DO give yourself plenty of time to warm up properly. “These guys that take a shower, grab a cup of coffee, and go straight to the tee? That’s not the way to do it,” says top pro Camilo Villegas. Instead, get to the course 30 to 45 minutes before teeing off, says Zach Johnson, seven-time PGA Tour champ and winner of the 2007 Masters. “When you warm up, hit 20 to 25 wedges, a few middle irons, and 10 to 15 3-woods and drivers,” says Johnson. “If you’re going to putt, give yourself 10 minutes. Hitting two balls on the range is not going to help you with anything.” If those two balls were hit well, you’ll be preoccupied and overconfident. And if they weren’t, you’ll overreact.
DON’T warm up with every club. “Try to devote the percentage of time for each club that you’re going to be using on the golf course,” says Johnson. You’re not going to be hitting a ton of shots using clubs ranging from your 7-iron to your 3-iron, so focus on your driver, your wedge, and your putter. “I like to have two or three different clubs that I practice with, not four or five,” says Johnson. Work on different situations with those clubs.
DO keep your hands in front of the club. “You can hit crisp chip shots and work on your distance control just by doing this,” says Johnson. “That’s how the club is designed to be struck.” Lots of amateurs start flicking the ball to aim it, but it’s hard to hit a solid shot that way. “The only time you let the club past your hands is on a flop shot,” says Johnson, “when you’re hitting sand or turf below the ball.”
DON’T let a bad shot—or a good shot—throw you off your game. Put every shot out of your head immediately, advises Johnson. “If I’m trying to rebound after a bad hole, I just go back to tempo and process and rhythm, and I cling to my routine,” he says. Bummed out about a bad tee shot? Just think of a way to be positive about the next one, says Jamie Lovemark, last year’s money leader on the Nationwide Tour. If you end up putting too much pressure on yourself, you’ll probably plunk it in the drink. Lovemark says he’s been helped immensely by Zen Golf, a series of books about mastering the mental game.
DO take loose swings. In other words, don’t kill the ball with every shot. “You don’t want to go after everything 100%,” says PGA pro Kyle Stanley. “That doesn’t mean you should limit how hard you try, but it does mean you shouldn’t try and get a hole in one every time out. Don’t be a hero.”
DON’T stand stiff. Keep your weight on your left side, if you’re a righty. Vice versa if you’re a lefty. Your chip shot will be a lot more crisp, says Johnson. When putting, get down to check the line and gauge speed, as Villegas is famous for doing. “I picture how the ball is rolling,” he says. “The key is matching line and speed.”