Hitting Better Shots – The Planning Process

Stan Utley-Pitch Perfect
What do you see, think, and do before you play a shot from around the green? The process before you hit the shot can have a great influence on getting the ball up and down and scoring lower. Here are a few topics that I think about before I play a short game shot.

Mentally Setting Up the Shot

The Lie of the Ball
The lie, or way the ball is sitting, determines how cleanly I can get the club face on the ball. This affects how easily I can control trajectory and spin. There are other factors as well, such as uphill, downhill, side hill lies, and the ball could be sitting on firm ground, wet grass, or be in a muddy lie. Or, the ball may be in or near the hazard markers which require you to know how to make a playable shot without violating the rules of the game.

The Weather Conditions
Weather conditions such as wind, rain, and moisture play a large role in how much control I can have on the ball after I make contact.

Carry Distance Required
Each situation presents a unique distance that the ball needs to fly or cover in the air. Also, it is important to calculate the distance that it will roll so the ball can slow down, die, and stop near the hole. That said, sometime it is best to keep the ball on the ground rolling the entire distance to the hole.

After gathering that information, I am ready to choose a club.

Room to ROLL the Ball Out
Next I must decide exactly where I want the ball the land. I need to consider how my landing spot will affect the first bounce of the ball, and I need to consider if there is a slope, and which direction the grass is laying or the grain where the ball lands.

The Landing SPOT
I must determine the amount of backspin or side span I hope to impart on the ball.

This combination of how much spin I want the shot to have, the landing spot and how much I want the ball to roll out, gives me the confidence that I’ve created the best chance for the ball to slow down and stop near the cup.

Executing the Shot

At this point my decisions have been made and I need to consider how I walk into the shot, where I focus my eyes, and what my thought process needs to be. This is all very consistent every shot.

I like to the view the shot first from behind the ball in line with my start line. This is a good time to make a waggle or practice swing and rehearse any swing thoughts. At this point I look both where I want the ball to end up as well as where I plan to land my shot. Everything has been programmed and now it is time to let the shot flow.

My mental routine is simply: See it! Feel it! Trust it! This is how Dr. David Cook taught me to put my mind in position to score. This process is not results-oriented, but simply is an organized pattern of thought that I use for every shot. I have experienced the success of this entire process and also know the consequences of not sticking to my routine.

Take these thoughts and challenge yourself to own your own process before each shot. I know it will help you lower your scores.