My Golf Instructor
Sign up for the Ask Maria Featured Question of the Day
By clicking Sign Up, you agree to our Terms of Use and our Privacy Policy.

Question on Mental Game:

I just started playing and am trying to learn the game this spring. How can I gain consistency in my game? My practice swings are what I need the swing to be, but once I approach the game - BRAIN FART City!!!

I can play a round hitting everything very solid and the next day it's fat shot after thin shot and leaving putts 10 feet short. I played 9 holes after work one Friday and shot 41 (hit 95 % of fairways and had 3 eagle putts on all three par 5s). I should have scored lower, but the greens are very fast at my course which caused some terrible 2nd putts that resulted in some 3 putts. Then when I went out Saturday morning I shot 115 on 18???? How can that happen?
--Mike N. from Louisville, KY

Hi Mike!

Thanks for submitting your question. Actually, I hate to tell you this, but the 115 is about where you should be after only 6 months or so! That's not to say total beginners can't come on strong and learn to shoot low fairly quickly, but I'd say that 115 is average or better than average. Shooting a 41 on 9 holes and having had the chance to shoot lower is absolutely stellar for as little as you've played. I'd say you are a natural!

The issue of making great practice swings and then stepping up to the ball and falling apart is quite common, even among those that have played the game for years. One of the very best things you can do for yourself is establish a very solid pre-shot routine and never vary from it. If you have a consistent pre-shot routine, even when you have off days with your swing, it will help keep you in a good rhythm, keep your mind relaxed and keep your score from skyrocketing. There isn't a good player out there that doesn't have a solid routine.

The most common routine I have seen among professionals is to make a couple practice swings by your ball, then step back and line up the ball from down the target line. Next, they pick a spot a few inches in front of their ball in line with their target to aim towards. As they approach the ball, they will set the clubface down first aimed at their immediate target usually holding the grip in their right hand only. They will also step into the ball with their right foot only (this is for right handed golfers). To finish the routine they will set their left foot and put their left hand on the grip. One thing to notice is they all make a couple quick looks at the target before they swing and have some sort of a trigger. Your trigger might be a waggle or two of the clubhead, kicking your rear knee towards the target a bit, lifting the clubhead off the ground and setting it down again or something along those lines. Your routine should remain the same throughout your game. Whether you are driving or chipping make sure to do the same thing.

Once you take the time to establish a good routine and practice it enough that it becomes second nature, your focus on the course should be on only that and your target. Note that it's important to practice the routine on the driving range as well so your practice is identical to your play.

Another suggestion would be for you to "play golf" on the driving range. Don't play swing, but rather go through the motions just like you are playing a round of golf. Imagine a hole, hit a drive, then an iron shot , then a chip and so on until you hole the ball. Making your practice much more realistic should take the pressure off when you're on the course.

I'd say if you are developing a pretty good technique and putting in the time to practice and work on your game, then working on your routine and realistic practice like I mentioned above is what you need more than anything to get the consistency you are after.

I hope that helps and be sure to check out our sections on practice and mental game on the site to get more ideas on how you can improve. Also, please start entering your scores and practice sessions so we can more accurately help you reach your goals.


Other Related Tips on Mental Game
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
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)