for green fees and a cart. That means you have the opportunity to maintain your game without having to play the full 18. You ought to make use of this. Imagine how hard it is for polo players or deep-sea scuba divers to casually practice.
The problem we run into here, is that if you do choose to go to the range every single day, you still might not end up getting any better. You can actually just reinforce your bad habits. That’s why you can practice alone often, but should make the time to practice with another player. The skill of the other player does not matter – if they’re a better player, you learn from them. If they are… “less gifted,” you can teach them (and learn from your own instruction).
When it comes down to it, the answer to “how often should you play golf?” is, “how good of a golfer do you want to be?”
If you don’t play regularly, you will not get better. It’s simple. You’ll set yourself back every time you take an extended break.
If you’ve decided to commit to regular play, here are some options for how often you should golf, and what each might get you.
Range Every Day
This is the equivalent of buying a beautiful sailboat and leaving it in the harbor. Why would you do that to yourself? Get out there on the course! You will NEVER truly get better if you hit from a flat mat every single time. It’s the rough and the sand traps and the slope of the ground that build character (and skill).
Range Often + Occasional Course Play
The frugal man’s option. Hit the range a few times a week, like you hit the gym. Make it an exercise. Then, schedule a tee time once a month and push yourself a little harder. Your body will be strained after 18 Holes, but you’ll feel like a champ, and probably will play a decent game.
Range Sometimes + Frequent Course Play
This is a good balance. Go to the range once or twice a week, and hit the greens a few times a month. Maybe switch it up with an Executive 9 here or there. Play a few different courses in your area. You’re an athlete and you’re challenging yourself. You WILL get better by doing this, because you’re putting your skills to the test.
Course Play Only
If you can get away with golfing well by only playing on courses (without touching the driving range), good for you. You are more talented than most people. However, this could lead to a problem similar to that of the person who only plays on the range. Except this time you have the nice sailboat and you’re rolling it around in the ocean without taking it in for maintenance. Bring the boat home sometimes. Spend time on the range, focusing on specific clubs and techniques. That way, when you hit the course again tomorrow, you know you’ll be able to punch out from behind that gosh-darned tree on Hole #2 because you practiced hitting your 5-iron for literally an hour straight.