The number one most common error - the issue of incorrect alignment when aiming straight off the tee when hitting golf shots. This can cause so many errors as this leads to golfers attempting to compensate for bad aiming by changing golf swings when it may not be necessary.
Let's say you unintentionally aim too far to the right of your intended target line. You continue to hit your golf shot very well, however the golf ball flies to the right of your target. Now you may not notice you aimed incorrectly and may make changes either intentionally or unintentionally. These changes can suddenly become bad habits that can become ingrained and are much harder to then change or get out of. You will notice how good players or tour players take a great deal of time when setting up to the golf ball and they always make sure they are aiming perfectly at their target.
Fix - Aiming at a target anywhere from 50 yards to 250 yards can be very difficult without this simple tip. The trick to this problem is to bring the target line much closer to you. Let us say you are aiming at a marker 150 yards away. Before you set up to the golf ball, take a few steps back behind the golf ball so that you are looking at the target. Then position yourself so that you are standing directly in line with the golf ball and the intended target. From that point, pick a target point that is in line with the target about three to six feet in front of the golf ball. Now this can be anything from an old divot, broken tee peg, different shade of grass or leaf, as long as you feel that point will not change. When you are confident that the point you have picked lines up to the target, begin to take your address position. Make sure before you take your stance that you aim your golf club face behind the golf ball at right angles to the target point three to six feet in front of the golf ball. Look over that point and make sure you then look at your target so that you have a clear idea of where it is. From that point, take your stance and posture, being aware that you aim to align your stance and feet parallel to the ball to target line. This is a key component for successful alignment.
Top tip - Take your stance from a feet together position, with your feet as close to parallel as possible. From this point take your stance shoulder width apart and still parallel to your target line.
How to Aim Straight Off the Tee
There is nothing quite like the feeling of sending your tee shot straight down the middle of the fairway. Sure, it feels great to make a long putt, but there is just something about seeing the ball sail through the sky while knowing it will find the short grass that is hard to beat. Not only do you get to enjoy watching the ball fly, but you also can enjoy the fact that you are going to be set up perfectly for your second shot. It should go without saying that golf would be a lot easier if every one of your tee shots flew right down the middle.
Of course, you are never going to be able to hit every fairway. Golf is a hard game, and making a quality swing time after time is a lofty goal to say the least. Even professional golfers miss fairways in nearly every round that they play, which should tell you something about the difficulty of the task. However, while you can't necessarily make a great swing each time, there is no reason that you shouldn't be able to aim straight prior to each tee shot. Aiming properly comes down to practice and attention to detail, so as long as you are willing to focus and put in a bit of work, you can master the art of aiming correctly. Knowing that you have aimed straight will take one big variable out of the equation, and it will put you one step closer to hitting the short grass.
It is easy to take your aim for granted when playing from the tee because the fairway often looks relatively big from that perspective. As you stand on the tee, you might think that you only need to make a decent swing in order to find some short grass for your next shot. However, it would be a mistake to take such a casual approach to the shot, as you actually need to execute both your aim and your swing quite well in order to position your ball properly. Remember, you can do better than just trying to hit the ball somewhere in the fairway – you can focus in on a specific part of the fairway in order to set yourself up for the easiest possible approach to the green.
Before getting into the specifics of how you should go about aiming off the tee, it is important to note that you should not be using the tee markers as a guide. Some players will use the tee markers to frame their alignment since those markers are often relatively square to a line that would go down the middle of the fairway. However, that is not always the case, and following the markers is a good way to put yourself in trouble at some point during a round. While you do have to be behind the markers in order to be in a legal position to play your shot, you should otherwise ignore them as they have little to do with your aim. The alignment you use for your tee shots should be based entirely on the target you have selected, not the placement of the tee markers.
All of the content below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
It All Starts with a Target
The title of this article indicates that you need to aim 'straight' off the tee, but what does that mean? Straight at what, exactly? That's where the process of target selection comes into play. Before you can even think about aiming your club and your body, you first need to know what your target is going to be for your shot. While it might be tempting to say you are aiming at the fairway in general, that really doesn't count as a target. Many fairways are 30 yards wide or more, so you need to narrow down your aim point before you will actually have something that can be considered a target.
