You're about to find out why so many golfers, including you and me, have found the game to be so hard and frustrating. Yet so wonderfully addictive…
...and what you can do to break through the hard times.
Why is golf so hard to learn is a question every adult beginner has asked themselves when they first started to play. And that is also the question we all are asking even when we are a few years into our golfing career.
Let me tell you a little bit about myself:
When I got back into the game a few years ago I knew that I would like to learn how to swing the club. I read books, took beginner golf lessons one on one as well as with online instructors. I did everything I could think of in my quest for an effortless and proper swing.
Every now and then I felt I was close to a breakthrough in my swing sequence and that the time I put into practice was about to pay dividends. Filled with confidence I teed it up for my next round, just to spend four miserable hours with balls going left, right, water, sand before I finally could tap it in after three or four putts.
Experiences like this really get one thinking if the game of golf is something to pursue. But let me tell you...
I've been through all the struggles we will cover further down this page. I did not give up and from month to month and from year to year, I've constantly made improvements. Not big improvements, but small improvements do add up over time. And that is a fantastic feeling when you look at your game back then and your game today. You too will enjoy this magic feeling.
Today I'm still improving and I know I will continue to do so for years to come. And I'm enjoying every minute I can spend on the golf course. The key is that I now know what the hazards are, both mentally, realistic, and on the course. To me this insight to the game is fulfilling and I’m very grateful.
I did this golf journey and you can do it too. It has been breathtaking for me and it makes me happy when I know you will be able to experience it as well. I'm 100% certain that you can understand why golf is so hard, turn that knowledge into your companion and progress your game to the level you desire.
Keep moving forward and you will be able to enjoy the rest of your life at the golf course.
Mastering the game of golf is a fulltime job. If you start as a kid, play every day, turn pro in your early twenties and then continue playing on tour til you forty - I guess one could say you master the game. But even then you don't master it.
I don't think anyone really can master the game. Just look at the pros and the brutal shots they hit once in a while. In that context you probably could say that golf is the hardest sport to play. So yes, golf is hard to learn!
Just think about how many different situations you face during a round of golf. All the different shots you have to make. All the shots that don’t go where you intended them to. But you still have to find a way to score.
Can you think of any other sport that is as complex as golf?
Yes, golf is a hard game to play.
But if you're not aiming for the professional ranks you will, with some practice and dedication, become a good golfer at the level you think is just about right for you. We've all been on that rocky road when we first began and most of us experience those bumps in the road even today.
Let me tell you that it takes a lot of practice if you want to feel comfortable when standing over the ball. You also have to learn the game playing on the course. The driving range is the place to work on new things in your swing and the course is where you learn to play the game with all the different situations you will face during a round.
Hitting the ball consistent over the course of a full round can take years to achieve. So, there definitely are sports that are easier to learn than the game of golf.
Just think about why golf is so hard - there's so many elements in the game:
... and then you have the mental aspects of the game. You have to be strong and move forward with your mind after a bad shot.
(We talk more about the mental game in a while.)
I'm kind of an easy learner when it comes to sport. Usually I get a feel for most athletic stuff pretty fast. So when I decided I wanted to learn a proper golf swing I was puzzled. Why is it so hard to hit a golf ball I kept asking myself when the trajectory didn't come out as desired.
Now I understand how hard it can be to hit consistent shots. Hopefully you got grit enough to break through the first barrier, because after that you will understand why golf is so astonishing.
The reason it is so hard to be consistent in golf is that the margin of error is so thin. You can swing the club on a good plane and with a good rhythm, but the angle of the club head can be slightly off and cause a hook. Or maybe your stance was aiming to the left?
No shot is the same as the one before. There is always a new lie and new conditions for you when you place your hands on the club for your next shoot. Top that with the fact that' it’s almost impossible to make exactly the same swing over and over again. Just look at the pros - they hit bad shoots in nearly every round!
But there’s good news…
When you devote some time to practicing and playing golf, you will in a reasonable amount of time reach the point where you get that effortless swing that delivers the ball flight and consistency you want. Still you and everyone else will hit bad shots, but that is something every golfer has to accept.
I guess you too have asked yourself why it is so hard to change the golf swing. I did ask myself that question too over and over again the first year when I really tried to improve.
It was driving me crazy!
I came to the point where my head knew what to do but I just couldn't get my body to execute it.
For about a year I was thinking all the way from the take away to the top of the backswing and then all the way down to the follow through about how my hips, torso, shoulders and arms should move. It wasn’t beautiful to watch and the ball sure didn’t come off well.
Learning new motions and swing planes isn't easy for an adult, but it’s not too late to get it all working. With a bit of time invested in practice and step by step drills you will make it work. And when you break through you will have a nice swing sequence for the rest of your life.
When you look back a few years ahead from now, you will remember and smile when you think about how tough it was back then and how hard you tried. You will also feel proud about yourself when you think about how you conquered the swing basics.
We all see those players at the range and on the course - the players that seem to be all natural good at golf.
They swing the club so easily and they hit it so far. And the sound from the shaft on the downswing isn’t something you have heard from your own club when you swing. Nor the sound when they hit the ball. Often you don’t have to see them to know they are good, you can tell by the sound.
We all get jealous when we see and hear this and we ask ourselves why our golf swing is so bad.
I admit that I feel this is not fair! Why do they swing the club in such a natural way when I can’t!
The truth is that you have a huge advantage if you start golfing at a young age and with a good teacher. Kids do have easier to learn golf and that is true for all other sports as well. Most pro players began playing at a young age and have basically played the game full time ever since.
