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Golf Digest 1 Percent Challenge

1 Percent Challenge: Create a bad shot checklist

There's a way to take the sting out of your worst misses
January 05, 2024

Editor’s Note: The Golf Digest 1 Percent Challenge will present a new challenge every weekday in January. You can access Week 2 and Week 3 here.

It’s safe to assume you’ve been here before: You’re on the golf course, you hit a terrible shot, you get frustrated, maybe curse, maybe slam a club, maybe both. The anger in these reactions carries over into the next shot, making that one a bad shot, too, and the next. Suddenly, one bad shot has turned into a bad round. And it all started with that frustrated reaction.

Solution: To prevent this cascade of negative thoughts and bad shots, you need to learn how to react to a bad shot. When you’re in a neutral headspace, off the golf course, practice appropriate reactions to bad shots. That way, you’ll have something to call on when you’re faced with a bad shot on the golf course.

Today: While a lot of golfers can probably admit that their favorite swear word probably isn’t the most helpful response to a bad shot, it’s hard to know what sort of thing you should be saying instead. Learn some options for appropriate reactions. Performance gurus Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott offer five alternative, helpful, reactions to bad shots:

(1) “I didn’t hold my finish.”

(2) “I misjudged the wind.”

(3) “Next time, I will make a smaller swing.”

(4) “I was thinking about the outcome instead of feeling my tempo.”

(5) “I didn’t trust my decision. Next time I will honor my gut.”

And then. . .: Beyond just knowing how to react to bad shots, give some thought to what those bad shots usually look like. Where did you miss—long or short? Left or right? This, too, is a list worth making. The better sense you have for your tendencies, the better positioned you are to correct them, and the less surprised you might be when they creep into your game. “What we practice, we get good at,” Nilsson says. Most golfers have done a good job practicing bad reactions to shots. This is a way to work on the opposite.—Keely Levins

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Day 4: 1 way to power-boost your golf swing's engine

A good golf swing isn’t too arm-centric. Yes, your wrists and arms play an essential role in squaring the clubface and unleashing the power you've generated into the golf ball. But it's your body turn—your pivot—that is the true engine of your golf swing. It's those big muscles in your leg and torso that supercharge your arms. Arm dominant golf swings screw up the sequence of events, causing golfers to uncock their wrists too soon, which drain your golf swing of power and consistency.

The Solution: Rotation in your golf swing is a good thing. The problem comes when your body starts turning too early. The best players begin shifting to their lead side as their backswing concludes, and only when they've shifted into their lead side do they begin to turn aggressively through.

Today: Take something floppy, like a towel, a rope, or even a sweater. Get into your setup position, and begin swinging it just like you would a golf club. Make your backswing, and as you feel the object touch your back, whip it through quickly.

More from Golf Digest

And then . . . : This sequence drill serves as a good way to get your heart pumping—perfect for pre-round warmups and staying lo0se in the offseason. Swing the object back and forth in rapid succession. Continue for 15 seconds, then rest, and repeat for three sets.—Luke Kerr-Dineen

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Day 3: Strengthen your chest—the right way for golf

Ever hear someone say that big chest muscles aren’t great for the golf swing? Well, you can believe that, but data collected from electromyography (EMG) testing of golfers reveals that the pectoralis major muscles—the “pecs”—are among the most important in terms of accelerating the club through the impact zone. The club’s movement across our body in the downswing is largely dependent on those pecs. Knowing this, it’s not only important to strengthen them, it’s also smart to do it in a way that makes sense for golf.

The Solution: Among the most delicate joints in a golfer’s body are the radiocarpals (wrists), so doing chest-strengthening exercises where the wrists are in extension (bent back), such as the traditional push-up, is not a great idea. Instead, focus on exercises that keep the wrists in a neutral position (push-ups on the knuckles, dumbbell bench presses, etc.). It’s also smart to improve the pliability of your chest muscles, as they expand and contract at various points of the golf swing.

Today: From a straight-wristed starting point, do a few sets of push-ups (as many as you can do in each set) and grab a resistance band or similar and do several reps of “pull-aparts" where you stretch the band at both ends across your chest as wide as you can. Stand in your golf posture while doing them.

