Aim Small ... Miss Small
The title of this article is one of my favorite lines from the Mel Gibson movie, "The Patriot." In this scene, Gibson's character takes his two very young sons and a handful of rifles to head off the British soldiers who have taken his oldest son as a spy. He asks his two young scared sons, "What did I teach you about shooting?", to which one replies "Aim small, miss small." I think that's great advice in golf, too, and the subject today is prompted by an email from Mario R., who asked:
I'm in my 5th year of playing the game and I am still having trouble lining up my shots. My shot making has improved dramatically the past two years. The thing is I find myself either left or right of where I thought I was going to hit my shot . . . what I'm talking about is lining up, hitting it straight as an arrow and not going where I thought I was aiming. I'm stuck in bogey land! Any suggestions?Well, Mario, I'll tell you that if you went to the practice range at any PGA Tour event, it would be a good bet that over half of the guys out there are working on alignment and set up. It’s crucially important and requires constant work, tweaking and fine-tuning, to keep yourself in proper alignment. And I’m a firm believer that proper alignment is the most glaring fault of amateur players. The funny thing is that anyone should be able to learn how to set up to the ball the same way every time, right? I mean, that doesn’t take any athletic ability, does it?
The key is to develop a fixed routine for how you address the ball, so that you can repeat it over and over and over again. You need to learn this on the range, and practice it diligently. The starting point is to understand just what “dead-on” alignment looks like. You see more and more bags these days with the colored sticks in them, but one of the simplest and best alignment aids is the use of a couple of your clubs. Another simple tool is some colored twine that you can stretch between tees stuck in the ground. Let’s dissect proper alignment using any of these methods of creating a visual straight line grid.
First, lay one club/stick/string on the ground pointing directly at your target, about 4-6 inches outside the ball. Then lay another exactly parallel to it and about 18 inches closer to you – that one is your guide to alignment of your feet, hips and shoulders. These clubs don’t lie – that is what perfect alignment looks like. If it feels “off” to you, then your alignment has been wrong. Let’s fix it.
I like to use a third club sometimes, to help work on ball position. I lay that one across the body alignment club, at right angles to it, pointing to the ball’s position. That way I can reference this club’s relationship to my stance and body position. Moving the ball too far forward or too far back is as common a misalignment error as aiming left or right.
Once you have your “grid” built, step into each shot with purpose, paying attention to how proper alignment feels – the clubs don’t lie; they are pointing in the right place. Pay extra attention to the “sight picture” when you are properly aimed, so that you can repeat that on the course. Drill on this as much and as often as you can, and it won’t take long before you can “see” proper alignment on every shot on the course, just as if those clubs/sticks/string were right there on the ground.
I hope that helps, Mario, and congratulations on winning a new EIDOLON wedge. There’s one to be given away every Tuesday, readers, so send in your question for The Wedge Guy to answer.
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[ comments ]
Scott Shields says:
Scott Shields says:
great advice though, i was working with my alignment sticks yesterday at the range, and had someone ask me "what are those for" .... I gave a similiar explanation to what you did above, one stick outside the ball, and the other about midway between the ball and my toes. Helps a ton.
Especially helpful for chipping and pitching also since the stance is more open and harder to line up properly. I'm always suprised at how far off my alignment is on a 30 yard sidehill pitch.
The teaching pro at my club gives his students driveway markers for alignment aids. They run about $2 each and can be found at Lowe's near the mailboxes. They have red and yellow, are about 3 feet long, and have a spike on the end if you need to plant them into the ground. They are just as good as the $30 ones that have a Callaway logo on them. Clubs work too (and are free) but these are a good, cheap alternative.
Also, it may be that your alignment is good, but the club face is open or closed WRT your intended direction as you strike the ball.
Of course, having good alignment first will eliminate one variable so you can focus on the others.
BTW, another alignment suggestion while on the course (that Jack followed) is to stand behind the ball and draw an imaginary line from your ball to the target. Then pick out an object 2 or 3 feet in front of the ball along that line (like a blade of grass or bare spot). Then address the ball and align your body parallel to the line created by the ball and the object you selected.
@SingleDigits - Great advice
This (Jack and a lot of the pro's) is what my instructor has been having me do in my lessons of every shot and now do on the course - worked pretty well for me this year.
As Terry stated, the misses are smaller now. Was really happy with mid 80's last year, now know that breaking 80 is not out of the realm (had a few 70's this year already.) It does work.
@SingleDigits - Yea that's what i do for every shot. It REALLY really helps. Especially for the swing path. it gives you something to concentrate on that stays in your field of vision.
@singledigits - good mention of the imaginary line. When I first started playing golf I thought it looked strange when people did this hokey line up thing but it really does work well.
Yeah, the imaginary line looks hokey, but if your body is aligned to it (toes, knees, hips & shoulders), you're well on your way to a good golf swing. Who was it that said that grip, stance & alignment (all things prior to actually swinging) predetermine a significant portion of the ball flight.
BTW, here's my pre-shot ritual.
a) decide how far I need to hit the ball (If I can see the pin, I'll laser the flag).
b) stand behind the ball and imagine the flight of the ball, where it will reach its apex, where it will land, how it will bounce, etc.
c) take a breath and exhale to relax my body (sort of a cleansing breath).
d) take a practice swing as if I'm hitting the ball along the imagined flight path.
e) stand behind the ball and pick out the object along my imaginary target line.
f) take my stance aligning myself parallel to the ball and that object.
g) take another cleansing breath and begin my takeaway...
While it may seem a lot of steps, I can do a) and b) while waiting for my partner to hit. The rest of the steps take no more than 15 seconds. I'm a fast player (walked 18 in just over 2 hours on a hilly course on Sunday), so my routine doesn't add any significant time to my round.
Agreed. It does not take long at all most of it can be done while others are getting ready to hit.
I didn't read anything about aiming small?! So, I'll add my aim small tidbit of information. You can start by aiming for the fairway then work your way to smaller and smaller targets. For instance, start picking out a tree in the distance, and then make your aim point to the trunk, then when you are comfortable with that pick out a side of the trunk or a branch. When chipping, start by picking out large areas where you want to land the ball, then move to smaller and smaller landing areas like a green patch or a small mark on the green. As you improve, push your targets to smaller and smaller points resembling your increase in accuracy.
Aim Small ... Miss Small can be applied to putting too. When on the putting green, instead of putting at a hole, throw out a dime or a quarter and use that as your "hole".
One of the local high-dollar country clubs has a few half-sized cups cut into the practice green. Very difficult holing into those but it helps with accuracy for the regular-sized cups.
Also for long putts, forget all this "putt into a 3-foot circle" nonsense. Aim for perfect speed, perfect line, in the hole on every friggin putt!!!!
The $2 driver markers should be sold at driving ranges. Right?
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