But you are not aiming for the tour and the good thing about golf is that you and me actually can begin later in life, put some time in for practice and play and come out as pretty decent golfers. From there we can then go on and improve and enjoy the game on the golf course for the rest of our life.
I find that fact extraordinary exciting.
The game of golf is mentally tough, which you probably already have experienced. It's tough on the nerves and mind of both beginners and professionals alike.
We've all been there...
Some golfers actually quit the game because of the pressure they put on themselves. This is a shame since they lose out on what is to come should they only keep going for a while longer.
But I must let you in on a secret:
If you keep playing, you will learn to handle the frustrating parts of the game well as the swing. With more experience you will be able to handle the pressure and mind tricks you put on yourself. You got some fantastic years ahead of you, so promise me you keep playing.
Maybe you are a golfer that likes to read and in that case there are some really good books available that will help your thinking when you play. Should you prefer something shorter to read, this is a good beginner article on how to improve your mental game. It covers:
We all feel that golf is very addicting. We want to get out on the range, practice those putts we didn’t sink last time and get out there to play that next round. We golfers actually live for the next round where great shots will take place and magic happens!
But have you ever reflected for a second on why golf is so addictive?
How’s your feeling when you:
All these shots come with a great feeling attached to them. We feel terrific inside! We feel like we are on top of the world!
We have all hit those shots and we know how they feel! And we know that we can do it again.
This is why golf is so addictive!
Is there any other sport where a weekend warrior can make achievements at such a high level? No, golf is unique in this way. That is why we want more of it and always are looking forward to that next round.
Then we got the other shots we shot during the round…
But we don’t remember them as vivid. It’s not them we talk about at work come Monday morning...
Even though the ball flight is the ultimate judge of your swing, there's more to it...
The clubs are better now than they were a decade ago. Some even say that clubs are getting better every year and that's probably true, even though I doubt they will help your game or mine in a breakthrough kind of way.
With all the manufacturers constantly improving the clubs and other equipment, they also drive price, making golf more expensive. This is not unique to golf and the question you might ask is…
Should this keep you away from golf?
Truth is you don’t have to have the latest equipment. What you should be aiming for is an equipment that suits your wallet.
Yes, newer clubs are often more forgiving and help you hit longer and straighter shots. But you can absolutely play good with clubs that are some years old. Hey, that’s what the good players used to swing a few years ago.
Most often there’s also a membership to a golf course that you have to pay. Some of these are quite expensive if you aim for that range. Still there are many courses where membership is quite affordable.
If you think about it - who is cutting the grass and who is keeping the greens nice and smooth for your putts? All of that takes work that has to be paid for by someone.
Golf is hard and it takes time and practice to acquire the desirable skills. The steps a golfer has to go through to improve from a beginner to someone who plays the game proficient can be described by the four stages of competence. These are the same stages everybody goes through when learning something new, no matter the subject:
Here’s a brief overview of the different stages:
At this stage you don’t know and you don’t understand the swing sequence. You might even don’t understand how people can spend hours on the golf course. In order to progress and move forward, it must become clear to you why golf is so hard and that you don’t know how to swing the club.
When you are at this stage you know that you don’t know how to shoot and score well. You recognize this as well as you understand that you have to acquire more skills in order to reach the level of play you want.
You try and you know how you should go about the proper swing. At this stage you have to be very focused when standing over the ball and that feeling of a natural golf swing is far away.
Now you don’t think in your backswing. You have put time and effort into practice and playing and you probably have the feeling of a natural golf swing. You are probably more observant to how your playing partner swings his or her club and you can point out the pros and cons.
It’s mind-blowing when you think about how much there is to the noble game of golf and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. However, if you take it one small step at a time you are in for a life-changing journey. And there’s even some shortcuts.
So, let’s dive in:
The bottom line is that golf is hard and it can sometimes be frustrating. But you will also hit those magic shots and that is also why the game is so awesome and addictive. To unleash your potential, here are a few simple things you can do to set yourself on the course to victory:
We are all built differently and golf is a game that acquires some physical ability. You don’t have to be fit like an Olympic runner in order to hit your irons well. But you sure need, and will benefit from, having some basic mobility and stability in your body.
There are many ways to get in shape and the most important step to get there is your first step. Should you not know where to begin, this article will get you moving in the right direction and it covers the following drills:
When you read Ben Hogan's classic Five Lessons later on you will also get a good understanding about the specific muscles that are used in the swing.
We’ve talked about why golf is so hard and a few situations did pop up in your head. If you think that the mental aspect of the game is holding you back from reaching your full potential, then you should really do something about it.
One way to move forward is by reading a good book on the mental part of the game of golf. There are plenty of well written books on the subject, so you are likely to find one that suits you and your needs.
Even if you read books about the mental game it’s easy to put too much pressure on ourselves when playing, even when playing with friends. And let me be clear about something:
Everybody hits bad shots in golf!
If the pros do it, why would you be so hard on yourself?
Let loose and enjoy the game. Don’t think about the previous shot when you’re getting ready for your next one. It won’t help either your body or your mind. Play the game one shot at a time and accept the bad shots. And move forward from there.
Without spending some devoted time practicing and playing golf you won’t experience that effortless swing. Go out and play the course as often as you can. It does take courage to hit that drive over the water, but you will find a strategy to take yourself around the course with a good score that will become lower and lower...
And once you have a handle on that you will be astonished when you find out how much fun there is to the game of golf.
Now your next step from here is to browse some of the best golf books for beginners.