One of the common misconceptions about how to be a pro golfer is the idea that without a great looking golf swing you won't make it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I think that one of the unique aspects of golf over other sports is that every golf swing is as different as every thumb print. There is no "one way" to do it.
Yes it's nice to have a golf swing that is admired by your peers however in pro golf it means nothing if you can't produce consistently low golf scores. You have to fight the urge to make your swing look like a successful tour professionals and it will help you to understand this simple premise:
"The function of your golf swing techniques from full swing to putter is to produce a consistent par score or better."
Every facet of your game must be developed to achieve this low score outcome, and the smartest golfers on tour know and apply this and have a competitive advantage over other professional golfers who don't think this way.
Anyway, enough of that, let's get on with steps 4 to 7 in learning "How to Become a Pro Golfer: The 7 Steps You Must Take to Make it."
Step 4. Get Your Practice Distribution Ratio Right
You know that the short-game is very important and yet many golfers who have a desire of becoming a pro golfer don’t spend nearly enough time working on it.
In-fact, most amateur golfers are working on their ‘tour level golf swing’ a lot more than they work on the other important areas of their game and this could be one on the most common mistakes we find that could derail your progress towards becoming a pro golfer.
Ask yourself right now what the percentage of golf lessons you take on your full swing versus the other parts of your game?
Do you know? I bet that you have many more golf lessons perfecting your golf swing technique compared to developing the other areas of your game.
If you spend 30 or more hours per week over 6 days working on your game so that you can learn how to be a pro golfer, then it makes good sense that you divide your time carefully and focus on developing your highest pay-off skills right?
Of course it does, because it doesn’t matter how good you are from tee to green, if you can’t get the ball into the hole in par or better most of the time it won’t matter how good a ball striker you are. Ball striking helps a lot, but your short-game skills from 100 yards and in (including putting) trumps it.
Take a couple of minutes now and write down your total practice and playing hours each week you devote to developing your golf game in the following 7 Golf Development Areas.
Be as honest and as accurate as you can be.
The 7 Golf Development Areas Inventory
1. How many hours per week do you spend on the golf course either practicing or playing?
(not including competition) _____
2. How many hours per week do you spend with your golf instructor/coach? _____
3. How many hours per week do you spend practicing your short and long range putting skills? _____
4. How many hours per week do you spend practicing your bunker shot skills? _____
5. How many hours per week do you spend on your full swing either working on technique and/or hitting shots
to targets? _____
6. How many hours per week do you spend practicing your chip shots, pitch shots and lob
or flop shots? _____
7. How many hours per week do you spend practicing your approach wedge skills from 20 yards to 100 yards? _____
The total hours per week you devote to the 7 Golf Development Areas is: __________ Hours
If you spent 30 hours per week (6 Days) practicing and developing your golf skills within the 7 areas we think that the following ratio's will be very helpful to you.
In our experience the ratio of time spent in the 7 golf development areas will determine to a great extent how successful you will be in your quest to learn how to become a pro golfer.
You will notice that we don’t include mental and physical skills training in the 7 areas as we consider these to be additional areas to develop over and above the time you spend developing your golf skills for tournament play.
This is the biggest challenge that you will face developing your game to become a pro golfer. The distribution of your time is a key skill, and the only way you can do it effectively is to determine accurately how much time you spend in each of the 7 development areas of your game.
Step 5. How to Defend Par
If you watch enough golf on TV you would realize that the real skill of top level professional golfers is their ability in critical times to make pars and keep the double bogeys or worse off their score card.
You might think that top level golf is played from the center of the fairway most of the time but this is simply not the case.
Pro golfers are great escape artists!
What I mean is that they can get their ball out of the tough places around the golf course to keep control of their golf score.
In the 7 golf development areas you need to spend a percentage of time each week learning how to play shots from unusual to difficult lies both in the tree’s, long grass and the challenging lies around the green.
It is a BIG MISTAKE to just practice your golf shots from level lies on the fairway and from perfect lies around the greens and in the bunkers. You need to practice what we call “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly shots” in every practice session until you are highly skilled at rewmoving your ball from the tough lies and situations.
How much time do you spend practicing the bad and ugly shots on the golf course? The skill of the tour pro is in their ability to consistently produce a golf score around par in golf tournaments.
On average tour pro’s hit about 11 to 13 greens in regulation each week (65 to 67 percent) on tour and about 8 to 10 fairways out of 14 or around 55 to 70 percent.
When they miss greens and fairways they’re quite often playing from fairway bunkers, deep grass lies, and half buried lies in green-side bunkers, or skilfully manoeuvring their ball around obstacles.