And then . . . : Graduate to adding external loads to your chest workout such as dumbbells (alternate-arm presses and flys are two great exercises for golfers). Do chest work at least twice a week.—Ron Kaspriske

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Day 2: How to instantly spot that your clubs need re-gripping

We get it. If you live in wintery climes, you’ve likely put the clubs away and don’t plan to pull them out until spring. That’s a mistake. Not because you should be playing to temp greens in freezing temperatures, but because it’s a great time to take stock of getting your clubs in shape (the following also applies for all you lucky stiffs playing in warmer temps, too). Among the most important steps: checking your grips. You spend endless dollars chasing a few yards through instruction or equipment purchases but you should be aware that research from Golf Pride reveals fresh grips can add up to two yards to your shots. Why? Worn handles tend to promote poor swings or a poor grip—either or both highly detrimental to your game.

The Solution: It’s not as simple as just re-gripping your clubs. You need to think of grips as equipment for the hands, not just handles. Yes, if your grips are slick or have wear marks, you know it’s time to swap them out. But a high majority of players have grips that are the wrong size, too. Know how many clubs have stock grips that are standard size? 100 percent. Know how many golfers actually need standard-size grips? About half that.

Today: Give your grips (all of them, even the putter) a full inspection. Are they slick? Are they cracked? Is the paintfill gone? Do they feel too small or too large? Place your hands on each club and check the pressure-point areas where the thumb on your top hand and the “V” area of your bottom hand meet the grip and look for indentations. All are red flags.

And then . . . : If you find none of the above, good for you. You’re in great shape. But odds are something will feel or look off. Go to your local golf store—hopefully one on Golf Digest’s Top 100 Clubfitters list—and have a conversation with a fitter. They’ll get you in the proper type and size of grip because, just like gloves, grips are not a one-size-fits-all proposition.—E. Michael Johnson

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Day 1: How to check this make-or-break golf swing position—quickly

No, posture isn't the most interesting topic in the golf swing, but it is one of the most important. Good posture can help you stay balanced and can help you move better. It can give you stability while also improving your ability to rotate. Landing in a good setup position is the first step towards more consistency and better results. Bad posture can ruin a golf swing before it even starts. There's a reason why pros sweat over the details of their posture, and the good news is that this boring-but-important swing key is one of the easiest to check.

The Solution: A good posture is one that activates and relaxes the key areas of your golf swing. That means a subtle amount of knee flex, tilting your upper body forward from the hips, not too much curve in your spine, and your weight balanced on the balls of your feet.

Today: Stand upright to the side of a long mirror. Drop your arms down, with your palms facing your thighs, and begin slowly tilting from your hips until your fingertips touch your kneecaps. Cross your hands over your shoulders and get comfortable in your new setup posture.

And then . . . : Repeat this routine five times, daily. On the driving range, add a golf club, and follow this drill by hitting balls and ingraining the feels.—Luke Kerr-Dineen

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More on the 1 Percent Challenge

Look, every golfer has big goals—30 more yards, 15 fewer pounds, tighter lines and better scores. We're not here to tell you those goals are out of reach. The problem with most New Year’s resolutions, though, is they start you at the foot of a mountain without a clear map to the top.

The Golf Digest 1 Percent Challenge, meanwhile, is meant to be both ambitious and achievable. None of the daily individual tasks will be so arduous that you'll need much time to cross them off your list. These are the type of modest improvements intended to make you just 1 better percent than you were the day before. But they’re also meant to provide you with a new skill that over time, can make a meaningful difference in your game.

The way it works is simple: Our team of expert editors in golf instruction, equipment and fitness have devised 23 challenges for each weekday in January that can be completed at home with minimal equipment. Things like checking your posture at address in the mirror, identifying yardage gaps in your club setup and testing the strength of your golf muscles. All of these challenges will have immediate value. But each challenge also comes with a suggested follow-up task that can lead to better habits, and ultimately, better performance.

It is the perfect way to get ready for the next golf season, even if you live somewhere where "real" golf is still months away. The more you follow along, the better your headstart on everyone else. —Sam Weinman