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Ask yourself this question and be honest with your answer.

How often do you hit a shot that ends up in a bad spot and then think: “What was I trying to do there?”

I don’t know about you, but for me, this is a question I ask way too often.

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When I’m in the fairway off the tee, I tend to switch off and think the hard part is done. I’ll often aim straight at the pin and end up short siding myself. What should be a simple par turns into a bogey or worse.

It’s a problem that my Shot Scope stats lay bare. These numbers are relative to a fellow five handicap (my index bounces between four and five), and it shows that from the fairway in particular, where things should be easier, my approach play over my last ten rounds is costing me.

Shot Scope approach stats

Often, I’ll find myself standing in the fairway and pondering what my goal was with the shot I just hit. Too often, I won’t have an answer. Not good.

At the top level, where players have caddies, it’s something we’re unlikely to see. Let’s take Jordan Spieth and Michael Greller for example. The pair are probably the most entertaining duo to watch on the PGA Tour, simply because of the chatter that comes before, and after, Speith pulls the trigger.

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While it might be fun to watch, there’s a useful lesson for us amateur players. Never ever does Jordan Spieth step into a shot and not know what his goal is.

To try and replicate these levels of conviction, my usual playing partner and I came up with a little game. During a bounce game, we decided that before every shot we hit, we would tell the other exactly what we planned to do. The results were pretty surprising.

After talking through the line we wanted to start our shot on, the distance we wanted to hit them and the flight we were looking for, more often than not, we were actually doing something that looked like what we had just described.

On the occasions we forgot to do it, the quality of the shots suffered. It’s a small sample size, but it worked.

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Now, I’m not suggesting that you start telling your playing partner in the Sunday medal about the shot you’re trying to hit, but it’s something you can practice when there’s nothing on the line.

When your score is counting, you can take it into practice, but rather than speaking out loud, talk through in your head what you’re planning to do.

All this reminds me of something Dr John Mathers, Sports Psychologist at the University of Stirling, told me for issue 200 of bunkered.

Mathers, who recently shot a new course record of 61 at Elie, explained that having a clear picture before you hit the shot is vital.

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“It’s about picking a realistic image of where you can hit the ball,” he said.

“The next thing is to have a clear goal for the shot and then commit to that. Then, you want to have a positive self-statement to remind yourself of when you’ve hit this shot before.

“The last thing is to focus on a clear and single thought that allows your technique to unfold.

“If you do all of these things, the likelihood is you make reasonable contact with the ball and the chances are your ball will be under more control than if you become distracted.”

author headshot

Lewis Fraser As bunkered’s Performance Editor, Lewis oversees the content that’s designed to make you a better player. From the latest gear to tuition, nutrition, strategy and more, he’s the man. A graduate of the University of Stirling, Lewis joined bunkered in 2021. Formerly a caddie at Castle Stuart Golf Links, he is a member of Bathgate Golf Club where he plays off four.

Performance Editor

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