When playing from the tee on a par three, the process of picking a target is pretty easy. You will be trying to hit the green with your tee shot, so you can pick out a spot on the green and make a swing. Sometimes the target will be the hole itself, while other times it will be a spot to the right or left that gives you some margin for error. Either way, you shouldn't have much trouble spotting a target on a par three, so we won't spend much time on that issue.
It is when you step to the tee of a par four or five that the process gets a little more complicated. Most amateur golfers never even bother to pick a target on these kinds of tee shots – they just take their driver from the bag, swing hard, and hope for the best. You are probably trying to hit the ball as far down the fairway as possible on a par four or five, so you may never even stop to think about selecting a specific target. This, of course, is a mistake. All of the shots you hit out on the course need a specific target, and that includes your tee shots.
So how do you pick out a target when all you see in front of you is a big patch of short grass known as a fairway? The following tips should help –
- Play away from hazards. One of the first things you need to do when picking your tee shot target is to take the hazards into account. The best example of this concept is a par four that is guarded down the right side all the way from tee to green by a water hazard. Are you going to aim down the middle on this kind of hole? Hopefully not. Instead, you should be playing toward the left side to give yourself a little bit of margin for error. If your drive is pushed to the right, you will have some fairway to work with before the water hazard comes into play. Ideally, you will adjust the amount of 'respect' that you give to a particular hazard based on the kind of penalty it presents. You should stay safely away from water hazards and out of bounds stakes, while you can be a bit more aggressive when it is only a fairway bunker that is lurking.
- Think about angles. Golf is a game that is all about angles, as playing into the green from a good angle is far easier than playing from a tough angle coming across a hazard or slope. While you are standing on the tee, look ahead to the green to figure out what kind of angle would be best depending on the hole location for that day. Basically, you want to be thinking backwards from green to tee. Picture what kind of approach shot you would like to be able to hit, and then attempt to place your tee shot in a position to make that possible. Smashing the ball right down the middle might look great to your playing partners, but the middle of the fairway won't always offer the ideal angle of attack for your next shot. By thinking ahead, you can give yourself an advantage on the hole.
- Find a flat spot. This is a piece of golf strategy that is often overlooked yet it can have a powerful impact on your ability to hit accurate approach shots. Generally speaking, it is almost always easier to hit an approach shot from a flat spot in the fairway rather than a slope. So, while you are standing on the tee, look at the fairway and figure out where you can hit the ball to leave yourself with the flattest possible lie. If one side of the fairway is flatter than the other, head in that direction and make it the task of hitting a good approach shot significantly easier.
Before you can aim straight off the tee, you need to have a target in mind. Take a moment to think strategically about where you can hit your drive and then use the spot you select as your target for the swing. Once you have a clear target selected, it will be time to take your stance and hit the shot.
The Aiming Process
One of the reasons that so many amateur golfers have trouble aiming straight off the tee is the fact that there are a number of places where this process can go wrong. First, you can fail to pick out a specific target for your shot. Then, if you do pick a target, you might not do a good job of actually aiming the club at that target. In this section, we are going to create a specific process for how you can aim your club and your body properly time after time.
During your next practice session, work on putting the following process into action. After just a bit of practice time, you should find that your ability to aim at the target is improved dramatically.
- Before you do anything with your body or the club, you need to first pick out a target as described in the previous section. Stand behind your ball while looking out toward the target and think through all of your various options. Once you have a specific target in mind, you can move forward to the next step.
- This step does not actually involve walking up and taking your stance, because you can't go take your stance until you have a club in your hands. After you pick your target, not before, you are going to select a club for the shot in front of you. Pick your club based on a combination of the target you have selected and the conditions that are in place on the golf course (wind, rain, etc.).
- Now that you have a club in hand, you can go ahead with the process of walking up to the ball to take your stance. Ideally, you will have already made any practice swings that you want to make, so you can just walk up to the ball, get set, and swing. As you approach the ball, the first thing that you should do is to place the club head down on the ground in its address position. Aim the club face directly at the target line that you are using, and secure it in place before setting your feet.
- With the club head set, you can move your feet into place to finish off the stance. It is important that you base your stance on the position of the club head, and not the other way around. Too many golfers set their feet first and then the club head, but working in that order is bound to lead to mistake. Always start with your club head aim and go from there, as it is the club that is actually going to do the job of hitting the ball.
