What to do when you can’t keep your ball on the planet off the tee

golfer with tee

You’ve been looking forward to this round all week, and then when the time finally comes, it all goes wrong. You can’t keep the ball on the planet off the tee, and it’s ruining your round. What should you do next? GOLF.com’s resident low-handicappers are hear to help…

1. Stop and recharge

Dylan Dethier (+3.3 handicap): First, get recharged. Eat a granola bar. Drink some water. Take a deep breath. The first thing you should do is check out your alignment, so have someone else in your group see if your feet, hips, shoulders and clubface are all facing the target. That’s a great first step.

Then get back to the basics of your swing, too. When your round is going off the rails, things tend to move very fast, so slow them down — and think back to one very simple swing thought that has worked for you in the past. You’re not looking to find the perfect golf swing. You’re just trying to have a little more fun and get in to the clubhouse.

2. Get a go-to shot

Luke Kerr-Dineen (2.5 handicap): You can’t play golf without, occasionally, everything collapsing around you. It’s one of the less delightful parts of the game, but as DJ explains, it’s part of the game nevertheless. The best way to prepare for that eventuality is to spend a few shots each time you’re on the range perfecting a go-to shot. Something simple that you know you’ll work even on the worst of days. Maybe it’s a 50 percent driver swing, or a back-of-the-stance knockdown. Whatever it is, find it and use it.

3. Stay calm, stay positive

Ashley Mayo (3.1 handicap): First, take a deep breath and remember that all golfers hit poor shots and have bad rounds. Second, revisit the basics! Remember that your grip pressure should be light—if you imagine your grip being a tube of toothpaste, you shouldn’t squeeze any paste out when you swing. And S-L-O-W down—try to hit the ball half the distance you typically hit it, you’ll be amazed by how far the ball actually goes when you make a relaxed, slow swing. Also, try everything you can to keep your spirits up. Remind yourself that you DO know how to play golf and you DO know how to hit the ball. Your talents will emerge far faster if you stay positive during challenging moments.

4. Slower swing, better contact

Zephyr Melton (5.5 handicap): Slow down your swing and focus on solid contact. A lot of this game is figuring out a way to grind out a decent score when you don’t have your best stuff. Slowing down is the method I use when things go sideways.

5. Find your tempo

Josh Sens (6 handicap): My old approach was to curl into a fetal position and wallow in self pity. But that slowed down play and earned me few friends, so I switched to focusing on my tempo. And to reminding myself that it’s just a game, and that part of its beauty is its elusiveness. Corny as it sounds, the quest is what makes golf so compelling. Embrace it. To one degree or another, we’re all searching out there. Always. Don’t forget that.

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Luke Kerr-Dineen

Golf.com Contributor

Luke Kerr-Dineen is the Game Improvement Editor at GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. In his role he oversees all the brand’s service journalism spanning instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s multimedia platforms.

An alumni of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina–Beaufort golf team, where he helped them to No. 1 in the national NAIA rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue his Masters degree in Journalism from Columbia University and in 2017 was named News Media Alliance’s “Rising Star.” His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek and The Daily Beast.

Dylan Dethier
Golf.com Photographer

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/GOLF.com, The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a 2014 graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.

Ashley Mayo

Mayo is GOLF’s Editorial Director and oversees the brand’s vision and strategy. Whether content lives digitally or in print, Mayo ensures that its standards live up to those established by GOLF’s chairman. Before joining the GOLF team, Ashley spent 11 years as an editor at Golf Digest. While there, she earned her Masters degree from Columbia’s School of Journalism. Before joining Golf Digest, Mayo competed on the first-ever women’s golf team at the University of Virginia. She is also the Head of Brand at GOLF’s parent company, 8AM Golf.

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF.com, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and is the staff’s self-appointed development tour “expert.”

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A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.