As you look on the average driving range across you will always notice people working on technique, positions and striking ability above all else. However this is a long way from how we actually play the game on a day to day basis. There is no danger on a driving range, there is not cost should you not hit your intended target, and there is nothing to fear as there is always another ball to hit. When most golfers take to the golf course however this can be a very different story, and many find it hard to transfer their skills from range to course. Often you will hear players say they are hitting the ball great in practice, but on the golf course it falls apart and they have little or no understanding as to why?
To me the answer is actually quite an obvious on, particularly when you compare the average golfer on the course to a tour player. Sure there is generally a significant difference in their ability to strike the ball, however one of the most important things that you will see pro’s do that amateurs do not is actually something they can control. That something is a routine, or more commonly labelled as “pre shot routine”.
A pre shot routine is simply a series of steps that a player will generally go through before they hit the golf ball, in order to settle themselves into a shot and feel the same regardless of the situation or shot difficulty. Because golfers are not reacting to the ball like a tennis player or baseball player would, it is up to the player to decide when and how to start the movement of the swing. This can often cause problems as many amateurs will begin to think about things such as technique, where the ball should not go and what their playing partners are going to think if they do miss hit it. These negative and result driven thoughts can often create anxiety and stress for the golfer, often resulting in those negative thoughts becoming reality.
One of the most common mistakes we see is golfers making practice swing after practice swing trying to “feel comfortable” or “make a good swing” before they actually strike the golf ball. With some this could take all day or maybe even never come! The purpose of incorporating such a routine into your swing is to allow you to feel somewhat normal or comfortable no matter what the shot or situation. However to do this you must always practice like you play.
Developing a routine to use before each shot will allow you to get your mind into the process of what you are doing rather than getting obsessed with the result or outcome. The pressure we feel on a golf course can vary hugely depending on what level we play at and how we as individuals deal with certain situations. The pre shot routine acts as a comfort blanket to shield you from that pressure and stress allowing you to play on auto pilot even at the most stressful times.
Everyone’s pre shot routine will be different depending on the style of player and their personality type, however generally speaking the simpler you keep your pre shot routine the easier it is to replicate on the golf course time and time again. The main purpose of a pre shot routine is to get you comfortable with the shot you are about to perform, but there are certain things that should be included in the routine in order to maximise its effectiveness. The following steps will give you an simple framework to begin building your routine, but you must make it personal to your own game for it to become automatic and help you get the best results.
Step 1 – Decisions
Before you hit any shot there is always several decisions to make and various different elements to take into account. Factors to take into account could be wind, flag position, grain etc and you must decide what the best shot, shape and club are based on those factors. I would always make these decisions early in the process, almost as soon as you get to the ball.
Step 2 – Feel
Making a small practice swing of some description is always a great idea to give you some sort of feel for what you are about to do. This does not need to be a very strict practice swing where every little detail is perfect, we want this to give you a sensation of what you are trying to achievewithout too much analysing. One of the most obvious ones you will see on tour is Miguel Angel Jiminez who swings significantly across his body, almost to give himself the feeling of trying to fade the golf ball, however when he actually strikes the golf ball it is a far more neutral swing shape.
Step 3 – Visualise
Visualising the shot before you play it is one of the most important parts, think of it like putting the destination into the satellite navigation in your car. Seeing the shape in your head, visualising the ball flight and trajectory tells your brain exactly what you want to make the ball do during its flight.
Step 4 – Commit to the Trigger
Once you have seen the shot in your head you are ready to commit to the shot you want to play and strike the ball. Because golfers are starting the club from a stationary position I would always recommend a small trigger to begin the moment. This is often a small but very simple movement such as a waggle, a forward press of the shaft, or a final look at the target before you take the club away.
Step 5 – React
Although the golf ball has already left the club face, your reaction can be a key part of the next pre shot routine. Should you hit a bad shot, a negative overreaction can often cost you when it comes to the next shot. Carrying negative thoughts from one shot to another can create frustration and anxiety which are two things that will cause damage to your score. You cannot change the past, once you have put the club in the bag and taken your glove off the shot is over, move on and prepare for the next one, putting your full focus on sticking to the process and routine
Although there are 5 steps to the routine, this should all take place in a manner of seconds. Once the decision has been made as to what club and shot you are about to play, the remainder should only take a maximum of 10-20 seconds. Incorporating a routine into both your playing and your practice time could significantly change your ability to score on the golf course.