Through the Uprights

Some sports psychologists preach that you should aim for the smallest possible target. My experience tells me that this is not always the best idea. On golfers’ approach shots, they tend to aim at a very small target, which leads to steering the ball and trying to do things their skills don’t allow them to do.

Several years ago, my students and I tracked our greens in regulation stat. Personally, I found that I was only hitting about nine greens per round. It occurred to me: If I’m only hitting nine greens, why am I trying to hit to a tiny target? Isn’t that unreasonable? Shouldn’t I just be trying to get the ball on the green?

So my students and I changed our thinking. We expanded our target area to look like a field goal, and without adjusting our swing or our mechanics in any way, I improved by two greens in regulation per round, and the students saw noticeable improvement.

In other words: We adjusted our thinking and our expectations, we relaxed, and the results immediately improved.

You can do the same. As you view the green from your approach shot, visualize a pair of goalposts that span the width of the green. Your goal with your shot is to get the ball between the uprights.

Think about it this way: If a field goal kicker had to hit a pole with the ball, he’d miss almost every time. But by simply having to get the ball through the uprights, the kicker swings his leg with confidence, and he’s able to split them, nailing that imaginary pole in the center.

  • Don’t get locked into thinking about the flag.
  • Don’t hold on to a tiny target. Then you’re free to think about executing the shot.

• Over time, as you improve, your mental goalposts can become more narrow.

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