Are You Getting Better?
Or maybe the question is do you really want to get better? And then that begs the question, “How do you measure that?” Lower scores? Better quality shots? Learning more kinds of shots?

So, assuming that most of us want to continue to improve, hit better quality shots, minimize our worst ones and shoot lower scores, is that what we’re achieving? What is the path of your handicap over the past 5-10 years? Is it steadily going down? Or are you “stuck” on a number and can’t seem to break through that level? My goal is to help you, if you really want to improve. And I can break that down into several key elements of this game where you can focus your attention over the winter and as you head into the new Spring 2012 season.


The tools you choose to equip yourself with can have a dramatic influence in your ability to improve. During the off season, it would be a good idea to invest some time and a little money to visit a qualified independent clubfitter & builder to learn more about what’s really in your bag. I know you think you know what you have, because you’ve invested in each and every club. But really knowing can open your eyes to why you might have problems with certain clubs, and why others are your favorites. Besides, getting into the clubs themselves is fun.

Fix the Big Pain

Almost every golfer has that one bad shot pattern that creeps in unexpectedly to start a round spinning out of control, or at least destroy one or two holes. It might be the snap hook, a big push, fat approach shots, thin wedges, chunked pitches or chips, or missed short putts. But I’ll bet if you think about your rounds this year, you’ll isolate one or two things that keep coming back. The good news is that they can be fixed, maybe even over the winter months. Visit a golf professional and have them fixate on that one thing. You don’t want a swing overhaul, but only to understand why and how that shot happens so that you can be aware of it, and fix it mid-round.

Improve Your Fundamentals

This game is infinitely easier to play well if you have great fundamentals. These are the pieces of the puzzle that happen before you ever take the club away from the ball. I’m talking about your grip, your posture and set-up, of course. There are several WedgeGuy articles about these basics that I suggest you read and refer back to. Sitting in front of your TV, or on the phone in your office, you can practice gripping and re-gripping the club so that by the time Spring rolls around, the new fundamentally sound grip is thoroughly learned. And practicing your set up and posture is as easy as putting pictures from any golf magazine or book up on a mirror and copying that. I’d venture to say that at least 95% of golfers with over a 10 handicap are preventing their own success by ignoring these two most basic of the building blocks of a good golf swing.

Improve Your Mind

I think the most overlooked “fundamental” is your understanding of the golf swing and what your objective is when you have a golf ball in front of you. Use the off season to read great books about the golf swing – there are many. Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons”, Tom Watson’s “Getting Up and Down”. Putting books by Dave Stockton and Bob Rosberg are wonderful, as is Ben Crenshaw’s. The more you know, the better you will understand what it is you are really trying to do out there.

So, fire off your questions to me about where I can help, and I’ll certainly do what I can. But getting better is up to you. Is that what you really want? And what are you willing to do to make it happen?
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.

