How Long It Takes to Get Good at Golf (+ Tips to Improve)

Golf is a hard game. Just how hard is it? According to the incredible golf movie The Legend of Bagger Vance, golf is a game that “can’t be won, only played.”

Golf is fun, but it takes a long time to master putting, chipping, and other common shots. Find out how long it usually takes to get good at golf here.

 

First – Let’s Define “Good”

Good is a very relative term, especially when it’s used in a complex game like golf. Perspective is everything. For example, a beginner-level golfer who regularly shoots a 110 on the golf course may think that any golfer who breaks 100 is a “good” golfer.

According to the USGA, the average handicap for a male golfer is 14.2 and the average handicap for a female golfer is 27.5. At the majority of golf courses across the country, par is set at 72 strokes. This means that the average male golfer shoots an 86 and the average female golfer shoots a 99.

So, if we strictly go by the USGA stats, any man who shoots under an 86 and any woman who shoots under a 99 would be considered a “good” golfer. Most folks who break 90 consistently on the golf course are considered good golfers unless they are playing with a group of folks who routinely shoot lower than 80 (LOL).

 

How Long Does it Take The Average Person to Get Good at Golf?

This question is difficult to answer because it depends on a variety of different factors. Some golfers can start to break 100 within a year or so of taking up the game, especially if they had the benefit of professional instruction. 

These same folks can often start to break 90 regularly in two to three years if they practice rigorously and play a round of golf often enough. As we learned from the USGA numbers above, breaking 90 is a heck of an accomplishment and would put the golfer into the good player category.

 

Factors That Affect How Quickly You’ll Make Progress

A whole host of factors goes into becoming a good golfer. Let’s take a look at each one of those factors below, in no particular order.

1. Natural Athletic Ability

Let’s face it. Some people are just more genetically gifted than others are, especially when it comes to innate athletic ability. Folks with an athletic build and natural hand-eye coordination can usually make loads of progress in a fairly short time.

2. Professional Instruction

Putting together a fundamentally sound golf swing is a tall order because the mechanics are so complicated. While there are some rare cases out there of successful golfers who are 100% self-taught (Bubba Watson), the large majority of folks need some type of professional instruction to take their game to the next level.

3. The Ability to Concentrate

Concentration is highly important in all sports, but it is even more important in a game like golf. This is because the margin for error when hitting a golf ball is so small. Any minute lapse in concentration can cause a terrible shot that can wind up costing you a penalty stroke or two because of hazards.

Good golfers seem to have the innate ability to calm their minds and always concentrate on their next golf shot. Just how important is concentration level on the golf course? This poll shows that 100% of golfers believe that concentration level greatly affects their performance.

4. Physical Conditioning

A lot of people believe that golf is a game full of overweight beer drinkers who aren’t concerned with what kind of shape they are in. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Playing 18 holes of golf is a heck of a workout, even if you are driving instead of walking the course.

Everyone loves John Daly and rightfully so! However, most golfers these days are in great physical condition, especially on the PGA Tour. If you want to rapidly improve your game, getting into better shape is a great place to start.

5. Energy Levels

Energy level affects our performance in all aspects of life, including golf. The better you feel, the better you play (for the most part). 

How do you positively affect your energy level? Make sure you are drinking plenty of water each day and that you are eating a nutrient-rich diet. Showing up to your round or practice session hungover or starving won’t help your performance in the least.

 

Most Important Areas to Focus On to Graduate Past a Beginner

So, if you only have a few hours a week to practice, what aspects of the game should you focus on to get past beginner level? Here is a shortlist.

1. Putting

We’ve talked about the importance of putting on several different occasions. Think about just how important putting is. Most of your strokes are used with the putter, especially when you are just starting to learn the game.

If you two-putt every green on the golf course, you’ve used 36 strokes. If you three-putt each green (which isn’t uncommon for beginners), you’ve racked up a whopping 54 strokes.

