Our tee-to-green guide will help improve each area of your game.
One of the great things about golf is the sense of anticipation that accompanies every walk to the first tee.
Will this be the day when everything falls into place – a round where every drive hits the fairway, every iron shot flies crisply out of the centre of the clubface, every lag putt rolls dead and every 4-footer dives straight into the middle of the hole?
Sadly, those hopes are often dashed by the 2nd tee. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Good scoring is a product of good preparation and smart on-course thinking.
Whether you’re a beginner, a mid-handicapper or a single-figure golfer, here we show you how to take a professional approach to all of the key areas of the game.
1. Focus on aim and alignment
Poor driver alignment can put you deep in the trees or out-of-bounds. If you're missing fairways, review your alignment. Simply setting up to the ball better will improve your accuracy and power.
2. Keep grip pressure light
Nothing robs your drives of distance and accuracy more than tension in your hands. Hold the club as lightly as you can without feeling that you'll lose control. You'll hit it longer AND straighter.
3. Keep head behind the ball
Hitting too early with the shoulders will destroy your timing. Watch any Tour pro and you'll see their head remains behind the ball at impact. Fire your trail shoulder down and through the ball.
4. Set up for power and control
To maximise your distance with the modern oversized driver, you've got to tee the ball high and maintain the loft on the clubface through impact. That starts at address. Give yourself
a wide base with your feet shoulder width apart. Play the ball forward in your stance, opposite your lead heel, so that your lead arm and the clubshaft form pretty much a straight line. And keep your trail shoulder low to help you make a full turn behind the ball.
5. Perfect your iron posture
Great iron play stems from being balanced and athletic at address. Stand tall with your knees lightly flexed. Keep your weight balanced between your heels and toes, and tilt from your hips not your waist.
6. Aim the club carefully
Build good alignment into your pre-shot routine. Start by carefully aiming the face at your target, then build your stance around it. Poor aim causes more swing faults and offline shots than any other flaw.
7. Keep your swing compact
Watch any of the world's top players and you'll notice their backswings rarely go beyond parallel. If you overswing, chances are you have to reroute the club back onto the correct plane coming down.
8. Take a good divot
Solid ball-striking is all about compressing the ball at impact. The tell-tale sign is a good divot, which is removed after you’ve struck the ball. To encourage the slight descending blow into the ball you need, focus on keeping your hands ahead of the clubface through the hitting area.
9. Take slope into account
Even good golfers can be guilty of not reading chip shots carefully enough. The best chippers understand that getting the ball rolling on the right line is the difference between leaving a tap-in or a tricky 5-footer.
10. Play ball in middle of stance
We're often told to play the ball back in the stance and set the weight on the front foot at address. All that does is bring the sharp leading edge into play. Instead, keep your weight and the ball position centred.
11. Release the right hand
The old wisdom of chipping was to keep the hands ahead of the ball at impact. Modern theory is to release the right hand under the ball to use the bounce. Not to be confused with 'flicking' at the ball, however!
12. Work out your carry/roll ratios
For the most part, it’s a good idea to land the ball on the green when chipping so it can run out to the hole. The skill is calculating which club enables you to do this. A lob wedge will fly the ball high but the loft will stop the ball running too far when it lands. Your 8-iron will come out lower and run more. For maximum consistency, try to use a club that gives you equal air and ground time.
13. Set your left shoulder low
Rather than setting up to play a splash shot as you would a full approach from the fairway, set your left shoulder lower. This helps you control the shot with your body and prevents digging deep into the sand.
14. Keep the club on plane
You may have been told in the past that you need to swing the club outside the line on the backswing and cut across it at impact. No need. Simply keep the club on its regular neutral plane.
15. Release down into the sand
The sole on your sand wedge is designed to prevent the leading edge from digging deeply into the sand. Trust the club to do its job, release it confidently and keep the grooves facing the sky in the follow-through.
16. Take a long divot
As with many long-held beliefs about bunker play that have been left by the wayside in recent years, the concept of hitting several inches behind the ball is an outdated piece of advice. Instead of splashing the clubhead down into the sand two inches behind the ball, think about removing a long, shallow strip of sand through impact.
17. Read putts from both sides
You should always read a putt from behind the ball, but slope is often more visible when viewed from behind the hole. You can do this quickly while your partners are preparing so as not to hold up play.
18. Relax your grip pressure
Nothing ruins your feel on long-range putts quicker than a tight grip. On those important lag putts, you need to be able to feel the weight of the putter head. On a scale of 1-10, hold the club at a pressure of 2.
19. Grip points at sternum
The putting stroke is actually a very simple movement. There’s no need to get bogged down by complicated theory. For a simple swing thought, simply keep the grip pointing at your chest back and through.
20. Focus on basics
The three most important parts of putting are aim, posture and stroke. Carefully align the putter to your target and build the process into your routine. Get your eyes as close as possible to directly over the ball and your forearms in line with the puttershaft. Now relax and focus on the putt, not the technicalities of your stroke.