March 4, 2008

Fix your pre-shot routine

Approach from behind, not the side

One of the biggest differences between a tour player and an average golfer doesn't involve the actual swing.

Watch a tour player go through his pre-shot routine, and you'll almost never see him walk in from the side and make a practice swing right next to the ball. He faces the target from behind the ball, to visualize his shot, and makes a couple of gentle practice swings with his eyes on the target before stepping in.

When you approach from the side, it distorts your view of the target and screws up your aim. Some players also tend to keep their feet in place after a practice swing and then reach for the ball to hit it. That's another good reason to start your routine from behind.




HOW I SEE IT

TOUR PLAYERS' PRACTICE SECRETS

Players on tour spend a tremendous amount of time practicing, both at a tournament and during off-weeks at home. For example, a normal practice-round day for Tiger at the Buick Invitational back in January was a 5 a.m. wake-up call, 30 minutes of warm-up at the range, a practice round with anybody ambitious enough to get up that early, and then an hour or two back at the range. That doesn't count the time he spends working out and running every day. None of that practice time is just mindless ball-beating. The best players give full focus to every practice shot -- as if it were a shot during a real round -- picking a specific target and distance. Most amateurs look for the ball to go straight, but they don't pick a target or pay attention to whether the shot goes the correct distance.

There's nothing wrong with getting out after work and hitting a bucket of balls to enjoy the fresh air. But if you're not at least tracking your target and the distance each shot flies, any game improvement that comes from your range session will come by accident.

Ranked No. 3 by his peers among Golf Digest's 50 Greatest Teachers, Haney owns six golf schools/practice facilities in the Dallas and Fort Worth areas. Click here for more tips from Haney.