Lesson TeeAugust 20, 2010

Aim The Nicklaus Way

STARE AT THE SPOT: Pick anything noticeable on your target line to use as an alignment aid.

STARE AT THE SPOT: Pick anything noticeable on your target line to use as an alignment aid.

Most golfers hit crooked shots because their aim is off. But with the right preparation, aiming is one of the few things you can control.

I recommend Jack Nicklaus' method. He stands behind the ball to determine his line and picks a spot a few feet in front of the ball on that line. He then aims his clubface at that spot and takes his stance so his body is aligned parallel to the target line. He'll look back and forth from that spot to his target a few times before starting his swing.

If you step into your shot from the side, you might mistakenly align your body at the target instead of parallel to the target line, which means your clubface would be aimed right of where it should be.

Most amateurs also "under-aim." Not only should you allow for your natural shot shape, you also must factor in wind speed and direction. Seldom do I see average golfers play for enough curve in a crosswind. If right-handers tend to slice the ball, they don't aim far enough left. A crosswind from the left exaggerates their slice. Allow for more wind influence than you think.

THOUGHTS FROM TOM

When putting under pressure, grip the club lightly and concentrate on the tempo of your stroke. Your grip often gets tighter and your tempo gets faster when it's an important putt. Don't be afraid of failure. The ball is either going to go in or it's not.

WATSON is a Golf Digest Playing Editor and the golf professional emeritus at The Greenbrier, in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.