Many of us at this time of year have put away the clubs, but this is a wonderful time of year to spend some time practicing! Hopefully on these warm fall days you can take advantage of the following hints. I truly believe any golfer must have a pre-shot routine and a "picture" of what they want to execute in order to accomplish their goal: to get the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible.
As I have said before, this game of golf is 40% physical knowledge and 60% mental imaging. I will help define what exactly a pre-shot routine is and help you image a "picture" before execution.
PRE-SHOT ROUTINE: We can't just stand parallel to the ball and take a good swing and hope it ends up on the green. The process is much more detailed than that. What I tell my students is that if you have good practice skills, we then need to transfer it to the golf course.
Good practice skills begin on the putting/chipping green and the driving range. Begin by taking your bag of balls first to the practice green-spend at least one half hour practicing shots from all different angles.
While you do this, make sure you are standing directly behind the ball each time finding an imaginary line from the ball to your target, taking a practice swing, and then setting your hands on the club, your clubface lined to your target, and lastly make sure your body is parallel to your clubface.
After these check points are accomplished, execute your swing. Making this process a habit when practicing will enhance your ability on the course. After we have spent ample time on the practice green, we then take the balls to the driving range.
At this stage, many people just want to see how far they can hit their driver! Don't start there-start with you nine iron and work through your bag! Have a target in mind and set your mind on that. I tell my students that you gain more practice by hitting twenty balls to a target and having a routine than hitting one-hundred out into the range seeing how far they will go.
We have the same concept for a routine here as we do on the practice green: find an imaginary line from the ball to your target and take a practice swing while looking at the target from this position. Let me clarify these two steps. When you find your imaginary line, that's the line of flight you hope your ball will achieve.
To do this, find something ahead of your ball approximately four to eight inches to line your clubface with so once you are parallel to the target you don't lose your line. I also recommend taking your practice swing while looking at your target to enforce this mental imaging. Then we set the hands properly on the golf club, set the face so it is facing my "spot" four to six inches ahead of the ball, set my body so I am parallel to my clubface-NOT the target.
Our body has to be slightly left of the target because our face is parallel to it. Lastly, swing through the ball. Remember that if you already have a routine you're happy with-stick with it! However, I see a lot of people who don't transfer what they do on the range to the golf course.
IMAGING: Now that we know how to practice and have our pre-shot routine, we are going to transfer that to the course and use our mental imaging! Whether I am putting or executing a drive-I am doing exactly what I did in practice. There is no difference between your swing on the practice range or in a tournament-it's your state of mind.
When you have a routine for practice, there is not a day or situation that you come across that your state of mind isn't the same as each day on the practice range, right? Well, it should be this way!
What I tell my students is that you groove your motor-muscle memory every time you make a correct swing-even if you are swinging at home! Once this "groove" is made, you can transfer it to both a leisurely game and a high-stakes tournament.
We image each shot, no matter where we are, to our target. This picture you create is the last thing your brain sees before you set-up to the ball. Don't waver in that POSITIVE picture! For instance if you have doubts about going over a lake, picture going over it or play short! DO NOT let your fears enter your positive image before you execute your swing because your mind always plays out what you told it. Image the lake, and most likely you' ll be fishing your ball out.
Basically, find a routine that works for you and use it all the time. This routine combined with picturing each and every shot will help you have a plan every day! This plan will enable you to lower your scores and feel confident about your game whether it be for fun or for money.
TIP OF THE MONTH:
Have you been in a situation where you needed to hook or slice the ball intentionally? Here's how to do it: Slice (curves right of target): set your clubface at the target and have your swing come outside to inside or well left of your obstacle. Hook (curves left of target): set your clubface closed to your target, and swing inside to outside or right of your obstacle.
LPGA Professional Kelly Kleckner teaches at Cherokee Ridge Golf Course in Colorado Springs, Colo. She played collegiate golf for Colorado State University, and is the founder and director of the LPGA Girls Golf Club for the area. She coaches and teaches private and semi-private lessons all year. For more information call 719-576-9176.