If you only take one thing away from this section, let it be this point – you have to spend time on the driving range working on your ability to aim. Just like any other skill, learning how to aim properly takes practice, and you aren't going to get better if you don't go through that practice. It is tempting to just swing away on the range without putting much thought into your shots, but that 'plan' isn't going to get you anywhere in this game. Each shot that you hit needs to have a purpose, meaning it needs to have a target, and you need to work hard on aiming at that target properly.
Ignoring Your Playing Partners
Playing with other people is one of the best ways to enjoy your time on the course. After all, golf is meant to be a social game, and sharing a few hours with other people while laughing and joking all along the way is a great time for all involved. However, when it comes to trying to play your best, you should be largely ignoring everyone else in your group. That doesn't mean that you should ignore them as they talk – you should always be open to chatting on the course – but you should ignore the shots they hit as it relates to playing your own game.
The start of each hole is the only time that you are going to be collected in one place with the rest of your group until you reach the green. After the tee shots have been hit, each player will chase after his or her own ball, and you might not even watch the others as they play into the green because you will be busy with your own business. It is easy to watch everyone's tee shots, of course, because you are all standing in the same place while taking turns getting the hole started.
So why should you ignore what your playing partners are doing from the tee? Because they have their own plan in mind, and that plan is almost certainly different from your own. For instance, if one of your partners decides to aim down the right side of the fairway – and they hit a good shot – you might start thinking that it is a mistake to aim down the left as you had planned. However, nothing has really changed since you made that plan, so the best bet is to stick with your original intention. If you allow yourself to be persuaded away from your plan by the actions of others, you are going to wind up playing a game that is not true to your own skills. Every golfer has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, and you have to play to those at all times if you are going to be successful.
It is actually easier than you might think to ignore the actions of your playing partners, and you don't even have to be rude in the process. When someone in your group is going through their pre-shot routine, look down toward the ground or off in the distance in another direction. Let them go through their routine, take their aim, and make their swing – all while you are looking away. Then, when you hear the club strike the ball, turn your head back and help them track the ball in the air. A good playing partner always helps to watch the ball in case the player can't see the shot they have just hit. If you use this simple plan, you can help watch for the ball while not affecting your own game in the process.
The Art of Moving On
Golf is an emotional game – but then again, you already knew that. Anyone who has played even a couple of rounds of golf knows just how frustrating this game can be, as one little mistake can lead to wasted shots and a rising temper. So, with that in mind, one of the best skills you can develop on the course is the ability to move on quickly from a mistake. When you hit a poor shot, or play a poor hole, you need to be able to leave that mistake in the past so you can perform at your best going forward.
How does this relate to the topic of aiming straight off the tee? Since the tee shot is the first shot you will hit on any given hole, it is common for a player to arrive at the tee still frustrated about the results of the previous hole. Say, for example, that you have made a double bogey after hitting a poor chip onto the green and then three putting. Most likely, you are going to be a little 'annoyed' at your performance as you walk to the next hole. If there is no group in front to wait for, you might just step up onto the tee, take one quick look down the fairway, and swing as hard as you can. Even though you know that this isn't the right way to prepare for a tee shot, your temper may take control and cause you to make a mistake.
In order to stay within your routine prior to each tee shot, it is important that you are able to move on from a mistake on the previous hole. One way to do this is to walk a bit slower from the previous green when you are mad. You don't need to lag way behind and slow down pace of play – just walk a little slower to give yourself time to clear your mind. By taking a couple of deep breaths while you walk slowly to the tee, you may be able to successfully calm yourself down to a point where you can play your next shot properly.
Another way to move on from a mistake is to ask your playing partners to go first on the next hole if you need a moment to calm down. As long as you aren't playing in any kind of serious competition, you can just tell your partners to go ahead while you get ready to hit. Use the time while they are hitting to compose yourself, come up with a plan for the shot, and then execute to the best of your ability.
Aiming straight off the tee is a skill that you need to develop if you are going to take your game to a higher level in the months and years to come. By picking a specific target, and then aiming directly at that target time after time, you will be able to place your ball in the short grass more frequently – and that is always a good thing. Good luck learning how to master your aim from the tee, and play well!