Top 5 Tips to Salvage a Bad Round of Golf

How to save a bad round of golf
If you are a golfer, I know you have had rounds of golf like this: You get to the golf course with your foursome feeling good and expecting to play well. The last round of golf you played was fantastic.

You step up with your driver on the first tee and……what the heck! Hit a horrible tee shot! Your swing feels out of control, your shots are all over the place, and you start to feel your blood pressure rising. The harder you try to fix your swing, the worse it gets. Sound familiar?

This happened to me a couple of weekends ago when I drove up to the mountains to play one of my favorite golf courses: Osprey Meadows at the new Tamarack Resort.

This course is only a few years old and is the most difficult golf course in Idaho. So I always look forward to the challenge. I have been too busy to play much this year so I was curious to see how rusty my game had become.

The First HoleHole 1 at tamarack
The first hole is a short par 5. But I was a little worried when I pull-hooked my first drive into the waist high grass on the left. Then I blocked my rescue club just inside the out of bounds markers on the right, followed by a waived lob wedge from 80 yards that ended up in the bunker…what a start! Oh yea, and I finished with a 3-putt for a double bogey.

I par’d the next two holes then double bogey’d the par 5 4th after hitting good drive with only 234 yards left for my second shot which is pictured below. See the water on the right? I blocked that sucker right in the middle of that pond.

Good Drive.  The arrow points at where I brilliantly hit it next!

Good Drive. The arrow points at where I brilliantly hit it next!

I was +4 after 4 holes and hopelessly frustrated. However, over the past couple of years I have really improved my ability to save a bad round of golf. The 5 tips below, that I have learned from other professionals, have been my key to success.

PS. With these tips I ended up playing much better. I finished with an eagle and a few birdies to lock in a score in the mid 70’s. Very happy with that after a +4 start.

Tips to Save a Bad Round of Golf

#1. Shorten the backswing
I do not struggle with this one as much as I used to but it can help you on a bad day. The reason this is helpful is timing. Timing is one of those issues that can be good one day and horribly awful the next.

On those particular bad days, if you shorten up your backswing, you can regain your timing and tempo. In this case, shortening up your backswing will give you more power because all your moving parts will be coordinating together instead of working against each other.

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#2. Keep the Legs Quiet
I don’t know about you, but I have happy legs! When I am having a bad day it is often caused by over active legs. When my legs are too active, my hips either slide too much or rotate too fast and too early causing me to block shots to the right.

I literally just think, “keep the legs quiet” and the results are instantaneous!

Frustrating Day for Rory Mcllroy

Frustrating Day for Rory Mcllroy

#3. Keep the Head Still
This one seems obvious but I was really surprised one day when I was playing around of golf with student of mine last year. I was playing well overall but was struggling with my driving accuracy.

The student that I was giving the lesson to, told me that my head was moving all over the place. The funny part was is that I did not believe him and even told him so! I felt that I was doing something else wrong entirely. At the next tee I focused on keeping my head and body still and voila! All the pieces came together beautifully. Boy did I eat some crow for that one!

#4. Stay Athletic
This tip is so crucial on a bad day or when you are struggling with a particular swing fault. Often times, golfers get so bogged down concentrating on fixing their swing, that they stiffen up and force their golf swing.

This is usually the reason that a bad round of golf gets worse. Golfers try to fix their swing on the course and everything goes to pot. I always remembered the tip that Jack Nicklaus gave. I don’t remember how he said it exactly, but basically he said that when he went to the driving range before a round of golf he would simple observe what the golf ball was doing.

If he was hitting a fade, he would just play for the fade that day. Same with a draw. He did not try to fix it, he simply played with it. The takeaway message is to avoid fixing your golf swing on the course. Stay athletic and play with what you got.

5. Keep Your Hands, Wrists, Elbows Loose and Relaxed
This tip was the one that helped me the most last weekend. When I hit a few bad shots, I can feel my grip, wrists, and elbows tighten up as I try to “control” the swing more instead of letting it flow.

When this happens I usually release the club too late or some other funky gyration. I used to claim a “medical mulligan” on these shots.

Now days when I am having a rough day, I think and feel my grip, wrists and elbows relax just before I take my backswing. When I am having a good day I don’t have to think about it because they are already relaxed.

Those are the top 5 tips I use to salvage a bad round of golf. What are yours?

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Ryan York, DPT CGS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Golf Performance Golfer

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3 Responses to Top 5 Tips to Salvage a Bad Round of Golf

  1. DAVID THOMPSON March 23, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

    Why is it that golfers , especially pros , blame their clubs for their poor performance . Many a club has been tossed in the lake ( thinking of late mcIlroy ) but wouldn’t the player tossing himself in the water have been a fairer action to take and maybe ” wake up ” the golfer and give him a ” cleaner ” mind .

  2. J Compton March 19, 2016 at 7:57 am #

    The pressure those guys are under is beyond my comprehension. One missed putt or shot can cost hundreds of thousands….and a thrown club into the water carries a hefty fine. It happened to John Daly at the PGA Championship last year–he got fined a whopping $10k for tossing his club into one of the Great Lakes. So if they want to go in denial, let ’em…maybe it’s their way of holding up their confidence. But tossing a club will cost ’em.

  3. Tom June 20, 2018 at 1:47 pm #

    Great tips! About 6 months back I uploaded a video of my swing to the sand… site and remember trying to keep lower body quiet…comments came back as “very arms driven swing”…so, even though my strikes were very good I went away from that…since then I can’t hit anything…until I read this article and began hitting good again…thanks!

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