My Golf Instructor

Picking a Target During Your Pre Shot Routine
Become Deadly Accurate

Learn how to pick a target during your pre shot routine. Picking a Target
Win Half the Battle Before You Swing

For most players, more than half the battle of hitting a good golf shot can be won before they even swing. Arming yourself with a good game plan, pre shot routine and aiming technique is probably a lot more important than a good backswing. Picking a good target is an important part of a pre shot routine, but getting yourself actually aimed accurately to that target is even more crucial. Oh how often I've heard students complain on the practice tee that they "think" they are aimed properly and go through their routine, but then they end up way off. I'd put it in the top 10 complaints; maybe the top 5.

Aiming is just one of those things that isn't all that easy and can be really tough for some players. Sometimes it's feel, sometimes it's visual, but whatever the reason, even tour players have needed assistance from their caddies. Perhaps one of the first and most famous example was Nick Faldo and his caddie Fanny. She would line him up literally on every shot. Many thought this was too helpful and should be illegal by the PGA Tour, but too date is still very much legal. In the long run, the player still has to hit the shot no matter how he is lined up. While everyone has their own unique routine there are certain things that should be included in all solid routines and I'm going to list those out for you here.

Go For the Reward Not the Risk

  • Pick a target as you approach the Shot - While you are walking (or driving) up to your ball be as observant as you can. Don't wait until you get right up on your ball to start figuring things out. It not only wastes time and delays play, but the best view might not be from right by your ball. Take into sight the landscape around the green or fairway. Where is the best place to miss the ball? Where is the most penalizing place? Is there a slope on the green or fairway to contend with? What do you expect your ball to do once it lands?
  • Take the reward, not the risk - There are smart shots in golf and then there are bonehead shots. Go for the shot that is going to reap the most reward and avoid those that are going to penalize you if you don't pull them off perfectly. Note where all the trouble is and steer clear. For beginners and mid handicappers, 9 times out of 10 the fat part of the green is going to be your best bet. That way if you miss on either side, you'll still be putting. For lower handicaps you can be a bit more aggressive, but never go for the sucker pin. I'm also not a fan of trying to aim towards trouble and hoping you work the ball back in with a fade or a draw. Unless you are highly skilled this can end in disaster if you end up hitting it straight or don't work it back as much as you planned.
  • Go through a solid pre shot routine - Like I said earlier, everyone has their own unique routine, but there are elements to a pre shot routine that should not be left out. A solid routine includes picking a good target, one to two realistic practice swings (that are a rehearsal of the actual swing), visualizing the shot, a couple looks at the target, a ritual for approaching the ball and a trigger for the takeaway.
  • Pick an intermediate spot - The best trick out there for assuring yourself that you are aimed correctly is picking a spot in line with your target, but only a few inches in front of the ball. This makes getting aligned exactly a cinch. Once the spot has been picked out simply aim your clubface at the spot. Then it's just a matter of squaring yourself up to the clubface. This method helps you to eliminate any second guessing or doubt.

Following this guide for picking a target and being consistent with your set up to the ball will help you align better to your intended target and become more consistent.

The Situation:

You want to learn how to pick a good target with a solid pre shot routine.

The Solution:

Develop a solid pre shot routine by practicing it on the range and remaining consistent. Use the key components listed above to make sure your routine mimics the routine of golf's greatest players. Make sure to work on picking a target as you are travelling up to your ball. Don't wait until you are over the ball to figure it out. When picking your target, avoid the risk and go for the reward. Once over your ball pick an intermediate target just a few inches from your ball. Practice aiming your clubface at your intermediate target and squaring your body to your clubface.

Maria Palozola

Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.

Who is Maria Palozola?
- Top 50 LPGA Instructors in the World
- A Golf Digest Top 10 Teacher in Illinois
- A Golf Magazine Top Teacher in the Midwest
- More about Maria
- Golf Questions
Golf instruction made simple
Golf Overview
Overall Game
- Getting Started
- Equipment
- Golf Fitness
- Junior Golf
- Mental Game
- Practice
- Rules of Golf
Short Game
- Bunkers
- Chipping
- Pitching
- Putting
Full Swing
- Pre-Swing Fundamentals
- Shot Making
- Diagnosing Problems
- Driving
- Hybrids and Woods
- Irons
Playing Golf
Ball Striking
- Fitness (78)
- Course Management (82)
- Getting Started in Golf (75)
- Practice (66)
Course Management
- Club Selection (66)
- Equipment (107)
- Driving (68)
- Putting (127)
- Golf Rules (69)
Short Game
- Bump and Run (72)
- Chipping (82)
Ball Striking
- Chunking (79)
- Distance Control (86)
- Fat Shots (92)
- Flipping (48)
- Poor Accuracy (118)
- Slicing (48)
- Thin Shots (85)
- Topped Shots (52)
- Lack of Distance (108)
- Putting Accuracy (72)
Swing Plane
- Blocking (50)
- Inside Out (56)
- Outside In (59)
- Over the Top (49)
- Pulling (54)
- Pushing (66)
- Releasing Early (47)
The Swing
- Grip (65)
- Alignment (55)
- Balance (50)
- Ball Position (80)
- Posture (77)
- Setup (117)
Swing Plane
- Backswing (84)
- Controlling Trajectory (47)
- Divot (48)
- Downswing (67)
- Impact (103)
- On Plane (85)
- Path (84)
- Power (71)
- Shaft Plane (63)
- Swing Plane (112)
- Weight Shift (79)