It’s not only the tour pros who can benefit from pre-shot routines – your game can benefit too. I will explain how to develop your own, and what to avoid.
What is a Pre-Shot Routine (PSR) It’s a puzzle, isn’t it – how to hit a golf shot. There are just too many things to consider. Technical stuff about your swing. Environmental considerations, like distance and wind. Strategy. Mental stuff, like focussing on the target not the possibility of a bad shot. A good PSR organises shot making, improves your concentration and sense of readiness, and so helps you play better golf with your existing skill set. It involves getting information (like distance etc.), making decisions, and preparing mind and body for executing the shot.
The Building Blocks Understanding PSRs starts with understanding how you should be using your attention – what should occupy your mind, and when. Attention is just like what you decide to focus on. Do you see the trees or the forest? (I.e., Narrow vs. Broad focus.) Are you thinking about how you feel or about what’s going on around you? (I.e., Internal vs. External focus.) A good PSR comprises a series of task-relevant steps in which the player progresses through four stages of attention use – see diagram. This helps direct mental resources effectively – everything that needs to be dealt with is addressed at an appropriate time.
Your shot decision gets reinforced with positive visualisation. You are cued into a physical warm-up. Your mind and body have programmed in everything you need to know and do.
By the time you address the ball you should be totally committed to the shot with only one thing left to do – “put a swing on it”.
When Attention is Misplaced Many players have problems in shifting their attention through the stages positively, thoroughly and without looking back. And when attention is used wrongly, common errors appear. When a player chokes they are likely to be excessively preoccupied with thoughts and feelings – their attention has become fixed in Narrow – Internal mode. Too many swing thoughts usually reflects attention becoming fixed in Broad – Internal mode. These problems and others (e.g., negative thoughts, feeling pressure, uncertainty about club selection) can often be addressed through working on the PSR and how you use your attention. Bad Habits Not all PSRs are good. Two bad PSR habits I’d like to mention are : Time: the player who spends too much time over shots and takes too many practice swings. Common result: too many negative thoughts and too many swing thoughts. Neither produce good results. Timing: the player who doesn’t finish doing one thing before doing another. Common result: confusion and uncertainty. Makes it difficult to hit a decent shot, doesn’t it! Players who work on developing a good PSR will find improvements not only in performance but also in speed of play, clarity of thought, and positive attitude. Getting Your Own PSR Become aware of your attention skills. Commit to dealing with shot making in a systematic way. Build good PSR habits at the driving range and in your pre-game warm up. Then use it consistently on the course. The machinery of your golf game will work better if you have a good set of operating instructions which you follow.
How you deal with each attention stage is personal. For example, the waggle is usually a Narrow – Internal cue to your body, perhaps to help relax muscles or as a reminder of a good swing feeling. Craft it to your own needs. As you develop your PSR, ensure you shift your mode of attention from one stage to the next. This can be improved through awareness, practice and specific exercises. If your PSR leaves you unsure, uncommitted or locked in meaningless ritual, review your routine.
Pre Shot Routine Mental Preparation- Thinking- assess the situation and evaluate all the factors externally that will have and impact on the performance of the shot. Imagination- the extension of the assessment of the shot and the requirement of the visualization of the golf shot. Physical Routine- The development of a physical routine that constitutes the following points- Grip- placement and positioning Alignment – clubface, upper and lower body Posture- the athletic positon both down the line and front on Stance- the lower body postioning relative to upper body support Positioning- additional adjustments e.g waggle, flexion, pivoting required to attain the correct physical postion. Swing Routine- The swinging of the club to be divided into two parts. Note also that this can also be altered for practice and playing. Practice- development of the swing routine whereby the practice swing(s) taken before the shot are a slower of more technically specific swing e.g drill which develops the technique. Playing- development of the swing routine whereby the practice swing(s) taken before the shot are specific to either non specific technical information or linked to a specific swing thought. In addition to the above routine for play and practice it is important to realize that each shot played on the course will vary and generally the practice situation and environment will remain the same. Therefore note the importance of varying your practice and play schedule as much as possible.
Target Skills & Pre-shot Routine
As mentioned above, the game of golf is all about hitting the ball to the target. One of the many problems that arise from the golf swing being so complex is that we can become so involved in what we are doing with the technique we forget about the whole concept of the game - which is to hit the ball to the target. The "driving range syndrome" is the title given to the trap that so many golfers fall into when they practice. They pull the ball towards them, set their body, hit the shot then look to see where it goes. Very soon they fall into a rhythm and can even start peeling off good shot after good shot believing that they have solved all their golfing problems.
Unfortunately, the golfer then turns up to the first tee with high expectations for their upcoming performance but there is a difference. Firstly, they look and discover a target, secondly they try and aim the club and set their body and at about this point their nervous system says it does not recognize the messages that they are sending it. They feel uncomfortable, make a horrible swing and the rest of the day is spent wondering why they could not play like they practiced. The solution to this situation is simple. Use the same set up routine in practice that you expect to use out on the golf course.
I recommend consistent practice on the pre-shot routine, as this area is easily identifiable as one of the differences between successful competition performance and constant failure under pressure. It is at first difficult to practice because it does not seem to have the same substance of technique instruction or skill development. Practicing the pre-shot routine will expose deficiencies in your shot making that are the same as your game performance weaknesses. You can hide from these on the practice range by just randomly rolling a ball over and hitting it without any prior thought to targeting. On the course, a poor or non-existent routine will limit your performance every time until you have practiced and mastered a good pre-shot routine.
A good routine has technical as well as mental aspects to it that need to be practiced like any other skill. The technical functions of a good pre-shot routine are: - - Grip - Club Head alignment - Stance and ball position - Posture - Target visual reinforcement - Physical position Focus - Trigger - Swing and hit
Done in a motion to motion rhythmical sequence on every golf shot and you will be set up correctly every time. The mental functions of pre-shot routine are: - * Analyze wind, terrain, lie, nature of the shot; * Make a definite decision, on the shot to be played; * Visualize shot and swing required; * Sense the ball take off line and trajectory; * Sense the swing feel required; * Move into technical set-up routine; * Focus on the swing path / ball relationship (only retain thoughts for ball flight or swing feel/Key); * Trigger; * Total positive commitment to decision and swing.
By combining the technical and mental components you will produce a pre-shot routine that will give you a physical and mental starting point for each shot. In turn, this will greatly assist and in most cases improve the consistency of your golf game.
Some important points to note are: - * the majority of the mental functions of the pre-shot routine are carried out before you set up to the ball. Ideally the analysis of the shot that you are confronted with, the selection of the shot to be played and appropriate club selection should be carried out in the vicinity of the ball. * Once you have selected your club, it is important to move behind your ball so that you can take in the shot that you're confronted with, visualizing or imagining the shot that you want to play and the swing required to make it happen. * In addition, to assist with alignment for the stroke, try and select a small mark (either a leaf or different shade of grass) about a foot in front of your ball on the line of the shot to be played. This will give you a reference point to assist in aligning the club head to the target. * Once you are sure of the shot that you wish to play, you then move to the ball and physically set up for the shot as outlined on the opposite page. * It is simply then a case of maintaining your thoughts for the shot that you wish to play and a feel for the swing that will produce that shot until you hit the ball. * While a sound pre-shot routine will not guarantee that every shot that you play will be exceptional (after all we're all humans!), at the very least you will have: - - a positive plan of what you want to do with the shot at hand. - A positive idea of the swing required for this shot. - A procedure that should ensure that you are correctly set up for the shot. This will give you the best opportunity of producing a good result. * These aspects should be incorporated in to any practice session, which you undertake.