Ask the Top 100: Pre-shot routine
Dear T.J.,I consistently hit the ball toward the heel of the clubface. How do I start hitting in the center?Bill M., Paducah, KY Hi Bill:You can force your swing to change by focusing on swing mechanics or you can let it change using a conditioning technique. I prefer the latter, which is accomplished by putting talcum powder on the clubface while you hit practice balls. You know your task [make a mark in the middle of the clubface] so hit balls until you find a way to move the mark to the middle. I'll bet you can move that mark in 10 balls. Email me and tell me how many it actually took. If I'm correct my editor says he'll double my salary. (Let's see, zero doubled is …) T.J.,How do you actually aim at the target? I think I line up properly and get the distance right, I just don't seem to be able to aim in the right direction. Thank you.Betty M., Bedford, N.H. Here's a question for you Betty: What's the one thing that any pro worth his or her courtesy car does on every shot? As the Jeopardy theme dings in the background, here comes the question/answer: "What is a pre-shot routine?"
What To Do
Stand behind the ball and pick a specific target as well as an intermediate target on the target line about 12 inches in front of the ball. Take a practice swing and make it a true rehearsal of the actual shot by swinging in the direction of the target, off a similar lie, and at the same speed as the swing you are about to make. Once you've pictured the shot in your mind and made a practice swing, take a deep breath.
Now step into your address position with your back foot first. Before you bring your front foot into position, sole the clubface behind the ball so its lead edge is perpendicular to your intermediate target. Then, keeping the clubhead in its exact position, bring your front foot into position so that your shoulders, hips and feet are parallel with the target line. You've created railroad tracks with the ball on the outside track and your shoulders etc, on the inner. You have now locked in your direction.
From this position, take one look at the target by rotating your head without lifting it, waggle and swing, allowing the speed of your swing to produce the correct distance. Each individual will have nuances to their routine, for instance, you may want to be Lady Saliva and spit on the clubface just before you start the swing. Whatever. The important point for good direction is to be consistent. Hi TJ,Thanks for taking this message. I'm 59 and have an 11 handicap. I have problems with distance with my driver. I'm making solid contact and hit it straight, but my distance has now frittered down to 200-220 yards. The ball sounds good off the clubface and has a nice trajectory, but just seems to die as it knuckles out there. Previously I could hit 250 plus after I warmed up, but lately that's not even happening. Any ideas?Curtis B., Spring, Texas
Curtis, Here are the hard cold facts re: losing distance; as we age we lose muscle square footage as well as flexibility and that equals lose of distance. And if you don't do anything about it the "new 59 becomes the old 70."
But fortunately you can intervene into this process in three ways:  Ramp up your body  Change your swing  Put the correct equipment in your hand.
 You need to work out and shape that workout for golf. Lifting weights, running and swinging a weighted club are good -- hiring a workout trainer is your best move.
 Find a good teacher [may I suggest a Golf Magazine Top 100?] who understands the human body and how to adjust your swing to maximize distance.
 Take advantage of your hot spot -- I know what you're thinking, but I'm talking about the hot spot on your driver.
If you want more distance [and who doesn't] take some time to find your hot spot. Every driver has one - it's the spot on your clubface that produces maximum distance. And if you're using a modern large-headed driver, as you should be, the contact spot you want is above the center of the clubface because the distribution of weight is above the center. This is why making contact high on the club face maximizes the launch angle resulting in a ball that leaves the face with a lower spin rate - and that spells more carry and more distance.
How can you take advantage of your hot spot? Assuming you are properly fit for the driver there are two ways, the easy way and the hard way. The easy way is to simply tee the ball higher.
Unfortunately just teeing it higher won't work if your swing is too steep. Here's where the lesson comes in.
So let's review: You need a new body, a trainer, new clubs and lessons. And since I'm not paying for this I'll throw in a condo in Florida so you don't lose your timing over the winter.