The last time I went to the range to hit balls, I thought I should practice a few non-swinging fundamentals before I started to hit golf balls. I used the procedure below, and it worked out so well, I think I'll do it every time.
1. Tempo and rhythm. It doesn't matter how good your swing is, if these governors are off, you won't hit good shots. I believe this pair is the bedrock fundamental of every golf shot. Figure out how to do it right by reading this earlier post on rhythm, then practice them the same way. It will take care of tempo, too.
Make about twenty swings, concentrating on just your tempo and rhythm. Count to yourself if you need to. Step away between each swing and set up again like you're hitting a ball. Take your time. You want to think about this each time you swing, not rush through it in a groove.
After those twenty swings, you're not ready to start hitting balls yet until you've practiced:
2. Aim. The shot will only go where you aim it, and most of the time you're aiming to the right of your target.
Get an alignment stick and place it on the ground behind your heels. Put a ball on the ground and line up your shot. Reach behind you with your club and pull the stick toward you until it is against your heels. Step away and look at where the stick is pointing. That's where you were aimed.
The perfect direction is to the left of the target, but parallel to the line through the ball to the target.
Practice this about twenty times, aiming for a different spot each time. Use different clubs. The different length of shaft puts you in a different posture, which does make a difference in how you perceive the proper aim.
After you've swing the club twenty times, practicing tempo and rhythm, and checked your aim twenty times, you can start hitting balls. Before you hit each one, review the feeling of the right tempo and rhythm, and every fourth ball or so, check your aim with the alignment stick.
This is how you build good habits in two things that are critical components of good shot-making.
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