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As you approach every shot, think of where you want the shot to end up.
As you approach every shot, think of where you want the shot to end up. (Michael Zito/Eclipse Sportswire)

Think positive for lower scores

Les MillerBy Les Miller,

Years ago, when I was VP of sales and marketing at Cleveland Golf, I had the opportunity to spend time with John Cook. Over the years John has played some fantastic golf, but many observers think he never reached his potential. One thing for sure is he is one of the nicest PGA Tour pros out there.

In January 1992 John stopped by the company to have his clubs worked on, and I asked him how he felt about the upcoming season. His response surprised me. He said his confidence was kind of low but improving. As Cook had just come off the best year of his career - three wins and near misses at the PGA Championship and British Open - I wondered how he could lack confidence.

That's when I realized how important a positive attitude is to playing your best golf. Here are a few tips to help lock in that positive thinking during your round.

• As you approach every shot, think of where you want the shot to end up. Never think of where you don't want the ball to go. Concentrate on your intended target, relax and hit the shot. A clear mind leads to good shots.

• Analyze each shot's given circumstances and, depending on your ability, play the safest shot.

Take this situation: You're teeing off on a hole that requires an extremely accurate drive, with water on the left, out-of-bounds on the right. The hole is a 300-yard par 4, and you're a 20-handicap player. The yardage is saying you could drive the green, but your golf brain should tell you to hit a safe middle iron shot into the fairway, followed by a short iron approach. Easy pars are better than an occasional birdie and many double bogeys.

• Feel the shot before you hit it. Rehearsing a shot exactly how you want to execute it is an important part of building confidence in your swing. All too often, golfers take practice swings with little regard to the actual shot that is going to be played. A good practice swing creates a feeling of the shot at hand.

• Now the final step, executing the shot. Narrow your focus to a specific target, like a tree in the distance or a bunker in the fairway. Trust your shot, stay focused on your target and execute by just letting go. Again, focus on what you want the shot to do, not on where you don't want the shot to go.

Les Miller was a longtime Golf Writers of America member who covered golf instruction for several newspapers and golf publications. His many years of experience as a golf professional, director of product development and tour relations for several major golf companies gave him a unique background and ability to help golfers increase their enjoyment of the game.

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