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Handicap Improvement: From 5 to +1 In One Year.


In April 2020 my handicap was 5.1, the lowest handicap I’d ever had. I am writing this blog post in May 2021, just over one year on. My handicap is +0.7 (It was +0.9 a few weeks after writing this article). Throughout this time frame I have been posting updates on Twitter and Instagram quite regularly. As my handicap got lower, more and more people reached out asking questions about what I did to enable this handicap improvement. This article lays out the approach I used, the set backs I faced, and lessons I learned. I hope it helps.

One year handicap trend. (I can only go back exactly one year, which is why it starts at the end of May rather than April)

The Beginning

The project of getting to 0.0 handicap became “official” on April 18th 2020. I put a poll on Twitter posing a question. You can see the votes below. There were also a lot of comments that I found quite motivating. If you want someone to do something, tell them they have no chance of doing it!

As you will find out, I immediately violated the terms of practicing 2 x week and playing 1 x week, so this original poll question became null and void quite quickly. Soon after this project began it turned into practicing almost everyday and playing once per week, then twice per week. I’d made a decision that I wanted to get to 0.0 handicap, and got started with the necessary work.

The Plan

I’m a very analytical person, so it was natural I tried to use data to help me on my quest. Thankfully, for the 2018 and 2019 seasons I had been tracking my Strokes Gained statistics on Mark Broadie’s App “GolfMetrics“. This statistical tracking was absolutely instrumental. It provided me with objective information about each element of my game compared to scratch. With this information I could plan practice, instruction, and track my progress or regression over time.

The GolfMetrics App allows you see where you gain or lose strokes relative to scratch (or your current handicap) for driving, approach, short game, and putting. You also get a handicap for each category. Furthermore, it breaks approach, short game, and putting down further, into very specific distances for more detailed info. What’s really nice about the GolfMetrics App is that you can look at your stats breakdown for individual rounds and whatever combination of rounds you like. I found a lot of value in looking at 5 and 10 round trends, and also what I tended to do well on days I scored better than usual.

For more info about “Strokes Gained” Statistics, check out my recent podcast with Mark Broadie: The Fit For Golf Podcast Episode #18

I have shared two full GolfMetrics reports below. The first one is for the first 10 rounds I played after I made the decision to try and get to scratch. The second report is for my most recent 10 rounds. There is 13 months, 85 rounds, and a couple of hundred practice sessions between the first round in the initial report, and the last round in the second report.

To keep the statistics standardized I only included rounds from my home course. This is where is I play most regularly (but not exclusively). It is worth noting that there is one “outlier” round in the initial 10 rounds. I shot a very unexpected 68 (-4) . That was my best ever round by 4 strokes, and I gained 8 strokes in approach play versus scratch in just that round. Without this round my strokes gained approach in the initial 10 round report would be a little different!