January 13,2024

Importance of a Pre-Shot Routine

The best players are creatures of habit. Their mannerisms, movements, gestures, thought processes, walking stride, and facial expressions are mostly natural manifestations of their personalities. But the way they go about getting ready to hit and execute a golf shot is a well-planned and thought-out routine. Just like a mechanically sound golf swing is critical to produce consistent golf shots, a precise Pre-Shot routine is as equally important to have dependable golf results.

Johnny Miller was quoted as saying, "I approach each golf shot the same, whether it's for five dollars or the U.S. Open!" By sticking to a repetitive structure lessens the outside influences that infect the emotional and mental aspects when hitting a shot. By staying within your routine and approaching each golf shot as a new individual experience makes you stay in the present and not be distracted. Do you wonder what's going on in a professional's mind when he or she is getting ready to make a 10 foot putt for a U.S. Open or one million dollars. Trust me, it's not the money or the title that's on their mind, but to stick to their convictions, routine, and accomplish what they had been doing brilliantly for the past 71 holes!

Jack Nicklaus in his prime was considered a slow player, but in reality, he was not a slow player, but a deliberate golfer. He walked swiftly, was always ready to hit when it was his turn, and made quick decisions on what type of shot he wanted to hit. What appeared slow was the time he spent "over the ball" preparing his body and mind to be fully commit ed to the shot he had planned in his mind. He has many times stated that he was totally unaware of how long it took for him hit the ball, but that he never hit it before he was ready and saw and felt it. I don't recommend a long time standing over the ball, because most will start over-thinking. Fortunately, Jack didn't have that problem. Many professionals know a danger time zone, when they are taking too long over the ball, because then they will lose focus. Most pros want to be taking the club back between 6 and 8 seconds, once they have put the club behind the ball. Jack's typical pull back was between 10 and 12 seconds, and a player like Lucas Glover starts his swing in less than 2 seconds. Each person is different and therefore each Pre-Shot routine is unique. Professionals and their teachers work constantly on what sequence works the best for them.

Sam Snead wanted his walking pace to match his heart rate throughout the round and not to vary. That was his technique to evenly pace himself through the ups and downs of an 18 hole round and keep himself in the present. Lee Trevino loved to keep relaxed and joke with the gallery, but he could turn that off instantly when he went into his playing mode to hit the ball. Trevino concentrated 100% for the 10 to 12 seconds it took for him to take the club out of the bag to when he hit the ball. Ben Hogan was notorious for his stoic composure and concentration. Playing partners would not expect to have a verbal conversation with Hogan between the first tee and the eighteenth green. Hogan's concentration lasted the entire round.

I had a member of Lakewood Country Club, when I was the head pro there, that wanted to quit golf because it was not enjoyable and never had been. I asked about what troubled him the most about his golf game. He said that there was no consistency and that the harder he tried the worse it became. His work profession had absolute answers and if something didn't work, he could work harder and figure it out. His answer for golf was work harder and be more perfect, which only made matters worse. No shot ever was good enough. We started first on him giving up trying to have the perfect swing, but the real break-through was the on-course Pre-Shot routine. His handicap when we started was a 15 and his good shots were what an 8 handicaper could expect. On the golf course he was obsessed with making the right swing, which meant that he was not feel or target oriented. It soon became obvious to him that he didn't know what a good shot was or felt like! His assignment was to give up ALL mechanical swing thoughts when he got over the ball and to swing the club back as soon as possible. He was to smile after each shot and find something to be positive about each shot. This was giving up control, which was SO hard for him. Fortunately, he trusted me. It took some time, but his handicap dropped to below 10, but the most fulfilling aspect of this story was six months later over a beer in the clubhouse was his confession that it wasn't the lowering of his handicap that he was most happy about, but he now could enjoy the game!

Establishing a Pre-Shot routine is another part of the mental side of "playing the game". Please go to back to the Library page and click on the Establish a Pre-Shot Ritual file under the Janaury 13 entry. to get a detailed step-by-step approach to formulate your individual Pre-Shot Routine.


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