Learning to “Take Dead Aim”

It sounds like it ought to be simple when read out loud. But, boy, it can be a daunting prospect staring down a fairway toward a putting green.

It sounds like it ought to be simple when read out loud. But, boy, it can be a daunting prospect staring down a fairway toward a putting green.

Take Dead Aim. Three simple words. One terrifying prospect.

The lawyer in me says, “Be risk averse. If you play it safe, you are more likely to take the big number out of play.”

Until now, I’ve not had sufficient control of my golf shots to be both aggressive and effective.  I have been afraid of the hook for three seasons, so I end up aiming right, trying to provide a little safe haven if I did hit a pull hook left.

The result is that I end up with very little room for error on the right side of every hole if I happen to hit a shot straight or push it right a little bit.

I’ve also perhaps been under the misconception that taking dead aim and playing smart are mutually exclusive, that it meant “going for it” in the Tin Cup sense of the phrase.

I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but I've always been afraid of putting up "the Big Number."

I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I’ve always been afraid of putting up “the Big Number.”

Now, I finally have some confidence in my golf shot.  It’s taken two full years of lessons, practice, and play to arrive at this point, but now that I’m here, I realize I need a new approach.  Not with my mechanics, but with the mechanism between my ears.

Harvey Penick’s eternal words of wisdom, in fact, to “Take dead aim,” presupposes that the player has the ability to execute the shot they are trying to hit.  More importantly, it assumes, or perhaps bolsters, the player’s confidence in their own ability, that they can do what they set out to do.

The wisdom of Penick’s phrase is the same as the marksmanship cliché of “aim small, miss small.”  My teaching pro swears by the power of focusing in a very small target and aiming directly at that minute bulls-eye.

The flag, a particular mound, a specific clump of grass.  The target is limited only by the golfer’s eyesight.

I'm consistently impressed that the folksy wisdom of the late Harvey Penick is as brilliant and profound as it is simple.

I’m consistently impressed that the folksy wisdom of the late Harvey Penick is as brilliant and profound as it is simple.

I’ve tried this on the range with incredible success.  It’s actually a little disconcerting that the mind is that powerful.  When I am focused enough to hone in to a very small target, I tend to hit the ball to or near the target with greater precision and frequency than if I’m generally aiming at something but really consciously thinking about my set up or swing mechanics.

I haven’t developed my mental game to the point of having that kind of focus on the golf course yet.  Which, in a sense, makes the 2015 golf season a near total loss. But I get it now.  I finally have a plan.  I’m going to take dead aim.

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2 thoughts on “Learning to “Take Dead Aim”

  1. Dave, I’m in the camp with your instructor on this. Get Putting Out Of Your Mind by Rotella if you have not already. He explores this topic in a way that very much helped my mental approach. Good luck and play well!

    Brian

    Like

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