My golf game is broken. Here’s my 4-part plan for fixing it

zephyr melton swings a driver

In today's edition of Play Smart,'s Zephyr Melton explains how he plans to fix his floundering golf game.

Zephyr Melton

Welcome to Play Smart, a regular game-improvement column that will help you play smarter, better golf.

I’ve long had the goal of becoming a scratch golfer. There’s no greater clout among recreational players than being able to say you’re a scratch golfer. Among weekend warriors, scratch is king.

Over the last five or so years, I’ve made marked progress toward that goal. I’ve worked my handicap index as low as 3 on numerous occasions, and I’ve gotten a peek of that elusive scratch-handicap mountaintop. But each time, that low-single-digit index is as far as I’ve gotten. Shaving those last few strokes have proved elusive.

The last two seasons have been particularly discouraging in my quest to reach scratch. After a few seasons playing some of the best golf of my life, 2023 and 2024 have been my two worst seasons since instituting my scratch goal. Improvement is rarely linear in golf, but this valley has lasted a little too long for my liking.

After a rough 2023, I thought that 2024 would be different — and for a while, it was. The season started with many encouraging signs, and I put together a handful of solid rounds. My index was back below 4, and I finally felt like I was gaining momentum again. Over the past month or so, though, I’ve hit rock bottom.

I’ve played seven rounds since early June, and I’ve broken 80 just twice (on very easy courses). In two of my last three rounds, I’ve struggled just to break 90. What started as such a promising season has instead become another summer slog.

I’ve decided I’ve had enough of playing bad golf. And with roughly half the season left in front of me, I’m dedicated to fixing my game. Here’s my 4-part (hopeful!) fix.

1. Get lessons

When I look back at my best seasons of late, I realized there was an obvious reason I played so well: I was taking lessons. When I say “taking lessons,” I don’t mean I was seeing my pro every week, but I was getting my swing checked out once every couple months. And for a single-digit handicap, that should be more than enough to keep things in order.

Over the last two seasons, I’ve not taken a single swing lesson. I’ve still been diligent about practicing and playing, but I’ve not done so under the eye of a professional. It’s no wonder my game has suffered.

When you’re playing well, it can seem as though you don’t need to continue taking lessons — but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even when you’re playing well, seeing your pro on a somewhat regular basis is crucial. It’s easy to slip into bad habits with your swing, but getting a checkup every month or so will keep that from happening.

As I continue on this quest from improvement, I’m making a commitment to getting at least one lesson every six weeks. I have a hunch that it’ll be worth my while.

2. Fitness routine

Now that I’ve turned 30, I’m making a point to become more serious about physical fitness. That’s not to say I was a bum in my 20s, but when you’re young it’s easier to slack off and get away with it. I know those days are numbered, though, and if I want to play my best golf I’ll need to take better care of my body.

To start working toward this goal, I’ve decided to start using the GolfForever Swing Trainer. This piece of equipment is part swing trainer, part fitness aid, and it’s used by a number of pros, including Scottie Scheffler.

I plan on starting small with basic at-home workouts and using the Swing Trainer to dial in my golf muscles. As I get stronger and more in shape, I’ll introduce more to my routine. I’m optimistic that keeping myself in better shape will pay dividends in my game.

GolfForever Swing Trainer

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3. Speed training

I’ve never been the longest player, but I’ve made my length work over the course of my golfing life. As I play with better and better players, though, I can see how much my lack of distance is hurting me. I’ve decided it’s time to go on a chase for distance.

I’ve done basic speed training drills in the past, and I’ve actually added some mph to my clubhead speed over the past several years. But now, it’s time to get serious.

There are a number of speed training aids in the market right now, but perhaps the one with the best reputation is The Stack System. I got myself some of their equipment a few years back, but never got around to trying it — until now. With my stroke-shaving mission in full effect, I’m going to make speed training a regular part of my routine.

TheStack Swing Speed Trainer (Hardware + App Bundle)

$314 (was $349)
  TheStack Hardware 5 milled Stack weights enable 30 weight combinations between 0g and 300g Dual-purpose weight case / phone stand Highly engineered training club – Adult (41.5″) or Junior (38.5″) version (see Fitting Juniors) Speed radar not included. View all compatible devices here.  We recommend the PRGR TheStack App Training 2-year License included, accessible on iOS only. Dynamic speed training formulated by Dr. Sasho MacKenzie Guided workout timer for reps, sets, and rest intervals Custom speed metrics to track your gains Hands-free data entry using voice entry technology Includes access to Stack Putting (Beta) – Learn more Includes Single User License – Enables training and tracking for up to five local (i.e. family) users under one login. Multi-user Coaches License license sold separately. Access TheStack App from the App Store when your order arrives. Requires iOS 15.0 or later.
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4. Back to ol’ reliable

When I was younger, I was a deadeye putter. I might not have been the longest player, but I could make putts with the best of them. Now…not so much.

I can’t say for certain why I’ve lost my touch on the greens, but I do know that I’ve gone through several putter changes in recent years. That’s rarely a recipe for success. So, I’m going back to ol’ reliable.

As a kid, I gamed an Odyssey White Hot No. 9 putter. I never much liked the look of it, but I holed tons of putts with it. I think it’s time to bring it out of retirement. It might not be the “sexiest” putter, but if it can make putts, I don’t care. It’s time to go back to what works — optics be damned.

So there you have it, my 4-part plan. Will it work? Check back with me at the end of the season. Meantime, if you’re struggling with your own game, I’m hopeful part or all of my plan can also help you. Remember, we’re in this improvement thing together!

Zephyr Melton Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at