The Pre-Shot Routine
A valuable step in the development of a golfer
by Mark Blakemore, PGA Professional
Why do so many golf psychologists recommend using a pre-shot routine? Because it is a very
effective method of improving one's focus on the task at hand -- the upcoming golf shot.
What is a pre-shot routine and what is it good for? A pre-shot routine is a consistent
and systematic procedure (a sequence of thoughts, checkpoints, movements or details)
that is executed by a golfer prior to hitting a golf shot. Pre-shot routines are likely
as varied in their steps and details, from person to person, as fingerprints (i.e., each
golfer's pre-shot routine is probably unique).
A pre-shot routine is good for eliminating extraneous thoughts prior to hitting a golf
shot and "grounding" a player, getting them to focus more exclusively on the shot at
hand. Why? Because executing a pre-shot routine requires the focus of conscious attention
on relevant tasks, thereby eliminating or at least reducing any extra time to attend to
irrelevant or unwanted things.
You'll notice that when you watch the pros on TV each pro has certain mannerisms that
they go through before each shot, and typically they perform these mannerisms identically
for each shot of the same type*. They are going through their pre-shot routine.
What are the components of a pre-shot routine? Though there is a lot of variation between
players and styles, it is safe to say that the pre-shot routine for each player covers the
details that are important to that player. Placement of the hands on the club, body
alignment, placement of the club on the target line, shot visualization, a certain number
of waggles, or a certain number of looks to the target are a few of the possibilities that a
player might include in their pre-shot routine. Some players may consider their pre-shot
routine to begin when they select a club from their bag. Others may consider the pre-shot
routine to start when they approach the ball. Again, personal preferences vary greatly.
My own experience is that developing a pre-shot routine helped me to improve noticeably
as a player. It especially helped me with first tee jitters when I was younger. My pre-shot
routine is very simple. It includes an alignment reference and a relaxed practice swing,
some attention to detail in the alignment of my clubface and body, a look to the target to
give my mind a clear and recent picture of my goal, and then I swing. I consider my pre-shot
routine to have begun once I start lining up for the shot from behind the ball. It is always
the same, fits my style and rhythm, and covers the points that are important to me, in terms
of details. It takes all of about 12 seconds.
How can you develop your own pre-shot routine? Your own personal pre-shot routine should
fit your style and rhythm as a player. What I mean by this is that you should try to match
the tempo or rhythm of your pre-shot routine to that of your personality and how you play
golf. Do you play fast or slow -- or medium? For instance, if you are a very fast paced
individual (talk fast, eat fast, drive fast... careful now) it probably wouldn't work very
well for you to have a long, drawn out, methodical and slow paced pre-shot routine. That
makes sense, doesn't it? Likewise, if you are methodical and deliberate, I doubt that a short
and rapid pre-shot routine would serve you very well.
Developing your pre-shot routine may happen quickly or it may take a while. It will take some careful
thought and some conscious and deliberate practice. Just be sure to include the details that are important
to you, and match your style and rhythm. After all, the whole point is to give you a feeling of comfort,
familiarity and confidence, and to occupy your mind with relevant tasks rather than let all
those extra unwanted worries, distractions or mental wanderings have any space or time in your mind.
Start developing your own pre-shot routine and practice it on the range. In no time you'll have one you
feel good about and that you can take out on the course. Once it is part of your game you'll probably notice
improvement in your consistency and scores.
* Full swing routines probably differ from short game shot routines, etc.