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3 simple rules to avoid big trouble off the tee



One of the hardest things for average golfers to do is avoid trouble off the tee. In fact, if they could eliminate these penalty shots, they may no longer be average golfers in the first place! Usually golf course designers place trouble that you must avoid on one side or the other, but provides you ample room to “miss it” on the other side. Think 18 at Doral, or 18 at The Players; both have water all down the left side that begs you to challenge it in order to get the shorter shot into the green, but you do have room to bail out if needed.

Holes such as those cause the weekend golfers fits, because they tend to miss the ball in the ONLY place they cannot… the water. In this article, I want to give you my three rules as to how you can avoid problems like this off the tee.

Rule No. 1

Tee the ball up on the side of the tee with the trouble and aim away from it.

We have that same type of shot as Sawgrass or Doral at one of our courses here at Punta Mita. The water is all down the left, yet we have ample fairway right to hit the ball. I have placed the ball on the left side of the tee box and from here I will aim right…well right to take advantage of the angle away from the water.

Rule No. 2

Pick a spot in front of the ball so you begin the ball on the correct line

In this photo, you can see the extra piece of grass just to the right of my driver; this is directly on the line I have selected (from behind the ball), which is the one I want to take in order to hit the right portion of the fairway. This simple spot-aiming technique gives you a great way to visualize the line you want to take when you are aiming cross-line or away from the natural angles of the tee box.

Rule No. 3

Make your LAST look before you take it back where you want the ball to go, NOT where you don’t want it to go!

The last look is very important as it programs your body as to what you want the ball to do, and it’s just as impactful as the visualization players do from behind the ball beforehand. Your last look can either program you mind and body with positive information, or you can give yourself negative thoughts to fight while in the early stages of your backswing.

I have always preferred to focus on the positive rather than the negative while aiming. I might not pull it off every time, but at least I have done all I can to promote a good swing. They say the mind can talk you out of a good shot if you let it, but this is the best way I have found to make sure that does not happen to you!

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico ( He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email:



  1. unoho

    Aug 6, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    Stinkney plagiarizing Nicklaus… hohum

  2. ...Patrick Loughran

    Aug 4, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    Jack Nicklaus advised this technique many years ago and IT Still Works….

  3. ...Patrick Loughran

    Aug 4, 2018 at 1:54 pm

    When I first started playing golf over 50 years ago I read “Play Better Golf” by Jack Nicklaus he advised doing this on every shot Enough said…Still works today…

  4. Bolt

    Aug 3, 2018 at 5:15 pm

    Keep in mind that placing an object in your aiming line is against the rules. So only pick something that is already there.

    • Mizzle Fizzle

      Aug 3, 2018 at 6:20 pm

      Beat me to it…

    • Joe

      Aug 4, 2018 at 10:50 pm

      I use the line on the golf ball to aim (like putting, but off the tee) it’s helped a lot and I don’t think is illegal …

  5. LD

    Aug 3, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    Good advice. Thanks

  6. millennial82

    Aug 3, 2018 at 11:09 am


  7. juststeve

    Aug 3, 2018 at 11:03 am

    Good stuff Tom.

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Tip of the week: How to handle big breaking putts



In this week’s tip, top 100 teacher Tom Stickney shows you how to coordinate line and speed, manage wrist breakdown, and more keys to navigating big breaking putts.

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If you can, great, if not, then go see your teaching professional and figure out why so you can find quality impact once and for all!

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19th Hole