If you tend to start rounds poorly and finish on a high note, take heart in the positives that come with your condition.

For one, an early misstep or two still leaves you with plenty of holes to catch up. And when you do polish off the last few holes with your best golf, you leave the course feeling pretty good, right?

Of course, you’re all too familiar with the flip side: Regretting that early rough patch which cost you a potentially great score, wondering what might have been. Even worse are those days when your start is so wretched that your mental game goes south and you spend the rest of the round in a funk from which you never recover.

While athletes in every sport stress the importance of grabbing momentum from the get-go, it’s not the kind of thing you can simply will to happen. The key is pregame preparation.

Try these tips to improve your chances of starting well:

  • Eat a healthy meal beforehand: Fueling your body is an absolute must, so nourish the cells with a helping of protein and “good” carbs, e.g. oatmeal, other whole grains or fruit.
  • Relax and think positively: First tee shot of the day give you butterflies? Join the crowd. If you feel nerves coming on, take a series of long, deep breaths, make some slow, easy practice swings, and visualize pounding that first drive down the middle of the fairway. Remember, you’ve prepared for this moment – this is when it pays off.
  • Give yourself time before teeing off: The best way to ensure a lousy start is to rush to the first tee. Plan to arrive at the course a good 30-45 minutes before your tee time. Then, stretch the back, shoulders and hamstrings before heading to the range, where you should hit at least 15 balls to get your swing feeling loose and natural. Next, proceed to the practice green for a few putts – enough to get a sense for the speed – and some chip shots if possible. Now you’re ready to roll.

For more tips on pre-round preparation, watch this video lesson: Getting Into a Groove Before You Tee Off.