Learn to be a more astute and… a better golfer.

James Hahn missed 7 cuts in a row, then won a PGA Tour event.

At all levels we go through spurts of great and awful play. Good players at all levels realize bad times and shots happen. People who never get better try to correct after every bad shot and abandon what has worked for them after one bad day.

Hahn knew he was good, worked with his coach and found a small sequence issue and, Viola!

If you want to get better at golf understand these common sense concepts.

1. The best players in the world go through bad stretches. It happens. You don’t have to be happy about it or even accept it, but resist the urge to make a U-turn in your approach if it has worked for you in the past…especially if its a positive change you have made in the recent past.

2. Understand what a good shot it for your skill level. I see 12 handicaps slam their club in disgust after hitting a shot that would rank above the tour average from that distance. Look at tour stats and realize the club champion at your course is significantly worse than the worst tour player. If you are a 12, you are significantly worse than the scratch or plus handicap club champion. Statistically, if you hit the green from 150 yards, that’s a great shot if you’re a 12…and a 12 is a very good player and way above average. It’s not about accepting mediocrity, do better the next one. It’s about labeling adequate shots unacceptable. Too much of this and your golf game starts to resemble and abused pet. If you slice it out of bounds, you can whack the dog on the butt with the newspaper for pooping in your shoes, but don’t kick the dog across the room for a minor transgression. You are jaded by watching golf late Sunday where the best in the world are at their best. No one pays attention to the guy who shot double hockey sticks (77-77) and missed the cut by 12.

I digress.

3. Don’t be a knucklehead!

I play with 15 handicaps who will push a shot and slam their club. Then they pull the next one and slam their club again. I look at them and say, “What is it you want, to hit every ball straight? You’re not allowed to miss right or left?!?!?!?”
If you don’t allow one miss, you’ll almost never hit a good shot. Doesn’t mean you’re not trying to hit a good shot, but think how ridiculous it is to stand over a shot with the intent that it won’t miss right or left. You attempt to hit a good shot and be aware it might miss (right or left). The alternative is straight is the only acceptable outcome, then your days will be filled with Army golf. Left-Right Left-Right Left-Right Left-Right.

I’ll give a lesson to a 25 handicap who has a 40 yard slice. After some tinkering, he’s hitting a 20 yard slice, almost to the point it could be labelled a fade. I say great shot, he says, “No it’s not, it’s still slicing.”

4. Stop giving all your shots pass/fail grades. Especially on the range. Give them A-F grades. That way at the end of the session, instead of 45 Fails and 5 passes, you have 5 A’s, 20 B’s, 20 C’s 3 D’s and 2 F’s. Think about that last sentence. For most golfers, that is what the grades of 50 balls would look like. What would your attitude be leaving the course using each of those scales? How would you feel about yourself and your swing?

I’ll see a 15 hit 50 balls during a lesson and it’s an hour of sighs. He will hit a 3 yard fade on target, I’ll say good shot, “Yea, but it faded. The previous one was thin, the one before that the divot didn’t start in front of the ball.”

I reply, “…but but but, they all landed within 10 yards of the target.”

“Yea, but I didn’t get that sweet compression feel on any of them and 10 yards is not a good dispersion from 150 yards.”


Actually, all 4 things I said fall under the category of don’t be a knucklehead…..to yourself. Be competitive, but not unrealistic and ridiculous.




  1. Ryan Groves

    Dues paying member of the knucklehead and self berating club here. So true, but frustrating when the ball goes completely the wrong place, and I know it’s my fault. Good advice boss.

  2. roger kramer

    This is your fault, I saw you hit it 300 yards off your knees so I don’t know why I can’t do that standing on two feet! Seriously, excellent post that makes me think a lot about my own game.

  3. Mike Divot

    What turned my attitude around on the course (and my scores and my enjoyment of the game) was something from Jack Nicklaus.

    He said he expects to hit 6 bad shots a round.

    Now if I hit a bad shot, I say “oh well, that’s one of the 6” and forget it. (Even it’s more like 8 or 9 or …)

    But more than that, Nicklaus said that he only expects to hit 6 shots a round that do exactly what he wanted.

    If Nicklaus can only hit 6 perfect shots a round, why would I expect to do better?

    The art of golf is not in hitting perfect shots. It’s in coping with not hitting perfect shots.

  4. Greg

    Great read Monte.
    Expect to get out of the game what you put into the game.

    The pro’s can shoot back to back 66’s and then go 75, 76 on the weekend. Why? Because it’s an extremely difficult game.

  5. rk

    Jack Nicklaus’ ball rolled up next to me in a pga practice round on what can only politely be called a blustery day in Hawaii. As Jack pulled his club I nervously asked the greatest golfer of all time what his swing thought was when he played in such fierce winds? He responded ” you shouldn’t be on the course today: it will do you more harm than good”. Now that is astute!

  6. Blades

    Sorry, can’t resist. Viola!? His swing looked like he was just fiddling around?

  7. charlie goffnett (aka Coach G)

    Another spin on evaluating yourself realistically.
    A thru F on smash factor (compression) ball striking…
    A thru F on direction of the strike…

    I killed the driver but I hit it off line…by 15 yards…
    I give myself a 10-8…10 on great compression and an 8 on direction.
    Too me self evaluating is so tough…
    I have heard that aiming to far to the right for a RH player is the
    common mistake and our brain calls b.s. and orders the body to pull it back to the target.
    Monte, would you agree with this to some point? Hope you get back to the Midwest this summer…Enjoyed the Columbus Clinic last summer.


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