Why Can't I Play Golf Like Tiger?

By: Ben Throckmorton

Tiger Woods is absolutely the very best golfer on the planet week in and week out. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who would argue that point with you. He seems to be able to focus and produce fantastic scores even when he’s obviously not at his best.

His drives fly so far that they really should serve food on them or at the very least, drinks. His iron shots somehow manage to finish around the hole from even the worst of situations. From 50 yards and in, he is unbelievable. He manufactures chips and pitches from all sorts of lies and hazards that defy logic and if I had to wager my life on someone dropping a side-hill ten footer, you can bet that someone would be Tiger Woods.

So what’s not to like? Why shouldn’t golf instructors teach you to swing like Tiger? Why shouldn’t the average player attempt to emulate the moves and mechanics of best player in the world?

Before we answer that question, I’d like to answer a different question.
What is an average golfer?

The National Golf Foundation (www.NGF.org) breaks golfers into two separate categories. These categories are core golfers, defined as those who play at least 8 times per year, and occasional golfers who play 7 or less rounds yearly. In the United States, there are 15.7 million core golfers and another 14.6 occasional golfers for a total of 30.3 million golfers.

Of these players, the average score for men in the core group is 97 and 106 is the average for women in the same group. We won’t even talk about the average score of the occasional group. Percentage wise, the scoring numbers break out like this:


Under 80 / 8%

80 – 89 / 20%

90 – 99 / 31%

100 – 119 / 30%

120 and Up / 11%

Additionally, the average player in the core group plays 37 times per year. That’s about 3 times a month or less than once per week.

To summarize, an average player is defined as a man who plays about 3 times monthly and averages a score of 97. For women the number of rounds is consistent with their male counterparts but their average score rises to 106.

Now that we’ve defined what an average player is, we can answer the initial question which was… “Why shouldn’t the average player attempt to emulate the best player in the world?”

Tiger Woods is a world-class athlete. Most average players are not. Most people period, are not. Tiger Woods has incredible hand-eye coordination as is referenced by his ability to square the club at impact and by his uncanny short game. If you’re average score is 97 +, you’re ability to square the club needs some work. Let’s be realistic.

Tiger plays and practices daily. In contrast, we know the average player plays less than 1 round per week and the list of reasons why you shouldn’t emulate Tiger goes on and on. Now, that’s not to say that Tiger doesn’t have a golf swing worth emulating, because he absolutely does. What I’m trying to convey to you is that if you fall into the average category, you are probably not physically capable of emulating Tiger and even if you are one of the very few of us who are capable physically, you don’t have the time necessary to hone and repeat the motion.

Instead of trying to teach people to play like Tiger, what I think teachers should be doing is teaching Joe Average to simply play like Joe Average. Every player has his or own set of assets and also limitations and should play within those limitations.

If you want to improve your game, you should learn, within the framework of your own limitations and assets, how to square the club to the target line at impact. This is what golf is all about. You should learn how to relax so that you can maximize your own swing speed and hit the ball farther. You should absolutely develop a good grip and set-up so that when you do square the club, the ball will fly toward the target building confidence in your swing and also developing your feel for the swing.

Forget the right forearm, and the left hip. Forget pushing, pulling, and rotating. Make your game as simple and repeatable as possible. Focus solely on doing what is necessary for you to square the club to the target line at impact. After all, you only play 3 times per month. Why should you make your golf swing more complicated than it has to be?

Structure your practice programs around a solid fundamental set-up and then work steadfastly on learning the feel for squaring the face of the club to the target line. Once you’ve developed this feel for “square impact,” now it’s time to go to work on your short game but that’s an article for another day.

If you take this information to heart, in a short period of time you will be playing more like Tiger…not necessarily in form but as a result of lower scores. You will improve your swing and the lower you score, the more you’re playing like Tiger.