[ comments ]
TeT says:
Yes, getting better. Taking the slow route, but it's steady...
snuffyword says:
Last year, I worked on the "basics" and concentrating on the short game inside 50 yards. I read Ben Hogan's and Jack Nicklaus' books. This off-season, I have started on your "fundamentals" and read a Ledbetter book. I recently picked up Harvey Penick's "Little Red Book" and will devour that over the winter. I will continue with the short game and work more on putting. In late February/March, I head out to the range to knock off the rust. After a couple of warm-up rounds, I get my loft and lie adjusted. I have read many of TheWedgeGuy articles and continue to review them. Assuming that I have the basics down, my question for you to address in the future is what else can I look at to consistently square the clubface at impact? I would like to see more topics on better bunker play, tight lies/hard pan, clearing your mind before a shot, and how to find the proper swingweight to keep your club on plane. Thanks, Terry!
unmnorth says:
I just went to our local Golf Etc for a GPA (Golf Performance Assessment). It was a great eye opener! Terry is right, off the rack shaft flex are all over the place. My next step is to get a new set but let them customize the shafts. My handicap did not change in the last 16 years. Hopefully the news customized clubs will help. Also, I just got my Dave Stockton book on putting today :) BTW, I have been trying Terry's 2 putter concept and love it!
bkuehn1952 says:
I have somewhat reached a plateau. My handicap index has bounced around 6.0 to 10.0 for several years. I really enjoy playing but do not particularly like practicing. I just don't think I have it in me to dedicate the time and effort to get my handicap index under 5.0. Right now I am more in a "maintain" mode, trying to stay close to 6.0 as I age.
GBogey says:
I started playing about 2 1/2 years ago and have rapidly improved to a level I didn't think was possible. On the other hand the improvement has slowed significantly. My focus this winter will be short game and short game as there seems to be where the next 3-5 strokes will come from if they come at all. Two books I highly recommend for winter reading are "18 Game Changing Lessons" by Mark Steinbauer (who was mentored by Harvey Pennick) and Dave Pelz' "Golf Without Fear" (and I am not typically a fan of Pelz' style).
wrhall02 says:
This year was frustrating for me. I did improve in some areas. I am hitting the ball as well I as ever have, but my scoring has gone backwards.
I know playing the same course has hurt my index. But, in Mexico City there are only private courses. I am stuck with one course due to economics. I know the course so well I am now avoiding trouble instead of executing good shots. For example; if one round I push a shot right and into to trouble, I am likely to pull the shot left the next round. Memory of that triple bogey sneaks in and blocks my ability to execute. I long for the days when I could play a wide variety of seems to help me forget about the bad shots on a specific hole.
GolfSmith7 says:
I am improving in five years of playing I am down to a 6ish handicap. These winter months since I can continue to play (live in Texas) I will work on my GIR and short game. I want to break the 6 handicap level and get down between a 1-5 in 2012 that and average shooting in the 70's. Those are my two goals for 2012.
birdieXris says:
I am absolutely getting better. Exactly on track to be where i want to be. Hopefully it'll pick up next year now that i have a little finer point on how to go about things and have started the last of the major overhauls.
homermania says:
Simple question, simple answer: Nope.
larrynjr says:
I went from a 27 handicap down to a 24 this season. I have visited a qualified club fitter and plan on at least one more visit to him. I plan on taking more lessons concentrating on my short game, chip, pitch and putting. I would like to break 85 next year and get down at least to an 18 handicap.
levilacandula says:
Slowly getting better... handicap from low 20s to about 16 or 17 the past couple of rounds. The big difference? Sticked to a single pre-shot routine regardless whether on the course or the range. Been practicing 'intelligently'. Also been visiting my coach regularly - regardless if Im playing good or bad. Someone to 'see' you play and give feedback is always good.
SteveMM says:
I'm improving, but that might be because I can't get much worse.
Agustin says:
Ball striking, YES! Scoring... No :S

Eventually my scores should reflect my improved swing; at least I hope they do.
Tim Horan says:
@bkuehn1952 - I am guessing that 1952 is your year of birth and so we are of similar age. I have also hit a wall...just about every year for last ten years I get to 8-9 handicap through the summer hitting the good rounds down to 3/4 and towards the end of the year slip out to 10/11. I seem to lose focus later in the season and let it go. Injuries this year have brought about the slide a little earlier. I have had some lessons recently to help improve quality of impact. I definitely do not wish to continue with this pattern. I still have aspirations of reaching mid single figures before I shuffle off this mortal coil.
woobwoob says:
I'm absolutely getting better. Doing better at improving one aspect without regressing on other aspects as much as I used to. Looking forward to 2012!
bkuehn1952 says:
@Tim H: Yes, currently working on my 60th year. I recently played a couple rounds with the founder of our company (77 years old). He has inspired me to be less comfortable with the status quo. I am currently mulling over some goals as well as a plan to possibly accomplish them.
mjguzik says:
It has been a good year for improvement and realized my goals - about 10 or 11 handicap. Got the golf bug in 2010 and have put in some work. I was also tired of the status quo. This year I have started to realize the results from these efforts. A friend of mine - 2 or 3 handicap - tells me it take hours of play and practice to hone the skill combination needed to play golf well. Also, I am humble enough to recognize that future changes to my game will become more subtle next year. Something along the lines about setting attainable goals.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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