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How can I find my go-to shots

Every pro golfer has one. Most low-handicap amateurs do, too. Its the “go-to” shot – the shot you rely on when faced with pressure or a difficult situation.

A go-to shot might be a high fade with the driver, or a low punch with an iron. It could be a lofted lob or running chip near the green. Advanced golfers, in fact, have a go-to shot for each segment of the game.

So, how do you develop your own arsenal of tried-and-true weapons? Well, it takes time. And play. And practice. But its worth the effort.

Hit enough shots over an extended period, on the range and the golf course, and patterns will emerge. Youll learn your natural shot shape, for starters, be it a draw or fade. Youll also recognize a consistent trajectory to your shots – high, low or medium – and whether you tend to miss left, right, short or long of your targets.

Right now, youre probably thinking one of two things: 1) Ive played long enough to know my basic shot type and habits, but I dont have a go-to shot; or 2) Im fairly new to golf but trying to learn quickly. I want to develop a go-to shot, but it sounds like a lengthy process.

No matter which camp youre in, theres a relatively quick way to determine the shot you execute most consistently – thats the key – in a variety of common circumstances.

First, think of the shots you face most often, especially those you struggle with. Maybe its a tee shot on a tight par 4, or a medium-length approach to a pin on the greens right half. Consider the short game, too.

Write down the three shots you need most, in order – the one where a go-to shot would be most helpful should come first.

Next, its on to the driving range. Once youve warmed up, visualize the first shot on your list and choose a target. For instance, a yardage marker or a distant tree. Prepare to hit at least two different types of shots at the target – a fade and a draw, or a high shot and a low one. Hit a series of 3 – 5 shots of each type, alternating as you go. (Fade, draw, fade, draw…)

It shouldnt take long to recognize the shot you hit better on a consistent basis. Thats your go-to shot.

Keep in mind, your most reliable play might not be optimal for the situation. Maybe you cant pull off the high fade to that right-hand pin, but your faithful draw will at least put you on the green. Its important to exercise discipline when the circumstance arises – fight the temptation to hit the perfect shot in favor of your go-to. Youll greatly increase your percentage of getting solid results.

Having a set of go-to shots gives you a huge mental edge when the going gets tough. Weve got an entire section devoted to the Mental Side of Golf, which includes these handy tips:

Beating Golfs Pressure-Packed Situations

Muscle Memory Key to Golf Consistency, Success Under Pressure

Play Scary Golf Shots without Tension

Struggling on the Golf Course? Simplify Your Thoughts

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Its true, theres no substitute for on-course experience. There are only so many situations and variables you can replicate in practice, after all. But on the range, not only can you practice multiple repetitions of a particular shot, you can sharpen your visualization skills by picturing specific holes from the course.

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Ideally, you wouldnt have (or need) a go-to shot because youd be equally skilled at hitting draws and fades, knock-downs and high floaters. But thats a pipe dream. Even the games greatest players rely on bread-and-butter shots – see Jack Nicklaus power fade or Tiger Woods stinger, for example. Nurture your own natural tendencies for a reliable pressure swing.

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This is obviously counter-intuitive. The worst thing you can do when you absolutely must execute – whether youre one-down on 18 or staring at an approach across water – is to make yourself uncomfortable. In these situations, instinct is your best friend. Hit the shot that comes most naturally and youll succeed more often than not.