The biggest mistake amateur golfers make, according to a major champion

Tom Lehman has played with his fair share of recreational golfers over the years, so the five-time PGA Tour winner and 1996 Open champion has a pretty good idea where they fall short.

His advice to amateurs? They need a better understanding of their limitations.

“I think we all think we are superhuman and we can hit the ball a lot farther than we can,” Lehman told “So if I could say there’s any one thing that isn’t super technical but more about expectations, it is to be realistic about how far you can hit it.

golfer lines up to hit shot
Beginning golfers should do this after every shot if they want to improve
By: Zephyr Melton

“I don’t know how many times I’ve played in a pro-am and I’m hitting a 7-iron, and you know I’m a professional, and the guy with me is hitting an 8-iron and I go, ‘Why do you have the 8-iron? I’m way better than you, hit it way farther than you, and I’m hitting a 7-iron.'”

Lehman’s not alone in this critique of amateurs, and many studies have shown the majority of missed greens from recreational players is short of the green. Part of that is because people who don’t play regularly don’t have a good understanding of how far they actually hit a club. For example, just because they hit an 8-iron 160 yards once doesn’t mean it travels that far every time.

“Understading how far you hit it is probably what I see as the biggest mistake,” Lehman said.

Bonus tip

We also asked Lehman how he’d warm-up if he had just 15 minutes to spare. Here’s what he said.

“I’m going to hit wedges for five minutes, hit two or three or four or five drivers, and then I’m going to the putting green and putt and chip until the last second before my tee time,” he said. “It’s a rush for sure, but you gotta be loose, at least to a certain degree, and you gotta have a feel for the greens.”

Josh Berhow Editor

As’s managing editor, Berhow handles the day-to-day and long-term planning of one of the sport’s most-read news and service websites. He spends most of his days writing, editing, planning and wondering if he’ll ever break 80. Before joining in 2015, he worked at newspapers in Minnesota and Iowa. A graduate of Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn., he resides in the Twin Cities with his wife and two kids. You can reach him at