The thing about practice is, whether you go to the range much or not, you always feel like you’re not practicing enough. Well, we’ve found a teaching pro who says you should forget about the range, that the secret to playing better is how you approach the game. He says you can lower your scores a lot quicker that way. We like this guy.
Will Robins, a Golf Digest Best Young Teacher based in Folsom, Calif., acknowledges that the golf swing is a fascinating puzzle, but it’s not the one most golfers should be working on. Learning to play the game smarter and more efficiently is a far more productive endeavor, Robins says. Unless you’ve got a teacher on retainer and tons of time and patience, getting that swing of yours into great shape—however close you think you are— is a tough road.
You’ll find it hard to disagree. Check out Robins’ new Golf Digest program "The Will Robins Plan: Play Better Without Practice” (10 game-improvement videos for $9.99). Among the less demanding ways Robins says you can get better is learning to pick forgiving targets and hit the right clubs. “Identify where the trouble is, pick a club you’re comfortable with, and swing knowing you can miss. Take away the pressure of having to hit a perfect shot.” He’s also big on damage control after bad shots: “Remember, you’re the player who just put the ball in this spot. When you’re in trouble, Rule No. 1 is to make sure your next shot is easier.” And this on avoiding thee-putts: “Stop reading greens all together. Just focus on the hole as you feel the distance with your practice strokes, then step in and go. You will virtually eliminate three-putting.”
Where did Robins get such a clear head about golf? In 2004 he was an aspiring tour player on his honeymoon in Thailand when he and his wife were caught in a tsunami. They both sustained multiple injuries but in time recovered fully. But Will’s playing days were over. “My perspective was different from the start because I never wanted to be a teacher. I got into it, honestly, to pay the bills. The biggest eye-opener for me was, people were coming out to take lessons and were frustrated and upset and confused. They’d say, ‘Will, I’m trying to make this move and that move.’ And I was like, ‘You’re trying to do what?’ I knew golf as a player. I started thinking, ‘This is crazy. We’ve got to just go play.’ My message became: It’s a game. Play it.”
Robins’ common-sense advice connects with golfers who have tried to figure out the swing and haven’t seen much improvement. As Robins says, most of us have plenty of room to get better without grinding over mechanical technique. Why not take the low-hanging fruit and leave perfecting the swing to the pros? That is, unless you like the unfulfilling hours on the range and less time to play golf. We didn’t think so.