Pre-shot Routine – Programming the golfer’s computer

What is pre-shot routine?  How important is it?  Is there a right way or a wrong way to go about it?

Pre-shot, first of all comes fully, totally and completely before any movement toward a shot takes place. Most players may not do it this way but in the end that’s how it shapes up.  This is the case if you believe in the fundamental truths of research.  What I would like to offer is not an opinion or “guesstimate” based on long-lasting tradition.

Consider what you may have read or heard about pre-shot routine.  You may have noted a few common elements of what is being stated.  Every good player has one and if you want to be a good player then it is absolutely necessary for you to have one.  What is provided as the process is usually the same and includes 3 basic opinions or beliefs: focus on the target, align properly, and check conditions.

I would like to encourage you to think about it slightly different.  I would like for you to think of it as pre-shot planning and the only thing routine is that it occurs with every shot.  Every action we take that has any intention attached to it deserves a plan.  An example could be you and your car.  You load up the family for an aimless Sunday drive.  Though it may be aimless there is almost always a destination in mind.   You don’t sit around and give it deep thought, nor do you focus all of your attention to the lines on the road while you head to your target.  Over time and practice, you developed good driving habits that keep the car on the road without deep thought of how to steer the car.

Let’s consider the first relationship I teach in golf.  That is the relationship of the golfer and club to the ball and intended target.  Once your brain has the intended message about alignment, you can begin your approach to the golf ball with confidence.  This is due to the information that is stored in your temporary memory which will assist you when addressing your golf ball.  If you have developed a sound alignment habit, you will walk into your alignment in good shape.  If you walk into your alignment and have to constantly keep checking once you get there, recognize two things.  One is that you have not developed the habit or maybe, better stated, you have no habit.  Or, the habit you have developed is insufficient, at best, at least at this point in time.

First, let’s add some definition to the process.  As I always state to my students, words matter and words have meaning.  “Pre” means “before.”  Players are consistently instructed that pre-shot is everything that happens up until the player starts his or her golf swing and some have even filtered in the evaluation aspect following a shot.

So why all the confusion regarding what a pre-shot routine may or may not be?  If we look a little deeper as to the “Why’s” for “pre-shot” in the first place, almost all teachers and players know we need to “plan” for the particular shot at hand.  But, there may also be some subtle underlying things going on.  It may look like pre-shot is being used to plan but in many cases it is being used to calm the nerves.  We need to be aware of this and don’t consider it being bad but, we need to be aware if we want to move on to what needs to happen in pre-shot.

If you don’t know how to play, pre-shot could take on the look of being a short practice session.  If you know how to play, then pre-shot can be no more than picking your goal (target) and your club.  If you have not developed good habits for grip, address set-up, alignment, and start of backswing, good chance you’re already in trouble.

If you have developed sound swing habits, there is no need for you to start self-instructing in pre-shot.  Most of you will know what I mean by that.  All you need to determine is where you want to go.  If your swing habits are developed then “how” to get there is in place.  If they are not then one needs to go back to the drawing board AFTER your game.

The only thing then that is routine about pre-shot is there is one before each shot.  I think a better name for it could possibly be “Routine Decision Time”.  Over time pre-shot started to become something else in an attempt to calm the nerves and ease the tension of the moment.  That did not work so everyone got real real serious about how precise pre-shot should be to the point where it became a ritual.  When any activity becomes ritual in form, it is only a temporary way to try and slowdown the effects of anxiety.  I will leave it at that and leave it in the capable hands of well-trained sports psychologist.  (Side note, if you need a recommendation I can provide.)

Having said all that, here is what I recommend for pre-shot.  I have to make a couple assumptions that you have learned some things about your game and that you have developed some habits – good, bad, or indifferent.  While you are performing on the golf course, the best plan is to go with what you brought to the “dance” and then work on your game after the round following an assessment and prioritizing what needs improvement

Before each shot, consider where you want to go, the path of least resistance, and any factors such as water, wind, sand, distance, etc.  Next step is to pick your club and ONE dress-rehearsal demonstration of the swing you wish to make.  Why no more than one?  If you make more than one dress-rehearsal swing then you are creating multiple commands to a system that can only respond to one.  The system then can become confused and not know which one you want.  Once you begin your walk to your golf ball you are forced, rather you like it or not, to trust the swing habits you have developed.  If you have done your work and developed a sound motion, fine.  If you have not, you will know soon enough.  Just realize there is no fixing while performing on the course.  That would be like trying to learn to drive in the middle of the Indy 500.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and it assists you with your game.  If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask.  GOOD GOLFING!