These 4 ‘Ps’ are the key to playing better golf

golf lesson

In journalism, research or investigations, there’s something called the five “Ws” and 1 “H.”  Also know as “reporter’s questions,” they are “Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.” Answer them correctly, and they’re all but guaranteed to lead you to an appropriate deduction.

Golf is a game with similar questions, except instead of Ws and Hs, they’re Ps.

While I am not presumptuous enough to think I can answer all of your questions and condense improvement to a recipe, I do believe my “4 P’s to Better Playing” can keep you on a Productive Path.  (See what I did there?)

1. Play the ball as it lies

No round of golf is ever without adversity.  Golf is a game with hazards, penalties, changing and unpredictable conditions.

A common denominator among great golfers is the ability to avoid these pitfalls, and if they don’t avoid them, they are able to recover from the missteps with limited damage.

There are many reasons for this, but in my experience, good golfers are able to limit disaster because they are able to play off unfavorable lies successfully.

“Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots – but you have to play the ball where it lies.”

This is pure wisdom from the great Bob Jones and I implore you to take it to heart. Practice off bad lies of every kind, and when you play, resist the urge to bump the ball into a better lie.  This discipline will surely grow your skill-set, and your mindset.

2. Putt from off the green

I learned this ditty a long time ago and its wisdom is ageless.

“When off the green, if you can’t putt, chip,

If you can’t chip, pitch,

If you can’t pitch, lob, and

if you can’t lob, play smart.”

Commit this to memory and apply it. Look for every opportunity to putt when you are greenside, and then do it.  A bad putt is always better than a bad chip or pitch.

3. Practice productively and purposefully

“The most common practice error is to drift aimlessly to the range and start banging balls at random. This isn’t practice. This is a waste of time. The worst thing you can do is practice your mistakes.” Tommy Armour

I try to avoid making promises because of the mercurial nature of golf, but I can comfortably promise you this: If you practice, and practice with intent, purpose and focus you will improve your game.

It sounds logical but the lion’s share of club golfers don’t practice, they only play golf.  If ever  they do practice there typically is zero structure and intent to their time spent.

Take Tommy Armour’s insights to heart. Don’t waste time, have a plan and go and execute the plan on the practice area…and practice off bad lies once in a while.

4. Power Up properly

Power.  It is enchanting to every golfer around the world.  Sadly it is misunderstood and, even more dangerously mis-applied.  Indeed the woods are full of many golfers trying to hit the long ball.

Strength is a part of the power equation, but only a small part.  The most important element to power is speed… clubhead speed.

Remember this as you strive for power:  You are in the energy transmission business and it is your responsibility to transmit energy from your body into the golf ball, and there is only one way to do this and that is via your golf club-face.

As Nick Faldo once said to me:  “Your club-head has the longest journey to travel (in the swing); make sure it moves the fastest.”

Take this advice to heart and appropriate your speed so it maximizes through the impact zone.

Quit the lurching, heaving, and to-ing and fro-ing in the vain hope of propelling the golf ball farther.  Make balanced, poised, and timed passes that accelerate at the correct time so you can hit the ball solidly.  That is reliable and efficient power.

By the way, there is one more “P”. Panic not dear golfer!

Golf.com Contributor

On-course announcer and analyst Mark Immelman is passionate about the game of golf. As a decorated instructor, award-winning NCAA college golf coach, and an accomplished golfer, Mark brings a robust knowledge and vast experience to his role as a television broadcaster and golf instructor. He is currently a Golf Analyst for CBS Sports HQ, and an Analyst and On-course Announcer for CBS Sports and Golf on CBS. He currently also serves as a Studio Analyst and an On-course Announcer for PGA TOUR Live  for PGA TOUR Live.

The older brother to 2008 Masters Champion, Trevor Immelman, Mark grew up in Somerset West, South Africa. After a successful amateur career in South Africa he was offered a golf scholarship to Columbus State University (Columbus , GA). He enjoyed a prolific collegiate tenure highlighted by his four-time All-America selections, two-time Academic All-America awards, and two NCAA Div. II National Championship victories. After graduation, Mark had a short season as a playing professional, but quickly turned his attention to his true passion – golf teaching.

As a golf instructor, Mark believes in cultivating ability and talent by providing comprehensive, holistic golf instruction that is easily understandable and of the highest quality to golfers of all abilities and skill levels. His passionate approach and keen knowledge of the game have led to him being a sought-after mind by leading Professional and Amateur golfers alike. Through his career he has taught and/or consulted to PGA TOUR and European Tour professionals and tournament winners such as: Larry Mize, Loren Roberts, Trevor Immelman, Scott Brown, Patton Kizzire, Louis Oosthuizen and Will Wilcox. He has been recognized as one of “Golf Digest’s Top 20 Instructors Under 40”, Golf Digest’s “Best Teachers in the State of Georgia” and Georgia Trend Magazine’s “Top 40 Under 40 – Georgia’s Best and Brightest”.

As a NCAA College Coach at Columbus State University (since 2001) Mark continues to coach the Columbus State Men’s Golf Team and his program is a perennial contender for Conference and National Titles. He is a two-time NCAA Div. II Atlantic/Southeast Region Coach of the Year, two-time Peachbelt Conference Coach of the Year, and the 2009 NCAA Div. II National Coach of the Year.

In 2019 Mark was selected as Captain and Coach of the (Arnold) Palmer Cup International Team. His team triumphed over the United States Team in the Palmer Cup Matches held at The Alotian Club outside of Little Rock, AR.

Mark’s additional broadcast duties include being a guest analyst on the CBS Sports “First Cut Podcast”. CBS Sports also uses Mark’s unique voice for audio and promotional PGA TOUR advertisements and promotional reads.

He has also served a 6-year tenure as a Play-by-Play Announcer for Sirius/XM PGA TOUR Radio.

Additionally, Mark hosts “On the Mark”, a PGA TOUR Podcast, which to date has been downloaded more than 3 million times in more than 125 countries.

He has also written golf instructional columns and articles for Golf Digest SA, Golf Digest USA and is currently penning instructional pieces for Golf Magazine. As an author, Mark has published two e-Books on golf instruction: “Scandalously SImple – The Easy Way to Accurate Golf Shots” and “Golf is a Game of Recovery”.

You can learn more about at MarkImmelman.com