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Thinking is Succeeding

By Mark Sheftic

PGA Director of Instruction

Merion Golf Club

For over twenty years in the golf field, I have competed, taught and attended many professional seminars that examined the golf swing, short game, and course management. Now as I progress in my teaching career, a common question is frequently asked of me. “What is the key to the golf swing?” Following this complex question my students want to know, is there a magical move that will take me to the next level?

My answer to this significant question is always the same and catches most by surprise. “The key to a great golf swing takes place before you grip the club!”

Without a player consciously knowing this, he or she determines the success of the shot before the ball is in flight.  This illustrates one of my favorite statements, “A player hits the desired shot or misses the desired shot before he or she swings the club.” This declares the importance of mental preparation.

Ones mind is the 15th club that completes the golf bag.  The six inches between your ears is the most powerful tool or most destructive piece of equipment we carry.  This brings me to the main point of this article, “The most important part of a golf shot are the decisions you make prior to hitting the ball!”

Here is a checklist of questions that need to be considered to determine the type of shot to play:

  • How is the lie?
  • What are the conditions of the wind?
  • Where is the pin?
  • How far do I need this ball to travel?
  • Is the putt up hill or down hill?

After one evaluates these questions and answers, then …


Here are visual examples that model a pre-shot routine that utilizes strong mental preparation.


  1. Start behind the ball analyzing the shot at hand. Figure out the highest percentage shot to play. Stand behind the ball and go through the mental checklist that will lead to a clear and decisive decision.


  1. Create a picture or a visual image. The stronger the image, the more focused and committed one becomes. This is an example of a clear, narrow path leading up to the pin.


  1. Carefully work into the ball making sure alignment is perfect. Notice the clubface and the attention to the target.


  1. Complete the set up.


  1. Without wasting time, execute the shot. Keep the focus clear and mental image on the desired outcome.

Creating the right mental attitude and building a strong mental foundation, is more important than hitting the club.  It takes practice and determination to strengthen the mind and utilize it to our fullest.

Mark Sheftic

Director of Instruction

Merion Golf Club