Pre -Shot Routines

Pre -Shot Routines

I’m sure most of you who play golf have come across the term “pre-shot routine” a number of times. It is common place to read about it in magazines or to hear it mentioned by commentators on the TV. Some people have shortened the term to just “shot routine” to emphasise we would be wise to do certain things routinely after the ball is struck. We know it is a tool frequently advocated and used in any closed skill activities or sports situation like a penalty kick in rugby (closed skill = environment is predictable & response can be planned) but probably golf is the most common and obvious sport it is utilized.

I don’t know any coach who wouldn’t advise any golfer to have such a routine for each shot, but in my experience it is easy to not really understand what this procedure in golf is ultimately trying to achieve. People get wrapped up too much in the “what should I do” or in other words they focus on the physical part of the process. For example when I ask someone to go over their shot routine they nearly always mention that they make one or a number of practice swings but very seldom say why. (I still find it interesting why golf is one of the few if not the only sport where rehearsals of this nature are made).

A successful routine certainly has a conscious/cognitive part that includes the following:-

  • Make informed decisions about our situations e.g. distance & club choice, reading lines, picking specific targets etc


  • To help switch on our focus or be aware of our emotion before and after the shot


  • Help consistency

But the real key to having a routine that works is having the trigger that helps us achieve the psychological/mental state required for executing that skill. In other words your mind needs to pass the process of swinging over to your non-conscious, automated response. As Steve Peters would say in his book “The Chimp Paradox”, you have to put your chimp in the box.

One of the games I try to get some of the aspiring golfers in the GUI or ILGU sessions to engage in when were out in the course is not to make a good score your goal, but to hit every shot as best they can from a mental perspective. I’m sure you think it means the same thing, but the point here is to try to get them to focus on the process of hitting good shots. If they complete a hole and they feel each shot was approached with the right routine and that they gave themselves the best chance of hitting a good shot, then they put a circle around the hole number on the scorecard.

A good routine allows us to focus consciously then unconsciously on the process not the result therefore removing a lot of stress from our games. Golf is a long game compared to other sports. There is more time spent waiting and not playing than most other sports. Dealing with the down time and having a system that gets the focus back into the right areas at the right time should be what a good routine will do for you.

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