We’ve all had it happen to us. We start our round with a shank off the first tee, chunk the approach, duff the pitch, and then three putt. Before you know it, you’re frustrated and wishing you’d spent Sunday taking care of those chores you keep putting off around the house.

Getting off to a good start on the golf courses helps you feel more confident and loose, and ultimately have more fun. Plus, it’s a great feeling to let your playing partners know that you’re the one to catch today. Check out our top three tips to help you get off to a good start, and ride that momentum through the round for a new low.

Don’t let your first swing be on the first tee

How often have you pulled up to the course, screeched into the parking lot, thrown on your spikes (without tying them), and raced to the first tee to meet your buddies and make your tee time? If you’re like most busy people, you can surely relate.

Nothing is worse than starting a round feeling stressed, and running late is a sure-fire way to start feeling the pressure. Do your best to arrive at the course early (1/2-1 h) and start preparing your mind to play a round. I warm up short clubs to long, starting with the putter and ending with the driver. If I’ve played the course before and I know I’ll want to hit a club other than driver off the tee, I’ll hit a few of those before heading to the tee box.

Take your first swings on the range while focusing on making solid contact. See what the ball is doing that particular day, and don’t fight it. Now is not the time to work on your swing. If you’re hooking the ball badly, don’t spend your valuable time trying to correct it, only to be frustrated and unsure of yourself on the course. Instead, see how much hook you need to account for to make the ball go where you want, and run with it.

If you’re pressed for time and have to choose between the practice green or the range, grab your flatstick and head to the green. Understanding how the greens are rolling will most likely save you more strokes during your round. When you get to the first tee, club up, choke down, and swing at ¾ tempo.

Focus on contact

Play the first hole conservatively and don’t try and be a shotmaker so early in the round. No need to go for the hero tee shot over a tree, cutting the dogleg. All you’re trying to do in the first hole is strike the ball crisply and solidly. By focusing on the club hitting the ball, you’ll keep your head down and help your body and swing find a rhythm. By grooving your stock shot early, you’ll have more confidence to hit the low-cut or the high-draw later on in the round.

Even once you hit the green, focus on hitting your putt in the center of the club face. This will help the ball come off as you anticipate and roll with the proper speed.

If your first few shots are mishits, pick out a single dimple on the back of the golf ball and focus on hitting it with your club. Aim small, miss small.

Don’t care about the result

Some times when we start poorly, we get frustrated and give up trying. Often, as soon as we stop caring about how badly we’re playing, we start to play better. I think this is a great philosophy to apply during your first few holes. Pick a target, step up, and swing carefree and loose. I always like to think of Fred Couples here- when he hits a bad shot, he just shrugs his shoulders and goes and hit the next one. Don’t expect to be perfect with every swing, especially on the first few holes.

By letting go of our concerns about the results, you’ll make a more aggressive, fluid, athletic swing. Your body knows what it needs to do to make the ball go where you want it to; don’t let you mind get in the way.

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