How to Get Better at Golf Without Lessons

The biggest myth in golf is that in order to become a scratch golfer or even a Tour Pro, you need to take lessons in order to improve. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Don’t believe me?

Well then, try this on for size: Bubba Watson, a two-time Masters champion, never took a lesson in his life. Bobby Jones, an owner of seven major championships, also did it all on his own.

Bubba Watson. Photo: Hone Morihana / CC BY 2.0

So how did they do it? Trust me, it wasn’t easy. It takes a lot of hard work. But the good news is if you want to bypass lessons and learn on your own, it’s much easier today than it’s ever been before. Technology has given us a gift and the ability to learn from professionals through apps like YouTube and The Golf Channel. Hundreds upon hundreds of golf professionals give lessons on YouTube. It just takes a simple search.

All this being said, here are some things you need to keep in mind if you want to try and become a scratch golfer without ever having to take a golf lesson.

1. Spend a LOT of time on the Driving Range

By a lot, I don’t mean an hour or two before the heat withers you away. I’m talking a full eight hours or more. During the broadcast of the Charles Schwab Challenge, we found out that Patrick Reed spent at least 12 hours a day on the range when he was 10 years old trying to get better. Vijay Singh would practice on the range from sunrise to sunset every single day. It worked. It earned him three major championships and a spot in the PGA Tour Hall of Fame.

Find yourself a good facility where you can work on a variety of different skills. You don’t want to just spend 12 hours a day hitting balls off a tee, you want to also spend it putting, chipping, and hitting sand shots.

2. Work on Different Skills One Day at a Time

Feeding off the previous point, you should spend your time on the range focusing on a wide variety of skills, but split your time up between hitting balls, chipping, and putting. Also, when you’re hitting balls on the mat, spend most of your time trying a specific shot. There are so many different types of golf shots, from fades and draws to stingers and knock-down shots. Spend your full time working on a specific shot.

The same goes for putting and chipping. Focus on short chips one day, flop shots another, low spinners the next day, and so on.

As a scratch golfer, I can tell you that spending three hours on the range and trying to hit just 10 wedges, 10 9-irons, 10 8-irons and further on down the line isn’t going to get you very far. I try to spend four hours doing nothing but hitting pitching wedges one day and then cool down with hitting some other shots. Then another day, I’ll start with those pitching wedges and then move into a heavy dose of working on my drives. It’s almost like how you’re taught in school. You’re taught one lesson a day, and then the next day you review that lesson before moving into the next one. Golf is the same way.

Also, the most important shot you can master is the shot from 100 yards and in. This is going to be your go-to shot that you should consistently hit on the green nearly 100% of the time. No matter how much you practice your 5-iron, even the pros have a hard time getting these on the green. But they never miss a pitching wedge.

3. Work at Home

Unless you get free golf balls every day, spending a day on the range won’t be cheap. Regardless if you get to hit for free or have to pay, you should spend time at home working on things as well. Spend some time on the computer looking at YouTube videos from professionals.

However, a word to the wise: when you’re first starting out, find one you like and can relate to. Then focus on watching their videos on how to improve. The reason is all instructors are different and will teach you different ways to hit a shot. This can confuse you and throw you off track.

Photo: Fpedraza / CC BY-SA 3.0

After watching the videos, just go outside and work on some practice swings. Maybe you have a yard or a park nearby where you can just hit a few balls and work on things. You could also watch the videos and then go up to the range and hit balls, taking in what you learned.

Additionally, invest in a putting mat. You can get these fairly cheap online or at discount golf stores. Putt as much as you can in your free time working on specific skills, such as keeping the putter head straight, strengthening your grip, and keeping your head down while you putt.

4. Don’t Take for Granted the Pre-Swing

It’s true, it’s not good to play super slow and hold people up. However, it’s also not good for your game if you try to speed through a round. Before each shot, you need to concentrate and practice your routine in full. Take pre-swings on how you’re going to hit your shot because you’ll find yourself using that pre-shot swing in your actual swing.

Watch the pros. See how they concentrate before each shot and go through a pre-shot routine. Every single one of them goes through practice swings before they hit the ball. Especially focus on what you feel is your biggest weakness and really try and focus on doing that in your pre-shot routine. For me, it was always focusing on keeping my head straight and down through the entire shot. After constantly doing practice swings before each shot, I was able to master the skill and lower my score.

5. Practice, then play

Practicing is great, but doing nothing but practicing is like having a football training camp and then not playing any games. You need to go out at least once a week and play a full round of golf.

This is imperative to improving your golf game. By playing a round, you get an idea each week where your strengths and weaknesses are. Then you go back out to the range and focus on those skills the next time you’re out.

Also, plan out your week each day after your round of golf. So if you play on a Wednesday, go on the computer Wednesday night and schedule your week ahead. Make a chart of what you’re going to focus on each day and how you’re going to do it. Every good golfer is organized and has a schedule they keep. You need to be able to do this.

The Final Verdict

Don’t listen to those who say it can’t be done; you need lessons. That’s a myth, especially in a day and age where you can let the lessons come to you through YouTube and other outlets. Be your own coach. However, don’t think it’s going to come easy. You may have to put even more time in training yourself than you would if you have a coach. But with enough practice,

All this being said, have an open mind. If you’re spending hours upon hours a day trying to fix a hook and you just can’t, don’t be afraid to call an instructor up and ask them for one lesson. It doesn’t mean you have to go through lessons each week, but sometimes an instructor can be there for one hour and fix what you can’t fix in 40. Usually, a hook can be fixed with one little tip from an instructor and you can be back on track working towards progression.