The tighter your target, the less severe your miscues become.

In the movie, “The Patriot”, Mel Gibson’s character tells his son while shooting a rifle, “Aim small, miss small.” It’s great advice that carries over not only into golf but all sports.

One of my favourite athletes to watch was Greg Maddux, the pitching legend for Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves. In the latter years of his career, he could paint the corners of the strike zone at will. Since he couldn’t overpower hitters anymore, he had to figure out their weaknesses and exploit them by throwing pitches that were centimetre-perfect. The same goes for the best servers in tennis, like former great Pete Sampras and the ‘GOAT’ Roger Federer. They pinpoint their serves to all corners of the service box, leaving their opponents helpless. I’m sure the top goal-kickers in footy have a similar philosophy, too, by picking someone in the crowd behind the goalposts to narrow their focus. It makes their misses that much better than if they were aiming ‘just somewhere down there’.

It’s the same in golf. Picking a precise target when hitting a golf shot really improves the quality of your average to poor shots. One of the first things my coach told me when we started working together was, “Golf is not about the quality of your good shots, but the quality of your bad ones.” The great Ben Hogan used to say he hit only two perfect shots in a round. I guess the rest were all varying degrees of mishits.

If your bad shot is still on the edge of the fairway or green then you’re able to make a score. When it’s in the trees or way off the green, that’s when you have problems. Having a precise target helps because it narrows your focus intently to a spot you want to hit the ball, rather than aiming ‘just somewhere down there’.

For example, rather than trying to just hit the fairway on a tee shot, I like to pick out a precise target on the line I want to hit, such as a tree limb in the distance or the corner of a bunker. If I hit the ball at my target then I’m exactly where I want to be, but if I’m slightly off then I’m usually still in the fairway or on the edge. If I’m aiming ‘just somewhere down there’, my good shot will be somewhere in the fairway while my poor shot won’t be.

It’s good to get in this habit on the practice area. Next time you’re hitting balls on the range, pick out a flag or pole or something small and really focus in on it, rather than whacking balls out towards nothing in particular. You’ll find when you lock in on a precise target, your good shots will be right at it and your poor ones not too far off.

On the course, this translates to still being in play where a good score is possible from your ordinary shots. My most satisfying rounds of golf were when I wasn’t hitting the ball very well but still managed to shoot under par. Part of the reason? Aim small, miss small.