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Golf Tips from a Pro: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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The author’s pre-shot routine. PHOTO BY TOM CONWAY


Do you have a pre-shot routine? If so, do you stick to it thoroughly? All golfers seem to understand just how much golf is a mental game. As the old adage goes, “Golf is a game played in the six inches between your ears.” I truly believe that having a sound pre-shot routine and not varying it will help you be more consistent. I also believe that if you change your routine that it will get in your head and now you will be second guessing yourself while standing over the ball—a recipe for disaster.

So, what constitutes a pre-shot routine? When thinking about my personal routine it starts once I have selected my club. I always begin behind the golf ball, picking my target and deciding how I want to flight the ball. Once I have defined a target and pictured in my mind of the type of shot that I want to play, I place my hands on the grip with the club up in the air so I can be assured that my grip is correct. I now approach the ball. 

I’m not one to take practice swings, instead I set my clubface behind the ball, aiming at the intermediate target I have chosen when standing behind the ball. I am a big believer of using an intermediate target, which is defined as something that is on the ground in front of the ball and in line with my overall target. It is much easier to aim at something that is maybe five to 15 feet away versus 150 plus yards away. 

Once I have aimed my clubface, I focus my eyes on the target and set my feet in a manner that my body lines are aimed parallel to the left of my target line. Now that I am set over the ball, I take one last look at my target, again reminding my brain where I want to hit it. Once my eyes come back to the ball, it is time to make my swing.

I also have a consistent routine when I am putting. Again, I like to start by crouching down behind the ball and surveying the contour of the green. This is where I choose the line that I will attempt to roll my putt. Now, I approach the ball and leaving myself plenty of room, I take two practice strokes while I am looking at the hole. 

I do this so I can allow my eyes to tell my brain how hard I need to stroke the putt. Personally, I believe that if you are not looking at the hole when making your practice swings then you will have no idea how hard you need to hit it. Finally, I step up to the ball and place my putter face behind the ball so it is perpendicular to the line I have chosen. I take one last glance at the hole and when my eyes return to the ball I make my stroke.  

Because of the detailed explanation this might seem like a very elaborate process, but in reality the entire routine takes maybe 45 seconds, which for reference, is the maximum time allowed for a golfer to hit their shot on the PGA Tour.

If your routine takes longer than that you should consider trimming the process to help speed up play. I never advocate for taking more than one or two practice swings or strokes because of the additional time entailed, effectively slowing down the pace of play. So, moral of the story is to find a routine that works for you, while not prolonging play and make it as consistent and repeatable as possible. In time I bet you will find more confidence when over the golf ball.

Mark Wehrman is the Head Golf Professional at the Big Sky Resort Golf Course and has been awarded the PGA Horton Smith Award recognizing PGA Professionals who are model educators of PGA Golf Professionals.

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