Lee Trevino- I posted a video of Lee Trevino explaining his trigger mechanism leading up to hitting a golf shot. This action was born out of millions of practice shots. Trevino drops several pearls of wisdom during this narrative.

  1. He mentioned that, once he looked down at the ball to make the swing, he never looked back up. This is in realization that we must AIM in a manner that allows us to play the shot we picture. He said, “the ball didn’t look good to me.” Perception can keep us from performing with a necessary freedom. If you don’t look back up, then the surroundings can’t play tricks on your mind or focus. Many times, we can hit dead straight shots when we aim at nothing. We haven’t encumbered our action by becoming target bound.
  2. He said that, because his grip was strong, he took the club back outside the target line and had to “break” or drive his knees toward the target, in a lateral move, to get the ball to exit in the correct window.
  3. Mental approach was something Trevino never considered other than hard work. “I got my confidence from hard work.” He sounds like Hogan, “day and night, day and night.”
  4. While explaining how he played golf shots, Trevino also is the epitome of ownership of his method. He built the strongest trust and was then able to perform and win throughout his career. 29 PGA tour victories and 29 Senior tour victories. The ability to proceed, without doubt, is what pre-shot routine is all about.


Jack Nicklaus- The video I posted is of Jack playing the 16th hole during the 1986 Masters. This was a crucial moment of the tournament, as Seve Ballesteros looked as if he might birdie the 15th hole, from the middle of the fairway. Instead, he hit a poor shot into the lake in front of the green and Nicklaus hit a wonderful five iron close the hole and made birdie.

The video begins with Nicklaus calmly looking for a place to tee his ball. This is the crucial beginning of our pre-shot routine. We must find the lie that gives us the best chance to play our desired shot. Par-three tees are, many times, riddled with divots.  We must find a place for the ball AND our stance. Pros will, sometimes, tee the ball on the back of a shallow divot that faces perfectly toward the hole and then square up with that line. It is a great visual aid that reminds them of the way they practice, working off the back of the divot line. 

You can see Nicklaus tee the ball, and then opt for a different place because he doesn’t like how it feels under foot. In this case, it is his right foot. If that foot slips approaching impact, it will likely result in a chunk hook. Hogan once lost a major because of a slipping right foot and the resulting hook. Think of the calm, presence of mind it takes to go about your business in this fashion, under the highest of pressure (or SUPPOSED pressure).

Once the ball is teed and Nicklaus falls into his stance, you can see his trademark aiming routine. His eyes go: from the ball, to his intermediate target and then the flag. Then back to the intermediate target and then the ball. His eyes move back and forth up and down the line in a routine he learned as a child and never changed. I am sure there is a correlation between him being the greatest major winner and the greatest aimer.

Next it is the stiffening move in his left arm and the turn of his chin to the right. Both of these actions, made in a calm, smooth manner, began his swing in an unhurried fashion. 

Since the sun was in his eyes, there was not much point in looking at the flight of the ball. And it is beautiful how Nicklaus just looks down to get the tee, knowing the ball was struck right on the button. 

Like Trevino, it is the KNOWING that comes from complete ownership. At some point we must give away constant tinkering and refine what we believe.

Phil Mickelson- besides giving us a great weekend of golf, Phil gave us a motivational speech unlike any I have heard in a while. And, although it doesn’t initially look like our topic this month, it holds much of the same pertinence.

Much was made of Phil’s age and he addressed it with his customary zeal. He mentioned that he was playing a lot of holes in preparation. As much as 36 or 45 holes a day. He shared that he grinded hard or was trying hard on every shot. At any age, but certainly at an advanced age, our ability to focus can become a problem. He said that, if he played many holes, with absolute focus, then the 4 hours that 18 holes presents wouldn’t seem that long.

Many times, I have advised a student to hit more balls in practice, than they will in a round of golf, or they might get physically tired late in the round. But we also get mentally tired and that is what Mickelson was speaking to.

A wandering mind or toxic, negative thoughts get in the way of making calm decisions. How can we trust ourselves or show the presence of mind to go through our routine, no matter what the situation?

We have to spend time, when practicing and playing, developing the ability to step out of the situation and draw a calm focus. We all get wrapped in the round, so we must use the energy in a positive fashion.

Affirmative body movements that lead to a positive, athletic motion generally result in a favorable result. Mickelson began, weeks in advance, CREATING THE MENTAL ABILITY, to use his pre-shot routine. 

You never know what Phil Mickelson might say and this time he gave us a lasting memory, with his play and also a great pearl of wisdom in regard to tournament preparation.


About Me

Michael Wolf, Certified Master Teaching Professional, has been playing golf for 46 years and teaching professionally for over 34 years. He has given over 30,000 golf lessons. Author of The Driven Golfer: Building Your Method For Scratch Golf. Harvey Penick Award Winner- 2016 (Top Instructor U.S./World Golf Teachers Federation)

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