shave 10 strokes off of your gameStarting back in 2011, I had the the pleasure of working with Tiger Wood’s former swing coach, Hank Haney. Hank is big on ball flight and controlling your biggest miss. However, more than anything, I learned the importance of keeping statistics and letting those numbers tell you where you can and should improve. 

We’ve all seen or clicked on those hokey pokey articles promising to shave strokes off your game; let’s be honest, we all want to shoot lower scores, but not all of us are going to. In my time coaching under Hank’s tutelage I became privy to his not-so-secret recipe for lower scores, and cutting the number of strokes down fast.

I’ll let you determine if you have what it takes.

  1. Eliminate Penalty Shots
  2. Eliminate 2 Chips
  3. Eliminate 3 Putts
  4. Get easier chips “up and down”
  5. Miss in easier spots
  6. Hit more greens
  7. Hit it closer to the hole
  8. Get hard ones up and in
  9. Hit par 5’s in two

Easier said than done, right!?

Of course it is. But completing the entire list isn’t the point — start at the top and work your way down.

Everyone and their mom knows golf is difficult, and let’s not act like getting better is any easier, am I right?

In a recent PGA Tour podcast Brendan Steele, a PGA Tour player who already has one win in the 2018 season, says Phil Mickelson gave him a bit of advice that changed the trajectory of his career when he was a rookie. The advice was simple: Focus heavily on ONE aspect of your game each season and dedicate yourself to that specific aspect, be it putting, driving, fades, bunker shots, etc.

Essentially, we have a lifetime to practice, play and improve our games. Focusing on the way you practice, and what you practice, will have a major effect on your scores. So, rather than taking a broader approach to improving your game, narrow your vision to something like, “In 2018, I’m going to dedicate myself to finally getting rid of my slice.”

Again, sounds great, but what’s the reality of you actually following through with that statement? For most golfers it’s simply a wish, but for the golfers who take a different approach to how they practice, it’s a realistic goal. Don’t play victim to your slice. Fix it over time and with a plan, or live with it.

So where do you begin? To start, go through the list above (1-9) and realistically count how many strokes you could save in each of these categories. Let the numbers decide where you’ll see the biggest return. (Hint: The gold lies in numbers 1-4.)

Could this be the year you become a short game phenom? Write down your biggest goal of the year and put it on the fridge, office desk, or even stamp it on your forehead! 

Before I close, I want to highlight no.7 in the list above, “hit it closer to the hole.” Because everyone likes and wants to hit it close to the hole (duh).

Believe it or not, the PGA tour average is roughly 38 feet from the hole. The best players average mid 20’s, in feet that is. Jordan Speith averaged 35 feet recently at Pebble Beach! Sure, they stick shots in there close frequently, but not as often as you would think. Golf is hard, remember? Before you worry about this stat, I highly encourage you to focus on the six of them that are listed prior.

Go get em’, Tiger!

A version of this story first appeared on

Leighton Smith is the 2017 PGA Player Development Award winner for the Colorado PGA and runs his own teaching and coaching business, Leighton Smith Golf, in Colorado Springs, CO. His approach to golf instruction brings unique dynamic similar to what you’d find in a PGA Tour player entourage. His program, The TRIBE, is the ultimate resource for players looking to get to the next level. Join the TRIBE today, and enjoy clinics, and more fun social events for golfers in the area. Follow him on Instagram (@Leighton_Smith_Golf), Facebook (LeightonSmithGolf), and subscribe to his YouTube channel.