Why Is My Golf So Inconsistent? And What To Do About It!

The truth is, all golfers are inconsistent. It’s an incredibly hard game, and so many factors have to come together at just the right time to hit an acceptable golf shot.

Even the best of players are ‘inconsistent’. You’ve witnessed the best players in the world suffer horrible meltdowns. You’ve noticed the best players at your club sometimes shoot terrible scores. And no one plays bad golf all of the time.

You’ve experienced brilliant shots or brilliant holes and even had rounds that surpass your expectations. Maybe, just fleetingly, you’ve even played the golf of your dreams … but why does this dream seem to happen so fleetingly? Why can your best shot ever be followed by your worst? 

So, what makes golf so difficult when compared with other sports? In a sport where you don’t have to run, jump, ride, catch, throw, or even be overly fit … how hard can it be?

In my opinion, golf is more difficult for exactly the above reasons. In most other sports we play, we are usually running around, there is an opponent trying to outsmart us and there usually isn’t much time to think… so these sports should be harder than golf, right?

Other sports may well be more physically challenging than golf, but it’s the very nature of golf being a still-ball game that sets it apart from these moving-around sports… there’s too much time to think.

Aside from the obvious technical difficulty in hitting a very small ball, with a very small thing, on the end of a very long stick, it’s this extra thinking time that makes golf seem less natural.

Combine this with the inordinate amount of instruction, advice, and mystery that surrounds the technique of the golf swing, and you have the ‘perfect storm’ for confusion in trying to address so many problems in one sport. 

Why does the ball fly off in different directions? Why do I hit behind the ball so often? Why do I ‘top’ the ball along the ground? Why do I keep three-putting? These are all the natural questions of the inconsistent golfer but is it all about technique, having the right clubs, or having hundreds of lessons? All of these things, of course, are relevant for the aspiring player, but, generally speaking, the answer is no. 

You probably have decent clubs and a reasonable technique already. You may already be having some coaching, but your game still isn’t coming together as you would like. The thing that’s missing is this word that everyone uses and everyone craves… CONSISTENCY.

So, let’s start to explore what the word actually means. If we use the Thesaurus, we see synonyms such as; Steadiness, Reliability, Uniformity, Evenness, Stability, Regularity, and Dependability… all really boring words!

Therefore, is great golf just boring? Well, in some ways yes. We could use many other boring words to describe efficient golf swings… repetitive, monotonous, and robotic, for example.

I once watched Ernie Els hitting 5-irons late one evening on the practice range at The Open… every shot looked like it was going through a draw-shaped 1o-foot diameter tube in the air… beautiful for the first ten minutes… then I fell asleep!

However, let’s use some more positive language to describe a good golfer’s habits. Repeatable, routine, rhythmic, even-paced, languid, balanced, stylish, fluent…  effortless… or seemingly so.

Are the swings of these stylish, balanced, and seemingly effortless players technically perfect? Do they have 5 different swing thoughts on every shot? Do they allow the last shot to affect the thoughts of the next shot? The answer is no, but do you?

Do these great players strive to keep every swing fluent, rhythmical, balanced, and identical to the last one? Do they have the same thoughts whilst standing over every shot on the golf course? Yes, they do.

In my experience, many golfers tend to do the exact opposite of these things when they play. They start every game with a new strategy or a swing change suggested in a recent lesson or YouTube video… usually without having practiced it first. They often let one bad shot or a sequence of bad shots lead to a complete shift in strategy or swing thoughts. They end up experimenting with something different on almost every shot… this is the perfect storm that leads to more and more inconsistency.

So, in this respect, the inconsistency in your game may simply be inconsistency itself. You may be working on a swing change with a coach for a very good reason, but you need to limit your thinking to just one or two things when you play. You must practice these things in depth before expecting them to work on the course.

You also need to know you’re making the right changes, for the right reasons, and with a definite goal in mind. You can try anything once and it may, by pure chance, work for a shot or two. You can experiment with all sorts of things and you may get lucky the first time and think you’ve cracked it (I know that feeling)…  but it won’t last.

The Way Forward…

There are many vagaries in this frustrating game, but ‘WE’ can’t afford to be one of them.

Even better players have flaws in their swings, hit the ball into trouble regularly, and miss putts that they shouldn’t miss. However, these better golfers at least give their flawed swings and putting strokes a better chance by going about their work in a consistent way.

Put succinctly, better golfers do the same thing, at the same speed, with the same routine, all of the time. Struggling golfers, on the other hand, are continually searching, tinkering, and experimenting for a good deal of the time. The one thing they never do, is anything that is remotely consistent.

So, how can we change?

Here’s a list of things you must or must not do if you want to become more consistent with your golf.

  1. Do not vary your time over the ball. You must build a consistent routine and ‘pull the trigger’ at the same time every time.
  2. Do not experiment with something different every time you play. You must stick with one thing for long enough for it to become comfortable. 
  3. Do not allow for hooks and slices with your aim… it will make things worse. You must fix these problems as they have a specific cause… they are not going to go away on their own!
  4. There’s only one correct ball position for each club… learn it and don’t mess with it.
  5. Focus only on rhythm and tempo when you play. You can add a maximum of ONE technique thought in addition.
  6. Warm up before you play. It’s not about stretching or swishing frantically on the first tee… you’re playing the hardest ball game on planet Earth… you need to hit balls before you play. What other sport do we play before which we don’t have a warm-up? Hitting balls into a net is fine, it’s actually even better (and cheaper) than the range.
  7. The grip has a huge influence on nearly everything that happens in a golf swing. If you have to change your grip to enhance your game, you MUST make it comfortable before you get anywhere near a golf course (the good news is you can do this at home and a few minutes every day will work wonders).
  8. Learn the correct set-up and posture… then stick with it. Changing this from week to week will only make you more inconsistent.
  9. As per No.1: Build a solid pre-shot routine that takes the same amount of time, involves the same actions, and includes the same thoughts on every shot.
  10. You must learn to TRUST YOUR SWING. This is hard, but remember, it’s the only one you’ve got with you on any given day. Stick with it throughout the whole round and if that swing isn’t working, get it fixed by a pro
  11. You MUST practice but PLAYING IS NOT PRACTICING. If you really want to achieve consistency, you need to practice. You need to make any changes in technique comfortable before venturing onto the course. You need plenty of shots ‘under your belt’ to give you the confidence you need to play your best golf.

I hope this advice is helpful  but if this post leaves unanswered questions or provokes more, please get in touch.

Rich Coffin, PGA Professional,

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