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If you’ve been to a professional golf event before the tournament gets under way, you’ll see the best players in the world in a very different light. But, what are the keys that tour pros focus on in practice rounds?

It’s common to see players hit several shots from each tee and to see them spend a lot of time chipping and putting around a green, but it’s not always swing mechanics at the forefront of their mind.

So what exactly do the pros look for in a practice round? We asked two-time PGA Tour winner Mackenzie Hughes what he works on as he played his Tuesday practice round at the Genesis Scottish Open and he noted two key areas that every pro works on in a pre-tournament round.

1. See your lines off the tee

When you watch the best in the world, you’ll see them walk a long, long way back to their tee box.

From there, it can be tough to see where the fairway ends and the rough starts and where bunkers come into play. For that reason, it’s important to get a sense of what you should be aiming at.

In a tournament, that could be something like a TV tower, a tee marker on the next hole, or a grandstand.

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“More than anything, you want to get comfortable with the lines off the tee,” Hughes said.

“I’ve not been to this course in a while, a year, which is the same for most places on tour, so it’s important to refamiliarise myself with the lines.

“You’re looking for where the finish line is, which for the most part, that’s the middle of the fairway. But, that can change a little bit, depending on the hole and the wind.

“If you have a big tailwind, then you might need to shift your line a little bit than what it normally would be. If it’s into the wind, you might need to shift it the other way. We have an idea by looking at the forecast and we try and factor that in for the practice round, even if the weather isn’t doing that at the time.”

2. Find the worst places around the greens

This might sound counter-productive, but it’s important to know where not to miss your approach shots.

As Hughes explains, we all know where the perfect shots are going to go, but it’s important to know where not to go, if your game isn’t firing on all cylinders.

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“I’m also looking at where the pins are likely to be on the greens and work out where the best spots to leave myself are,” Hughes explained.

“There might be a green where there’s a big run-off to the left. So, if the pin is on the left, you need to make yourself aware of those things. You always want to make sure you leave yourself on the best side.

“Obviously, we know where we want the best shots to go, but we don’t always hit them. We want to know where the other shots are going to go so that we can still make a par.

“Especially when you’re playing links golf and there’s a lot of elements in play. The best miss can come into play a lot of the time. If it’s windy and it’s raining, then par suddenly becomes a good score. Knowing where to miss the shot to certain pins is really important.”

It’s not a luxury all of us have, but if you do get the chance to play a practice round before your next tournament, it’s worth taking these two things into account.

Even if not an official practice round, next time you’re playing your home course in a bounce game, think about getting specific about the optimal line off the tee, and where you really can’t miss each green. Consider those things when the scorecard is in your pocket and you’ll see your scores fall.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, after all.

If you want more from us, why not head to our YouTube channel? It’s the best place to find out how the latest new golf gear performs, along with some other fun stuff.

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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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