Bringing Order to the Anarchy: My Five Golf New Year's Resolutions!

By: Bob Duncan

Have you made your New Year's resolutions for golf yet? Oh yes, Merry Christmas! - it's right around the corner. But you should start thinking about your resolutions before you take that new driver under the Christmas tree out for a test drive . . . because, how do you know it's the right one for you? Does it really fit your size, strength and ability?

If you've ever said, "This will be my year in golf!" then let's put 2009 in there!

RESOLUTION 1. I will only play golf with the clubs that fit me. As Tiger Woods put it, "The best way to start off with any set of clubs is to have them built for your size. When you have a set that is made for you it is amazing how much better you will be able to play."

Don't play with clubs you can't hit! Go to a certified clubfitting pro and get the fit of your clubs to match you. You wouldn't go out to play baseball and start with Mark McGuire's 36-ounce-bat (pretty darn heavy - maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger could), and so you probably shouldn't be hitting the same specifications as Tiger's 120-plus-mph swing.

So before you hit that $350 driver for the first time, go back to the shop that sold it and find a club-fitting pro help you make sure you get what you should have. And your kids - you want them to start out right, don't you?

RESOLUTION 2. I will take at least one lesson in the area of my greatest weakness on the golf course. For most of us, that's probably in the area of chipping or pitching, but possibly driving. Ask around who is best at teaching that area of the game and get some lessons from them.

RESOLUTION 3. I will learn to make a ball go to the right and to the left. "But no, I'm not ready for that yet - I just want to learn how to hit the ball straight!" Well, if not this year, then when?

Actually, the intrinsic but unasked question is often: "If you're trying to hit the ball straight but it goes off line and you don't know how to make it go to the right and to the left, then how do you know what to fix?" Nobody can hit the ball dead straight all the time. Remember those recovery shots by the world's best players? Seve Ballesteros was a master at this, and Tiger is too! They often hit shots off-line, but their knowledge of how to make the ball go in different directions is their saving grace. Not only can they do it, they know how to fix it when things go haywire.

RESOLUTION 4. I will learn something new and important about playing golf that doesn't involve the mechanics of the golf swing. Why is this important? Because if you're playing Monopoly and are worried about how you're going to throw the dice and you never buy a property, then you're not playing Monopoly.

Golf is a game to be played. If you're always trying to hit the ball straight then you're not playing golf - you're just golfing. The fact is that with all the slopes and grass conditions on a golf course, when is the ball going to go straight anyway?

Playing better golf should be about the choices you make and not so much about how good your golf swing is. For example, you're 10 yards off the front of the green and can putt, chip or pitch the ball toward the pin. Which do you choose? It probably depends on how short the grass is in front and the severity of the green's slope. If you go back to one of Tiger's Open Championship wins (British Open, for us Yanks), you may remember that on one hole he was in the fairway about 65 yards from the flag and he PUTTED the ball! Got it within 10 feed and made birdie, too; just a great shot. It was a great choice and a great PLAY! Remember there are always choices.

RESOLUTION 5. I will play (emphasis on the word 'play' here) golf knowing that Attitude equals Aptitude! Probably the worst thing you can try to do is to have Jack Nicklaus intensity when you're actually more like Boo Weekley (ok, maybe Fuzzy Zoeller maybe).

Perhaps this should be Resolution #1. In no other game or sport is a great attitude more important than in golf! Why is it that in football and basketball the players are encouraged to get excited and energetic about playing the game, yet golfers are taught to be "focused and intense"? Hey, this is a game that we're playing!

Would you rather be a great golfer, or a great player? Tiger plays the game better than just about anyone. On that we can agree. But he's not really just a great "golfer." For example, I would probably put Ben Hogan into the category of great golfer, and Sam Snead into the great player category. I'll take players over golfers, any day!

Which means that with a better attitude you can be much more open to learning and playing the game, and anything that happens which is negative is really irrelevant. Undoubtedly you've seen other golfers get mad about something. Getting mad is a choice they make. What if you choose to have a positive attitude no matter what happens? After all, since golf is such a challenging game, isn't the challenge the reason you're out there?

Bob Duncan is a 25-year PGA Golf Professional from Redmond, OR, with a strong player-coach philosophy. Bob is the author and developer of the new GolfeCoach, a personal coaching guide for high school -college players and teams based on 15 life success lessons and on-course coaching. Bob has given over 8,000 hours of golf instruction and coaching and has custom-fit over $1.6 million in golf clubs. Visit or email Bob at