If you want to play like a pro, you have to practice like one. In the following pages, I’ll show you how I practice and the things that help me fine-tune my game, so come time to compete, I don’t have to worry about my swing. Instead, I can play shot-by-shot and concentrate on lowering my score.
To get started, when you practice, always do so with a target in mind for every shot. After all, why hit balls if you don’t aim? Think of a target and don’t forget it.
2. GET BEHIND AND SET UP
When I see amateurs hit shots, I notice many don’t have the right pre-shot sequence. So try this. First, take your grip behind the ball while facing the target. I?like to do this so I?can focus more on alignment, and not worry about my hands. I pick my target, make my grip and I don’t readjust it. Once it’s on there, it’s on for good.
While still fixated on the target, I approach the ball from the side. This helps me see the target and align my body considerably to the left of the target (as evident by my orange stick to the side of the ball). I don’t step directly into position just yet. I’m still zoned in on the target, and the club is held out in front of me. I’m ready to go.
My eyes have moved off the target, and I’m looking at the ball. I also track my eyes across the orange stick representing my target line. Then, I step into my stance from the side, not from behind or at an angle. This helps me align my body more squarely, with the clubface aiming at the target and my body situated parallel to the left.
Now I’m ready to strike. My stance is squared, I have a mental picture of the target in my mind, and my eyes stay glued to the ball throughout my swing. I may peek at the target, and if it doesn’t feel right, I start all over again. Your preshot routine and alignment is critical if you want to compete out here on the PGA Tour.
I see this improper stance all the time. The clubface is square to the target (that’s the easy part), but the feet also are aiming at the target, a mistake made by several of my partners during pro-am events. What this stance structure does is promote a vicious over-the-top, swiping move that likely results in a snap hook or a big, bellowing slice. To fix the problem, practice your stance position correctly by aiming the clubface at the target and the body to the left of the target. (Think of the old railroad-ties analogy with the clubhead on one rail and your feet on the other.) This will help you swing more on plane and through the ball instead of down and across it. And by the way, I practice my alignment all the time, as do many of my peers. It sets up the entire golf swing.
If you look closely, you can see that the two orange sticks aren’t exactly parallel. That’s not a mistake! If you’re going to err one way or another, have your stance slightly open as opposed to slightly closed. When you’re open, your body is more prone to making a fuller turn and rotation, two things you need to make a good extension and to strike the ball consistently. Experiment with what stance works for you and practice picking your primary target, which is the line your clubhead should be on. Then, consider choosing a second target to which your body aligns. You’ll soon see that better alignment is the quickest way to start hitting straighter and more repeatable golf shots.
4. SHAFT = ARM
Although not allowed on the PGA Tour and at some stuffy country clubs, even the best players in the world wear shorts to keep cool in the summer. Avoiding the heat helps your practice time last longer.
The shaft ought to be an extension of your left arm. If you want better control, consider the shaft of the club as an extension of your left arm (right for southpaws) at address. Early in the backswing, you’ll want to get in this aligned position anyway, so why not go ahead and start with the shaft already in the right place?
If you’re trying this for the first time, you’ll notice how drastically closed the clubface will look. But, in reality, it isn’t; you just have to trust your eyes and know that you’re in the correct position. From here, swing the club back using your arms and body and let your wrists hinge naturally at the top. I like to use a mirror to check and see my position with all my clubs since it not only helps me correct myself, it gives me a mental picture of how my stance should look.