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By David Fineg


Golf is the game for a lifetime. It can (will) take you all that time to achieve your potential in this sport. You will never be as good as you know you could be. That is one of the truly sublime things about this game. This article will attempt to identify and describe the fifteen levels of achievement in golf. It will also give you an estimate of the time required to get to the next level, depending on the amount of work you can put into it. The extent of your desire to get to the next level is also very important.

The reason I have chosen to entitle this article a "guesstimation", is because according to my own estimates, I am only at level eight (O.K. 7.5) myself. Everything beyond that is based on what I have learned about the work that was required to achieve the levels up to that point. In other words, this is far from exact science.


The best golf I have ever played was a round where I was 3 under for 13 holes before I collapsed. The best score I ever shot was a 77. I was so outside my skill level that day….man, I could be good at this (my shots look like the ones the pro's hit)(I thought to myself)

How bad do you want to be good? How much time do you have to put into it? Answer these questions by selecting the appropriate "Calculations Required to Achieve Proficiency" index. Use the C.R.A.P. table below to determine how long it will take you to get to your desired level. Some levels will take time as well as strokes.


Index 1. Players that play 5 times a year-practice 20 times a year.

Index 2. Players that play 20 times a year-practice 100 times a year.

Index 3. Players that play 100 times a year-practice 200 times a year.

Index 1 is what I would consider a recreational golfer. This golfer might play a little more often than 5 times a year, but probably will not practice much more than 20 times a year.

Index 2 is a golfer that is devoted to the game to the extent that he/she can be. Considering that they have a full life going, this is about as much as they can devote to a leisure pursuit.

Index 3 is a person that can devote full time to golf. (You know, wealthy-unemployed-retired-living at home)

Level 1. The first level of golf is attained when the player gets his or her own clubs. They are now no longer renting or borrowing clubs. This is important to the extent that the beginning of a repeatable swing can now be worked on. It is also important because the distance you hit each club can now begin to be determined. Golf clubs should always be fitted to the player, but if your clubs do not fit you, you have still eliminated a variable that would have had a negative effect on your practice or play. Before I go on to any of the higher levels, I should point out that progress speed can be increased by any index golfer. This is accomplished when that golfer comes to realize a few things about how the game is played. That golfer must also be contained enough to accept a realistic assessment of his or her skill level. More on this as it becomes pertinent.

Level 2. The second level is breaking 100. Shooting 99. Once you have clubs of your own, you can achieve this level in fairly short order.

Index 1: 4.5 Years

Index 2: 3.5 Years

Index 3: 2.5 Years

Level 3. The third level is breaking 90. Shooting 89. These 10 strokes will be probably half again as hard to get out of your game as those strokes from anywhere you started, down to the 100 score level. You are now finding out about how enjoyable the game of golf is. You are occasionally pulling off the one or two shots per round that are pure majesty. They look just like the shots the pros are making (you think to yourself). Yeah man, I could be good at this. All I have to do is make more of those shots per round. HMMM- So what if it is a LOT more of those shots per round.

Index 1: 2.5 Years

Index 2: 2 Years

Index 3: 1.5 Years

Level 4. The fourth level is shooting 85. These 4 or 5 strokes are where you begin to notice how hard each and every stroke is to carve out of your score. It takes a serious effort to avoid costing you strokes. You realize you are going to have to start thinking more strategically.

UH-OH ! Here is one of those realizations I spoke of.

It is called course management. It is a whole 'nother article. But suffice it to say you must be able to consider the possible outcomes of shots so you can plan your attack of the particular hole, according to its layout. You then start to consider the fact that certain clubs don't perform well for you.

UH-OH! Here is one of those realizations I spoke of.

Its called "knowin your limitations". Until you realize that certain clubs do not do the things everybody says they do, (at least not for you, they don't) and take them out of your bag, you will be needlessly growing your score and your disgust level. (Many men will resist this realization, putting off the changes to their game it calls for. This will cost them valuable time wasted on the climb up the level ladder. It's a man thing to resist changes that could make you better because of the way it might make you look to your pals). This is one of the (many) places in the journey, where women make a quantum leap over men in terms of their rate of improvement. The sooner you come to these realizations, the sooner they will take you to the place where you want to be. You will improve your swing and your game faster with these concepts than without them, I promise. Now, back to our regularly scheduled…

Index 1: 2.5 Years

Index 2: 1.5 Years

Index 3: 1 Year

Level 5. The fifth level is deciding to count every stroke and play it as it lies. You are discovering the wonder of golf. You are recognizing how difficult this game is. You have decided to stop lying to yourself (and your friends). You have heard that "bogey" golf is pretty good golf and you want to see if you really can shoot an 85. The "time and stroke penalty" for each index of golfer is dependant on how much of a MONKENATED MULLIGAN MAN you are. If you are a big liar, this level will cost you 20 strokes. If but a tiny liar, the level will cost 10 strokes. (Women, much less prone to "Misrepresentin", can skip this level.)

