Remember when Goldilocks tried the porridge from the three bears and exclaimed "too hot," "too cold" and "just right"? There's a lesson there for golfers trying to gauge greenside shots, particularly better players, whose big issue is distance control. You need a system for feeling how much swing creates how much shot. Enter Goldilocks.
When you're trying to feel out the distance, first make a practice swing that's clearly too short, then make one that's clearly too long, then one that feels just right (above). Feeling the extremes will help you settle on the appropriate motion. Make your final rehearsal that in-between swing, then just step in and repeat it.
EYES CLOSED, GO TO YOUR FAVORITE HOLE
Visualization -- or activating the mind's eye -- is the best way to beat tournament pressure. A good rehearsal swing will help you cope with the nerves in a productive way. One good idea is to imagine yourself hitting a shot on your favorite hole on your home course.
Take a smooth practice swing with your eyes closed (right), and picture the ball flying down the fairway or onto the green. See yourself as though you're watching a TV program and imagine the perfect ball flight to your target.
This also works well to combat first-tee jitters, which affect even the best players. You might even imagine you have a favorite club in your hand, and you're hitting a shot you've hit well a thousand times. Point is, get back to your comfort zone, and you'll hit better shots no matter how you're feeling.
It's OK to have a slightly different pre-shot routine for each part of your game, but you'd better know what it is. The routine is one thing that competitive players can hold on to when they're feeling pressure. It's familiar, so there's a comfort level, and they know they're going to do it well.
--Dr. Bob Rotella