What this shows us is that the quickest way to lower your handicap is to work perfecting on your putting stroke. Folks who want to become good golfers should strive to never three-putt on any green, no matter how difficult it may be.

2. Chip Shots

Another key area to focus on in the short game is chip shots. Most beginners have trouble hitting consistent chips when they are near the green. They’ll either chunk the chip shot and watch it only roll a couple of feet, or they’ll catch the golf ball too thin and watch it fly past the pin. 

Inaccurate chip shots can destroy a scorecard just about as fast as a poor putting stroke. The next time you go to the driving range, take only your favorite wedge with you. That way you’ll make sure to set aside enough practice time for hitting chip shots.

3. Approach Shots

This is where your irons come into play in your pursuit to graduate past the beginner level with your golf game. You can be an excellent driver of the golf ball, but if you can’t hit accurate approach shots into the green you’ll never reach your full potential as a golfer.

When hitting your irons, make sure you are making contact with the ground AFTER hitting the golf ball. In one of our previous articles, there is a great drill that can help with this. Dialing in your approach shots is a crucial step on your journey to becoming a good golfer.

4. Accuracy on Tee Shots

Last but certainly not least, golfers who want to lower their handicaps must focus on keeping their tee shots in the fairway. If you’re a high handicapper, you probably step into the tee box and try to hit the golf ball as hard as you can. That type of “all or nothing” mentality can put you directly into a water hazard.

When working on your golf swing with the driver, place a premium on accuracy and don’t worry so much about distance. Do drills that teach you how to make a quiet backswing and a smooth full swing. This will help you avoid bogeys and double bogeys on the course.

 

3 Tips to Help You Get Good at Golf

1. Take Lessons from a Professional Golf Instructor

Everyone needs a coach, both in life and on the golf course. Nothing will help you improve your golf game faster than taking lessons from a PGA teaching pro. I know this from personal experience.

I toiled away on the practice range all by myself when I first started playing golf. No matter how long I practiced, I could never shoot better than a 105. Finally, after about a year and a half of frustration, I bought (12) half-hour golf lessons with an instructor at my local golf club. 

I was shocked at how fast my game started to improve. Within a couple of months, I was shooting 95 on the course regularly. Needless to say, that experience turned me into a big believer in professional instruction.

Having someone teach me the fundamentals of the golf swing made all the difference in the world for me. The main things that the pro helped me correct were my setup, grip pressure, and mentality. 

Don’t be too prideful to take lessons! Most PGA Tour players have their own swing coaches. This helps them improve their games in less time.

2. Commit to a Set Practice Schedule

Have you ever heard the saying from Malcolm Gladwell that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something? That applies to becoming a good golfer! No matter how much natural talent you have, you’ll never become a good golfer without lots of practice time.

How much time should you set aside to work on your game? There is no foolproof formula, but most experts agree that it takes three to four practice sessions a week to see rapid improvement. Even if your schedule is too busy for that amount of practice, you can still benefit by practicing only once or twice a week.

3. Practice with a Purpose

Okay, now that you’ve committed to a weekly practice schedule, it’s time to make sure that all that precious time at the driving range doesn’t go to waste. Too many golfers spend hours and hours mindlessly pounding buckets of golf balls with no plan. You won’t see a scratch golfer making that mistake.

Use your practice time to work on your weaknesses. Don’t just stand there and hit your driver repeatedly just because it’s more fun. If you struggle to hit the ball out of the sand, find a practice bunker and do drills with your sand wedge.

If you haven’t been hitting your hybrid all that well, make a note to hit at least 20 good shots with it during your next practice session. Winners always make it a point to work on their weaknesses. Best of luck on your journey to becoming a good golfer!

 

Mike Noblin

Mike has been involved with sports for over 30 years. He's been an avid golfer for more than 10 years and is obsessed with watching the Golf Channel and taking notes on a daily basis. He also holds a degree in Sports Psychology.