Index 1: 2 Years

Index 2: 1 Year

Index 3: .5 Year

Level 6. The sixth level is shooting 85. (FOR REAL) To reach this point has taken the following times:

Index 1: 11.5 Years

Index 2: 8.0 Years

Index 3: 5.5 Years

It will only get harder to achieve all subsequent levels. Index 1 golfers may not achieve more than one or two more levels in their lifetime. (Most Index 1 golfers started playing the game very late in life, otherwise they would have found a way to become Index 2 golfers)

Level 7. The seventh level is breaking 80. Shooting 79. I have read somewhere that only 5% of all golfers score under 100. I believe that 50% of that 5% is probably lying. If you have achieved this level of golf, you are truly a gifted athlete. Many golfers will never shoot a score like this, no matter how long they play. I will list Index 1 golf time estimates for this level, though I don't think it is likely many will get here.

Index 1: 2.5 Years

Index 2: 1.5 Years

Index 3: 1 Year

Level 8. The eighth level is shooting a 75. These four strokes take major effort to carve out of your game. You are hampered by the one or two bad swings during every round that you can't recover from. It only takes two medium to medium-bad shots to keep you from playing the best golf you have ever played. (As far as the scorecard is concerned) Then one day you put it all together. Congrats!

Index 2: 2 Years

Index 3: 1 Year

Level 9. The ninth level is shooting a 75, walking. Golf at the competitive level, is played by golfers walking the entire round. At the competitive level the golfers generally do not carry their own clubs, but they still require the stamina to make 18 holes of good shots. If you began playing golf walking, then you can skip this level. The ninth level is the level where you decide that to truly test yourself against the better players, you must play the game walking. (The purest form of golf) If you have been playing golf from a cart up to now, this will turn out to be an expensive level for you. What kind of shape are you in? Can you even walk 5 miles on the street in your neighborhood? You are going to find fatigue creeping into your swing after 5 holes. By the time you reach the back nine, you will probably be down 40% on the swing reliability meter. The last 5 holes will be the rubber arm ballet. The "level penalty" at this point is hard to gauge. Only you can judge this. I will bet the average player will experience a 10 stroke/one year minimum. I hope you are physically prepared to go on. Try to start walking well before you reach this level. (If you do reach it)

Level 10. The tenth level is shooting par golf, walking. It will take you about a year to shoot a 75 walking. Since you have taken about a year to get into the shape it takes to play good golf walking, it should only be another six months to get the last three or four strokes out of your game. Once again, anyone achieving this level of golf is in the top 1 to 5 percent of all golfers worldwide.

Levels 11 thru 15. The last 5 levels are competitive levels of golf. The closer I got to these levels, (Writing about them in this article, that is) the more apprehensive I became about claiming I would know how long it would take you to get to any of them. I have decided to claim that I only know what each level is, not how long it will take you to get there. Every one of them involves hitting golf shots (one after another) in front of progressively larger and more discerning collections of strangers. Over the years, as you climb the "level ladder", you learn to deal with people watching you hit a golf shot or two. In the beginning, these people are generally familiar to you. They are less judgmental. There are only a few of them. There is no money on the line. Hopefully, this decade or two (yeah, that's how long it will take you) on the gal lery learning curve will teach you how to handle the pressure associated with competition. You might be an awesome golfer with your buddies around and only a $2.00 bet on the line. Think of the performance anxiety issues you will feel when lots of strangers are watching...(you play golf).

Level 11. Making the "cut" in a municipal amateur tournament.

Level 12. Making the cut in any "organized" professional tournament with cash prizes leveraged against the expense money out of your pocket."

Level 13. A top 5 finish in a mini-tour event. (if you place fifth in an event, you are probably capable of beating those other four golfers, on another day.)

Level 14. Making the cut in a top tier tour event.

Level 15. A top 5 finish in a top tier tour event.


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