The pre-shot routine is a fundamental aspect to the mental game in golf and sports psychology.
It helps golfers harness their trust and commitment during a round of golf. This is why our Mental Training team at The Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy spends so much time with our students developing and ingraining a solid pre-shot routine.
The purpose of a pre-shot routine is to prepare your mind and body to hit each shot the best you can at that moment. A solid pre-shot routine does not guarantee results, but it does guarantee the best results you can have in that given moment. It also guarantees an opportunity to play up to your full potential.
Every golfer on the PGA TOUR and LPGA TOUR has a slightly different pre-shot routine that is their own. It fits their individual needs, personality, rhythm, and mental approach. It’s important that your routine fits your golfing style, but there are also commonalities that all great routines share. These common elements are what I want to focus on for the remainder of the article.
A solid pre-shot routine should focus on:
- making a smart decision
- rehearsing that smart decision
- getting yourself set-up properly.
Smart decision-making begins with picking a target and yardage. Then noticing the important elements that could influence the shot such as lie, slope and wind. After gathering this information, it’s time to decide on the type of shot you want to hit, meaning your club, trajectory, and shot shape.
Golfers will make different decisions based on their skill level, confidence, and golf swing. The most important part of any good decision is that you own it and believe in it. In other words, you have 100% buy in and are confident with your decision. In the majority of circumstances, it’s more important to believe in your decision then to make the “right decision.” Nothing hurts your pre-shot routine more than doubt. A good decision with 100% belief will almost always go further than a great decision with little belief.
Once you believe in your decision, it’s time to rehearse the swing you want to make with rehearsal swings. Notice I am calling it a rehearsal swing and not a practice swing. Rehearsal swings are much more powerful. A rehearsal swing simulates the shot you want to hit. It’s a mental and physical dress rehearsal before the shot. It’s your way of getting ready to play the shot.
In order to maximize the effectiveness of each rehearsal swing, use visualization and imagery to imagine the exact shot you plan on hitting. The more senses you use, the better. You want to see, hear, and feel the shot the shot in your mind and body.
Rehearsal swings are a way to build confidence and confirm that the shot you chose is the right shot. The number of rehearsal swings you make are up to you.
Some golfers I work with like to make the same number of swings each and every time. While other will vary the number of rehearsal swings. The key is that your rehearsal swings actually “rehearse” the decision you made. For instance, if you decide on a full 7 iron, the rehearsal swing should actually rehearse a full 7 iron. Your rehearsal swing(s) should have the same length, ball position, tempo and rhythm that you intend to use when you step up to the ball.
If you implement these common elements used by professionals into your pre-shot routine, your mental game and golf game will soar. Make smart decisions before each and every shot, believe in your decision, and use rehearsal swings. You will be surprised how a few simple mental training and sport psychology strategies can make a massive difference to your golfing mind and golf scores.