Transition from Duffer to Expert: Practice the Right Shots

Experts say the quickest way to transition from being a duffer to being a golfer people take seriously is to concentrate on your mid-fairway shots and putting, and to learn to control the speed of your putts.

One pro mentioned that all shots in golf are not equal, for example, while it’s important to practice your driving, that only accounts for a small percentage of the game while chipping and putting is more than 50 percent of the game. In golf, the drive is the most dramatic shot. It takes a tee-up and bystanders watch. The ball travels the farthest. For these reasons, duffers and newcomers to the game sometimes give the drive more practice and attention than it deserves.

Many experts agree that the dividing line between golfer and duffer has traditionally been and still is a score of 90 or above. If you’re more than 90, you’re a duffer. If we’re talking statistics, a player who shoots above 90 is probably making half those shots on the green – so spending 75% of your time practicing your drive isn’t going to improve your game dramatically.

Learning the fundamentals of the game including stance, grip, posture and alignment are key. Some players who want to improve take lessons. But pros say even if you decline lessons, you can significantly improve your game by working on the shots that matter the most, concentrating specifically on your short game.

Alan Clack, a pro at the Amelia River Golf Club in Amelia Island, Florida, agrees that most of the game is either won or lost in mid-fairway and on the green.

“If you can become better at chipping and putting, that’s 40 percent of the game right there,” he said. “It’s important for newcomers to go from being a three-putt player to a two or one-putt player. It makes all the difference in lowering your score. Most of the players on the PGA Tour rarely three-putt.”

Clack said players who most often need help in their game need to improve their chipping and putting.“Putting is all about the eyes,” he said. “Reading the green and learning to control your speed on the green.”

As a general rule, the more a player is a duffer, the more they have a tendency to undershoot the hole. This is usually caused by being a little bit timid. They tend to poke their way toward the cup. About 90% of amateurs come up short, so learning how to read a green is how you control your ball speed and get closer to the cup. Conversely, on the PGA tour, about 90% of players overshoot the cup on their first putt. So put your time in on your short game and you’ll likely see an improvement in your game.

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