How this amateur went from shooting in the 90s to breaking 80 | Most Improved Golfers in America
More than three million players carry a USGA handicap. In a collaboration between GOLF and the USGA, we were able to identify five of the most improved golfers in America, who lowered it, percentage-wise, more than any other players in the past year. Each player is proof that there’s always a chance to shoot your dream score. Don’t have a handicap yet? Sign up for one right here.
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Christina Graves, 39, Ludlow, VT / Handicap change: 11.8 to 7.7 (35% improvement)
There’s often a point when most weekend golfers just hope to play bogey golf. Not Christina Graves, a registered nurse in the Green Mountain State.
Graves, who has played golf for more than 20 years, says the first step for her was to admit that she wasn’t satisfied with hovering around 90 each round.
“Shooting 90s for most of my years playing golf was fine, but the last couple years I started getting interested in competing at a higher level and getting my handicap down,” she says.
Seeking progress, Graves knew she had to get her putter right to lower her scores. So she started playing more rounds at Rutland Country Club, where she is a member and where the greens are “undulating and very fast,” really testing a player’s speed control.
“If you learn how to putt on Rutland’s greens, you can pretty much take your game anywhere,” she says. “Just playing those greens over and over, figuring out different strokes, like putting from the toe to take some of the spin away, I started to understand that speed is king, and I didn’t worry as much about the line. That took me from three-putting to seeing more two-putts.”
Eventually, her practice turned into healthy competition. Not just with herself, but with her kids, who began to challenge her on the putting surface.
“I have two kids: a 14-year-old son and a nine-year-old daughter. So instead of just practicing, there are a lot of times where we have a putting competition at a practice green,” Graves says. “Trying to dial that in where you’re only doing one-putts or two-putts to try to beat the other person, even if it’s my own kids, it made me commit to a consistent putting stroke. I just look at the shot, feel it in myself and putt it.”
Outside of an elevated focus on putting, Graves says a better understanding of course management helped her.
“You always want to make sure you’re taking enough club. It’s never just based on the yardage,” Graves says. “That was a hard-learned, very important lesson.”