Master Faculty Panel: Using Intermediate Targets

You may have noticed in watching the pros on television or in person that when they’re preparing to hit a shot or a putt, they’re looking a few feet in front of them instead of at the target.

What are they doing, why are they doing it and should you be doing it too?

These pros, such as Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, just to name a few, are using what is called an intermediate target. We asked our top-rated Master Faculty their thoughts on using an intermediate target on the tee, in the fairway and on the greens. Here’s what they had to say.

Gary Gilchrist, Golf Digest Best In Florida (#19); Golf Magazine Top-100

Most golfers have poor alignment, so even with putts, if you can pick a spot and aim your putter, you have a better chance to increase your putting stats. It’s much easier to stand over the ball and look at spot three feet in front of you and trust that.

When you’re looking up at a far target, narrowing your focus is important. This will help your tempo, rhythm of your swing and putting stroke. It also helps you trust your swing. The two greatest golfers — Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus — did this.

Master Faculty Panel: The Most Important Things To Work On At Home

Joe Hallett, Golf Digest Best In Tennessee (#1); Golf Magazine Top-100

For the majority of golfers, an intermediate target will help them in all areas as 99% of the players approach the ball from behind — with a good line in mind — then unknowingly take their eyes off the target. They then try to find the target again from the side view, which leads most to be misaligned.

The intermediate target helps reset them once they are over the ball quicker and better.

Chris O’Connell, Golf Digest Best In Texas (#8); Golf Magazine Top-100

I would say that (using an intermediate target) is a personal thing. Jack Nicklaus did it,  and I know a lot of golfers who try to roll the ball over a certain spot. Others see where they want the ball to enter the hole and respond to that.

Josh Zander, Golf Digest Best In California (#8); Golf Magazine Top-100

I like to use intermediate targets for full shots as it is difficult to aim correctly at something that is too far away. It is okay for you to do this when putting, but make sure you don’t get fixated on the spot after you have used it to aim as your distance control will suffer.

Your brain needs to know how far you want to roll the ball and looking at the target — not the intermediate target — helps communicate that important information to your brain. 

Shawn Cox, Golf Digest Best In California (#29)

I would use an intermediate target for all shots over 40 yards. There shouldn’t be any practice swings when walking into the golf shot — those are done early in the routine. Walk back to look through the ball to the intended target, then pick a spot in front of the ball from one to four feet that you will use to aim your clubhead when you get up to the ball.  

Under 40 yards, I want you to take practice swings brushing the ground for the feel of the shot. When you make the proper contact with the ground and find the feel of the shot, I want you to quickly address the ball and repeat the motion.