11 surefire ways to improve your golf game in 2018 (that you can actually afford)

Nuther-Duffer likes to begin a new year with a list of goals for the coming months. Goals are so much friendlier than resolutions. They’re flexible, for one thing (so you avoid the experience of breaking a resolution during the second week of January then spending the next 50 weeks feeling like a failure). And progress counts — if you tried and came up short, you still get to feel good about yourself. And goals grow out of aspiration, not desperation (i.e., “My goal is to break 80 this year” versus “I have got to lose 50 pounds before the reunion”).

Nuther-Duffer wishes he could resolve to play St. Andrews in 2018. Or resolve to break 80. But he knows he can’t afford the former (barring a winning lottery ticket) and likely doesn’t have the skill (or the practice time) to attain the latter.

What he can do (and so can you) are each of the items on the following list: Nuther-Duffer’s Golf Goals for 2018 — 10 Surefire Ways to Improve* Your Golf Game. (*”Improve,” in this case, refers more to increasing enjoyment than it does to reducing scores.)

  1. Don’t ignore your favorite courses. Write a list of your six or nine favorite courses (depending on how often you play) and think about the best time of year to play them. Then put them on the calendar and make those outings happen. You’re likely going to play some of them anyway, but you don’t want to get to the first snowfall (or freeze) and end up thinking, “I wish I’d played ….”
  2. At least once, drive 50 miles or more to play a round of golf. Sure it’s a long way and it’s going to turn a round of golf into a daylong outing. But Nuther-Duffer guesses that one of your favorite courses is that far way. And if not, make it a goal to try someplace new.
  3. Once a month, go to a golf course and play a round with strangers. You might make friends. You might learn something. Maybe even something about golf.
  4.  Play a round in under four hours. You’ve seen the signs, right? “Golf is a four-hour game.” But have you ever actually accomplished it? This might require some planning — get stuck behind the Saturday blitz and you’re … well, stuck behind the Saturday blitz. Talk to the course pro. Tell him or her what you want to do and find out the best time and day of the week to make it possible. Then go do it. And when you finish, think about how much more enjoyable your round was.
  5. Keep up with the group ahead of you. It reduces your stress level, and the stress level of everyone behind you (which further reduces your stress level).
  6. Compliment the course pro on the condition of the course (even if you have to overlook a few blemishes to do it). Best way to improve your golf game? Improve someone else’s day.
  7. Come autumn, implement “the leaf rule” — if you can’t find your ball because it went into a pile of leaves that wouldn’t have been there in summer, take a free drop. In the spirit of the game, take it no closer to the hole.
  8. Walk.
  9. When you walk, don’t walk like you’re window shopping. Aim for a pace somewhere between a casual stroll and having a drill sergeant screaming in your ear. (See No. 5.)
  10.  At the end of the golf year (whenever that arrives for you), write a golf gratitude list. Yep, jot down a handful of golf things you’re grateful for. That hole in one, for example. Or that time you played an entire round without losing a ball. Or that outing where you spent 90 minutes driving to the course, four and a half hours playing, then driving another 90 minutes home — sharing the whole experience with three people you like.
  11. Remember that spending time with people you like, or getting to know someone new, really is — for most of us — what this game should be about.