If you've taken lessons from me before, you know I'm a big fan of getting all your ducks in a row before hitting your shot.
I'm a firm believer that if you gather all your information ahead of time, you'll make a good swing. If you're not committed to the process however, your swing will fall apart.
What I want all of my students to understand is that we need to separate the planning and execution phases for every shot.
So what should you ask before every single shot?
1) How far away from the hole am I?
2) What's between me and the hole?
3) What's my lie look like?
4) Where do I need to land the ball?
5) What club do I use?
Let me elaborate on each of these...
1) HOW FAR AWAY FROM THE HOLE AM I?
This is an incredibly important question to ask ourselves because if we don't know how far away we are from the hole, all the other questions we'll ask ourselves will be based on an educated guess. However, if we know how far away we are then we can make informed decisions about what we need to do to get the ball close.
There are plenty of different ways to gather distance information including the classic "pacing off" yardage indicated by sprinkler heads or other on course distance markings OR you can use newer technology like a GPS or a Laser Range Finder.
While pacing off the distance may be the cheapest solution, it's worth your while to invest in a GPS system or a Laser Range Finder for more accurate distances. Neither are necessarily better than the other... it comes down to personal preference and what works best for you.
2) WHAT'S BETWEEN ME AND THE HOLE?
This is also a very important question to ask as it brings to your attention any obstacles you may have to overcome. If you're fortunate, there's nothing between you and the hole except short grass but the reality is, there's probably going to be something...
This might include rough, water, bunkers, hills or other elevation change, waste areas, trees, bathrooms, etc etc etc.
Depending on what's between you and the hole, your options for how you hit the shot may be limited so make sure you get a good feel for the situation before moving onto the next step.
3) WHAT'S MY LIE LOOK LIKE?
Even if you're in the middle of the fairway, it doesn't always mean you'll have a good lie which is why it's important to ask yourself what it looks like before you commit to a shot.
Are you on short grass? long grass? no grass???
Are you in the sand? under a tree? or in a divot?
Is your ball sitting up? sitting down? or on a tee?
All these questions go into determining what your lie looks like. The cleaner your lie, the easier your shot will be. However, if you have a nasty lie such as being plugged in a bunker on roots near a tree, or in a divot, how you hit that shot will be much different.
4) WHERE DO I NEED TO LAND THE BALL?
The idea here is that very rarely can we take dead aim straight at the flag. Maybe we have the figure in wind, slope on the green, the fact that we have to carry a bunker, etc and determine where you need to land this ball so that when it hits the ground and finishes moving, it settles in an ideal place.
All the questions you've asked yourself up until this point will give you a better idea of how you're going to determine that landing area.
If you have a 50 yard pitch shot from the fairway to a wide open green, you'll have different options that if you're 50 yards away in the rough and need to carry a bunker. Let the situation tell you what you need to do.
5) WHAT CLUB DO I USE?
Once you've asked yourself the first 4 questions, the last question is essentially, "what club do I need to use and what swing do I need to make with it to hit the shot I've visualized in my mind."
A skilled golfer knows that depending on the situation, maybe a 6 iron is the right club from 50 yards away because they're in a troubled spot where they need to keep it low and let it run up to the green. The skilled golfer may also know that sometimes a wedge from 200 yards is the right play because they hit a bad tee shot and now they need to get out of some nasty rough and just get it back into play.
The bottom line is this...
Once you've assessed everything about the situation you'll know how far away you are, where you need to aim, and what club you need to use based on your lie, the trouble between you and the hole, and your distance away. At that point, all that's left is to go through your pre-shot routine and let habit take over.
If you've done your work on the front end, you won't have to worry about anything other than making a good swing. I guarantee you that when you separate the process of planning your shot from your execution of the shot, your quality of shots will go up and your scores will go down.
*If you found this article helpful, let me know! I love hearing from my readers and getting insight into what will help you play better golf. Please follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube or sign up for my mailing list to stay up to date with all my latest material.
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