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You need to visualize and see the flight of the golf ball and get a clear picture of what you are trying to do.
You need to visualize and see the flight of the golf ball and get a clear picture of what you are trying to do. (PGA of America)

What it takes to be the best golfer you can be

Chuck EvansBy Chuck Evans,
Special Contributor

If players want to be the best they can be, they should mimic what the best golfers in the world do. This means they have very specific routines they go through when they practice, pre-tournament practice rounds and post-tournament practice.

But none of these things matter if you don't first work on your pre-swing adjustments and setup. This means you learn to set up and look as good as any PGA Tour player at address. This includes grip, posture, ball position and alignments.

When you're practicing, work on the things you're having trouble with. If your putting and chipping are good but you're driving is off, then work on driving.

Always have a plan when you're practicing. Practice with a purpose. It is of no value at all to stand on a range and just beat golf balls! There is also no value in practicing if you don't have a plan and you're not focused. You are just wasting time.

The best players in the world have very specific routines that they do on a daily basis. Again, if you're practicing and not playing golf, then you are working on mechanics. If you're warming up to play golf, then the focus is on target acquisition.

If a particular golf course favors lots of high approach shots to the green, then those are the kinds of shots you need to be working on. Players need to be able to hit the specific shot the hole calls for.

One thing you want to do with each and every round and each and every practice session is that you want to walk off the golf course knowing you've done the best you can. You didn't let down, you stayed focused no matter what the outcome was.

How many times have we heard the world's No. 1 player in an interview after his round say that he just didn't have it today, but he was proud of the way he hung in there and just kept fighting?

Never quit, never give up, and always hold your head up high. Whether you shoot 80 or 60, if you know that you have done your absolute best then you can be proud of whatever happens, and you'll never think to yourself, "I wish I would have tried harder, or I wish I had not given up during a round."

The one thing we see over and over again, at AJGA events and other junior golf events, is that the majority of the players have very mediocre short games. They all strike the ball about the same, but it is the player with the best mental attitude, course management and short game that brings home the trophy.

Part of the pre-shot is to make practice swings to program what you are trying to do for the shot at hand. These rehearsals are designed for a specific purpose, and that is to get the feel or sensation, what it is you're trying to do on that shot.

So, if you're just rehearsing something or just doing something that really has no purpose, then you're not rehearsing properly in your pre-shot. Another part of this reversal is to not only get the feel of what you want to do with the golf club but to visualize and see the flight of the golf ball and get a clear picture of what you are trying to do.

Every player is going to hit bad shots, accept it and move on. The very best players in the world will tell you that they only hit four or five shots a round exactly the way they wanted, their misses are just closer than everybody else's. The other thing that great players do exceptionally well is to play one shot at a time.

Your next shot is the most important in golf

The most important shot of the day is the shot you're getting ready to hit right now. You can't go back and replay the hole that you made bogey on, and you can't transport yourself magically into the future to birdie the last hole, but what you can do is take control of the shot you're getting ready to hit and put all your focus and energy into that shot.

When you are practicing, work on the weak parts of your game and ingrain your strengths. Get a picture of what you want to do. See yourself making perfect strokes, whether it be putting, chipping, pitching or even full swing. As a player, you have to capture that "Kodak" moment, as we call it.

This means seeing a picture in your mind of yourself doing precisely whatever it is you're trying to do. Once you can see that picture, your body can duplicate it. But if that picture is fuzzy, then there is no signal to send from the brain to the body.

The next big key is to realize that you don't always have to stand out on the range pounding golf balls. You can visualize and think about your swing, do mirror drills, flashlight drills, racquet drills and many more inside without hitting golf balls. You can build a great golf stroke, and a great golf game, by doing lots of mirror work.

Great players are always working on different shots, whether it is high, low, fades, draws or whatever. There are going to be times when you need to play a specific shot, and you need to have already worked on that shot so that you can pull it off.

Are there players that just play one particular shot? Certainly, BUT how they play the golf course is limited by their ability to not shape shots.

When you are loosening up before a round, start with the heaviest clubs in your bag, which are your wedges. Hit a few short shots with those, and then move up to a different club like an eight iron and hit a few with it, then move up to a 4 iron and hit a few shots. Then go to your hybrid or fairway woods and finally the driver. Then work your way back down again to wedges. The last club you should use is the club you hit on the first tee.

Your pre-tournament practice round is designed to map your strategy out for the golf course: what club to hit off the tee, what angle to hit the fairway to give you the best angle into the green and the different pin placements on the green.

You pretty much know where the pins will be; they are always in the toughest spots. So, divide the green into quadrants, and hit putts to each of those quadrants to the toughest hole location for that quadrant. Make notes of where the ball starts to break, how far from the hole and the amount of the break. On slow greens, be an aggressive putter. On fast greens, be a defensive putter.

Do these things, and you will become a better player. If you work hard on your short game, you will drop 5-7 shots per round even if your ball striking does not improve.

Chuck Evans, G.S.E.D., a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, is one of only 31 golf instructors worldwide designated to hold a doctorate in golf stroke engineering. He is executive director of instruction for the Medicus Golf Institute and has served as director of schools for the PGA Tour Golf Academy, and as director of instruction for the United States Golf Institute. He is also the author of "How To Build Your Golf Swing."

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Useful tips

    budget golf balls wrote on: Feb 2, 2009

    I liked your post.Planning without practicing is meaningless. I agree that specific routine must be followed to improve the game. Also a positive mental attitude can do wonders.


  • Congratulations!

    Lee Griffin wrote on: Jan 19, 2009

    Hi, Chuck.
    Just wanted to congratulate you on making the top 100 teachers in America. What a great recognition, one well deserved.
    I hope to be in Florida this spring and will give you a call.
    Best regards,