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Instruction

12 Golf Digest staffers reveal their handicaps and explain what went right—or wrong

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February 01, 2024

The USGA dropped its annual handicap "rewind" feature via its GHIN app this week. It's exactly what it says: It shows how golfers fared over the 2023 season. What their handicap started the year, where it ended, and the journey it took along the way.

With handicap rewinds popping up everywhere on social media over the past week, we asked a few Golf Digest staffers for theirs, along with a quick review of what they learned last season.

Pace your practice throughout the seasom

Stephen Hennessey: My GHIN rewind proves how tough it can be to improve. I got to my lowest ever (10.2) in the early summer, but I was never able to crack into the single digits. I didn’t play or practice enough toward the end of the summer, so I never recaptured my form from the beginning of 2023. My scores prove I need to play more this year. Someone send this to my wife…

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Gym work works!

Alex Myers: Following my 40-year-old golf fitness transformation project in 2022, I didn't know what to expect in 2023, but was pleasantly surprised. I didn't keep up with stuff in the gym like I should, but I did put in a lot of range "work" and played more than 30 rounds for the first time as a dad and was able to achieve my lowest handicap index in a decade. Here's to keeping the momentum going in 2024!

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Changing too much never works

Mike Stachura: The worst year of golf in my three decades at Golf Digest. The biggest handicap drop, an epic wasteland of golfing despair at every turn. I've had years with multiple surgeries and week after week of chemo where my handicap suffered less. This is not a lie. I had eight rounds of 95 or higher. In past years, this would be and should be a fire-able offense for a Golf Digest editor. Even my best round, I was 6-over on my last seven holes, finishing with three straight bogeys.

I've used 15 different putters (I hate all of them). I tried yoga (it just makes me feel less flexible). I've purchased The Stack System (I'm afraid of using it). My therapist has theories, but we're out of time. My only really good round came after the season so it didn't count. Even then I bogeyed 18 to lose most of the money I'd won. This game is an infernal poison disguised as an elixir.

Wait 'til next year.

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More walking, better scores

Daria Delfino: 2023 was the year of the grind. I fell short of my goals but I still made progress which I'm happy with. I competed in a handful of tournaments and even won the women’s member-guest at Sleepy Hollow!

One thing I did a lot this season was walk almost every round I played, which really helped me get into a good rhythm during my rounds, and understand the course better. I had a lot more fun that way, too, especially as I played some of the best tracks in the world: Winged Foot, Somerset Hills and TPC Scottsdale ,to name a few. In 2024 my goal is to shoot my personal best and qualify for another mid-am; 2023 was definitely a step in the right direction.

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Keep an eye on the clubface

Chris Powers: I absolutely nosedived between March and August. Got into some terribly bad habits that led to my clubface being wide open at impact, which caused me to lose an insane amount of distance. Ballooned to an 11 but began slowly but surely making process in the fall after correcting that. 2024 will be my best year ever. WRITE IT DOWN!

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Don't overlook your putting

Joel Beall: Mark Broadie is a smart man. A nice man. A good man. But my iron play has never been better and yet my scoring went up because my short game completely went to hell. Drive for show, putt for dough may be an antiquated notion in professional golf, but at the amateur level, it still rings true. That, or my putting just really, really stinks. Time to get to work.

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Get awesome at the boring swing stuff

Luke Kerr-Dineen: I played the most last season since college golf, and I shook a bunch of rust off my game because of it. The big thing, I found, is that playing more, and being on the driving range less, made me focus more on the simple things. No time for big swing changes. Just continuous tweaks to the basic stuff: Ball position, posture, alignment, grip, and basic golf swing sequence stuff. You're not going to get worse working on those.

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Get your driver in play

Luke Hooten: First year I’ve ever kept a handicap before, gave me some good perspective! My driving was not great this year which lead me to never being in great positions for my second shot. This is a huge point of emphasis for me in 2024 and I’ve been working on it a lot during the offseason. I gained a lot of confidence with my short irons and wedges this year, and started taking my practice much more seriously.

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Iron game makes or breaks you

E. Michael Johnson: In a word, last year was frustrating. On the plus side, I drove the ball incredibly well. On average I would have between 11 and 14 good looks at a GIR. Add in the four par 3s and that's 15 to 18 looks.

So why did I suck so bad? My irons are a mess. The number of greens missed with a PW or less was alarming. And while my short game is better than the chip yips of thee years ago, it's not good enough to get up and down with regularity, leading to lots of long rides on the bogey train.

That said, I love to play as witnessed by the 82 rounds and the 23 courses shows an affinity for "business golf" as well. Oh, and that low of 77? In a first-round match of the club championship (a 2&1 loss). Figures it would come when I was getting no strokes. Frustrating, indeed.

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Learn to live with your misses

Drew Powell: It’s never great when your handicap goes up during a season, but with only 16 rounds, it’s hard to keep your index. This year, I moved from Maine to NYC, hence the lack of rounds. I drove the ball fairly well this year but really struggled with my iron play. I hit a lot of pulls, which prevented me from having many low rounds. Also, let this be a lesson, notice how my scoring average was over 73, but my handicap is plus. A scratch handicap doesn’t mean averaging even par!

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Distance wedges pay big dividends

Patrick Andrews: Extremely consistent 2023, main area of improvement would be scoring from 100 and in. Drove it really nicely which keeps me in most of my rounds. Did a much better job eliminating double and higher from my scorecard but still converting more bogeys into pars is the next step to get from the mid 3 range down to close to scratch.

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Play more!

Ryan Herrington: Played only nine holes…so what I didn’t do well in 2023 is, actually, play!

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