Their green-side scrambling ability including bunkers (from all types of lies) is so good that they produce par or better more than 50 percent of the time over a year of tournament play.
Believe me when I tell you that your ability to defend par will most of the time get down to how skilfully you can keep producing effective recovery shots.
If you never spend the time to develop your skills from the bad and ugly situations around the greens then I can guarantee you that this step will stop you from becoming a successful pro golfer.
Step 6. Ideal Performance State
Every golf shot you play has a level of importance attached to it from not important to very important.
The way you go about practicing your golf skills each day and the level of importance you place on practicing in the ideal performance state will determine to a great extent how good you will be at producing golf shots when it really matters.
Practicing and performing your golf skills should really be one and the same thing. But they’re not for most golfers.
You should be attempting to hit every golf shot like you’re playing an important shot in a big tournament.
This is not easy to do. It is much easier to “just hit balls” and get through your work load as quickly as possible.
The intensity of your effort is influenced by your personal rating of the level of importance of the shot you’re confronted with and your ability to successfully accomplish it.
If you want to condition your nervous system to allow you to produce winning golf shots then you must commit yourself to mindfully applying yourself to performing every golf shot with the respect it deserves.
The key to managing this is to think of the two elements that will influence your ideal performance state;
If you set up golf shots that are just plain impossible to get near the hole (or your target) with your best effort then this will produce anxiety that keeps you out of the ideal performance zone. If you set up shots that are easy to play then this will lead to boredom and again keep you out of the ideal performance state.
Think of your ideal performance state as the state that allows you to play challenging shots effortlessly - with a great degree of confidence. The great thing about this state is that as you adapt to the challenges in your practice routines it can keep changing and getting better.
As you develop your competency with the different shots you practice, shots that seemed very difficult to succeed at now seem more manageable. They should never be easy though, if you want to be a pro golfer.
This challenge to skill level model is precisely the approach we take when developing the students in our Tour Bridging Program at Pro Tour Golf College.
We have witnessed firsthand the skill improvement of the students in the program as we make the degree of difficulty of the shot more challenging over planned periods, and they learn to adapt to the challenges with their results showing significant improvement over time.
Step 7. The Score Changing Attitude
Remember I said at the beginning of this article (Part 1) that pro golf has a high failure rate?
It’s true, it does, but I truly believe that one big reason that pro golf has such a high failure rate has less to do with a lack of ‘talent’ in the golfers competing in pro tournaments or are trying to.
I think it has a lot more to do with actually how you deal with the inherent difficulty of the game on a daily basis, and also how you use your available practice time to develop your critical to performance golf skills that help you to overcome the challenge of lowering your golf score average.
The question you should ask yourself is not so much, “how should I practice all my golf skills every week?” (Which is important) but instead, ask yourself, “what specific golf skills do I need to practice often to lower my golf score average?”
Your attitude to your improvement should be inverted or flipped from choosing to improve a golf skill because it hasn't lived up to your expectations lately, to looking closely at your current competitive score average and deciding which of all the skills you could work on would have the most positive effect on lowering your golf score average.
In the image above 2.57 strokes per round is the difference between the PGA Tour golfer with a competitive score average of 72.20 and a ranking of 187 and the golfer ranked number one with a competitive score average of 69.63 and a ranking of one in 2012.
The difference in prize money won between these two golfers is an unbelievable 7,712,876 dollars.
Just think, if a professional golfer with a score average around 72 can improve just 1 stroke for every nine holes they play they would be earning significantly more money.
In professional golf your competitive score average is the BIG DEAL and you have to do everything in your power to lower it to become a professional golfer who makes a lot more money than they spend.
Think about this for a second; if elite amateur and professional golfers just focused their mental and physical energy everyday doing everything they can to lower their competitive score average there would be less emotional anxiety and more golfers like Tiger Woods playing the game.
Isn't this what Tiger Woods is like? Hasn't he proved time and time again that the key to being successful in professional golf is to keep finding ways to lower your competitive scoring average?
This is surely the daily attitude you need to nurture and develop to stay in the game for a long time and give yourself consistent opportunities to enjoy success as a professional golfer.
This step in my experience is the most important one, and the one that sadly most elite golfers are not working on.
Too many amateurs and struggling professionals spend too much time trying to build a “tour golf swing” instead reducing their “tour score average” which increases their chances of earning a lot more income than they spend over a long period of time which is what every great professional golfer has been able to do, and after all, isn't that what professional golf is really about.
Lawrie Montague and David Milne - Pro Tour Golf College
Your Success On Tour is Our Business