If you’re like me you start each season with a couple of objectives: to play a little better than last year & to get that handicap cut by one or two shots.  I’ll usually have a lesson or two to improve my swing and I’ll work on it for a while, however the folks at Todaysgolfer.co.uk recently suggested that, whilst it’s important to work on your technique with the help of a PGA Professional, it’s vital to realise there are other factors that can also influence your score.

They made these five points:

What fuel are you burning?

Ideally you will reach the first tee feeling awake, energised and ready. Much of this feeling is down to what you’ve been eating and drinking prior to teeing off. We know dehydration makes it harder to control emotions and make good decisions, yet many club players wait until they are on the 6th hole and thirsty before taking a drink. What about drinking a stimulant like caffeine?  It’s going to make an edgy golfer edgier!  Drink more water before you go out and your state of mind will be calmer and clearer.

What are you listening to?

Most golfers drive 10-20 minutes to the course and many do so listening to music. Don’t underestimate the power of music to set a mood; this is why gyms use fast, upbeat playlists to stimulate and energise while airlines, seeking to relax passengers, use quiet, slow soundtracks. So why not use this time to set a mood and rhythm that is useful for you, find some mid-tempo songs that promote the rhythm at which you want to swing?

Focus on a gold strike

We don’t always have time or the facilities for a session at the driving range before a round, but we can usually find time to hit a few balls into a net. In these circumstances, a great exercise is to focus on strike quality. Whether you can hit five or 10 balls, place your attention on where on the face you are making contract.  Launch monitors show us just how influential a centred strike is to shot power and direction; even just a few shots spent tuning up your striking can make a massive difference to your round and score.

One putt, one chance

The last thing most of us do before reaching the first tee is visit the practice green. The most common sight here is the golfer dropping down three balls and striking all three at the cup. The first of those, however, gives you “post-putt information” – a luxury we don’t get on the course – and effectively makes the second two putts worthless. Putting is a skill of one prediction and one opportunity, so make sure the final thing you do is play nine holes with one ball. This sharpens your instincts for the challenge to come.

Make a commitment

Finally, before you leave the putting green, find an old scorecard and physically write down your commitment for the day.  This could be a commitment to ‘accept all outcomes’, ‘stick to routines’ or to stick with a swing thought you’ve been working on. Making a commitment may seem peripheral to your score and performance; but like all five of these actions, it offers another way to develop a habit that is useful to you, and not one that could be costing you shots.