If you watch the best golfers on TV you will notice that they all have a pre-shot routine. This routine is consistent for that player. For instance, Jordan Speith takes a slow, loopy swing to relax his muscles. Justin Thomas takes the club back until the shaft is parallel and the clubface is square.
Performing an identical series of preparatory steps before every shot relaxes the muscles and clears the mind, which can increase your chances of a successful shot.
For good players, the routine is automatic. This routine will take the same amount of time and always have the same number of steps. If distracted, the player will stop and go back to the very beginning of their routine.
Some components of a physical pre-shot routine are:
1. Assess the lie, yardage, wind, and target
2. Pick an intermediate target
3. Pick a club to produce the trajectory and distance needed
4. Get into your stance and posture
5. Rehearsal swing
6. Execute the shot and hold the finish
One of the most important parts of the physical pre-shot routine is choosing an intermediate target. It is a spot that is about a foot in front of the ball in your peripheral vision.
You must pick this spot from behind the ball, using binocular vision because both eyes must be level to aim correctly. Your intermediate target should be the last thing you see before you swing the club.
How you step into the ball should always be the same. There are various ways to do this. You can start with your feet together and then step into position, or you can put your right foot closer into the ball and then step in with your left foot.
You must coordinate your physical and mental skills in order to execute a shot, especially under pressure.
By focusing on a pre-shot routine, your mind won’t have the time for negative, mechanical, swing-killing thoughts. Below are some components of the mental or psychological pre-shot routine.
1. Clear your mind
2. Have a trigger of some kind of signal to come into focus that locks you into concentration (Velcro on your glove, tug on your sleeve).
3. Loosening up by waggling the club head back and forth can relax your muscles. Keep some part of your body moving helps prevent negative thoughts and freezing over the ball. This makes the golf swing more reactive instead of starting from a static position.
4. Take a cleansing breath with a slow exhalation.
Remember to practice your pre-shot routine on the driving range before you take it to the golf course. Practice only makes perfect if you use the same routine on the practice tee.
Dr. Jean Harris is an LPGA Master Professional and teaches at Pinecrest Golf Club. email@example.com; golfdoctorjean.com