Professional golfers don’t much in common other than consistently shooting low scores. The crazy thing is that they all get it done in so many different ways.
Some bomb it long like Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson. Others hit short and depend on a sound short game to score well.
Some players can play in three hours like Brooks Koepka while others are more deliberate like JB Holmes. But despite all of their swing differences, equipment choices, and playing style, they all have one thing in common.
They all have their own unique pre-shot routine.
If you watch the best players in the world, on any tour, they all have a sound pre-shot routine. Each has their own unique version and no one way is better than the other.
So if you want to improve your game and start shooting lower scores, you need a pre-shot routine as well. In this post, we will cover exactly why you need a pre-shot routine and how to create one that builds confidence when you’re standing over the ball.
One thing I’ve learned in life and golf is that it’s never a bad idea to model people you want to be like. In golf, that means acting like the pros even if you don’t bomb it 300 yards or hit 9-irons 165 yards. But if you can add some of their golfing secrets to your game, regardless of skill level, and over time your game will improve.
A pre-shot routine is something every pro does that most amateurs simply skip. But a pre-shot routine has so many benefits. A pre-shot routine will help you…
- Speed up play
- Play better competitive golf
- Gain more confidence with every shot
- Adjust to new golf courses anywhere you play
And so much more.
One of the top sports and golf psychologists, Dr. Bob Rotella said it best,
Your pre-shot routine is like your wingman on the course.
A pre-shot routine can literally act like a caddy for you if you put in the work and create one that benefits your game.
Keep reading to learn how you can create your own pre-shot routine and start playing with more confidence immediately.
As I mentioned, every pro has a pre-shot routine but every one of them has their own unique spin on it. Here are some of the fundamentals of creating your own empowering pre-shot routine.
Most golfers don’t realize it but pre-shot routines shouldn’t start when you get to your golf ball. They should start on your way to the tee box, fairway or green, especially if you are walking. Because as you are walking, you can see more contours of the green and can help you with pitches.
Anyways, the first thing you need is a trigger to actually start your routine. This will signal to your mind that it’s time to focus and zone in on the shot. The easiest trigger is when you velcro your glove. As soon as you velcro your glove, it’s time to assess your shot and find the best way to play it.
Once you’ve velcroed in, it’s time to calculate your distance. If you’re on the tee box, create a tee-box strategy. Ask yourself questions like:
- How will you play the hole?
- Which club should you use?
- What is your intended outcome?
- Are there any fairway bunkers, OB or hazards to avoid? Best miss?
- Where is your target (remember, the smaller the target, the better)?
For fairway shots, to build an approach shot strategy you will want to ask yourself:
- What is the distance to the flag? And a distance to the front or back of the green?
- Which club can get you to the number?
- What is my target by the green?
- Where is the best place to miss?
- Are there any bunkers, OB or hazards to avoid?
- Where is your target (remember, the smaller the target, the better)?
While this sounds like a lot, as you get the hang of it, you will find this becomes like clockwork and won’t take more than a minute. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. Tour players aren’t always that much better than scratch golfers but they do play smarter.
Tour players can plod along the course better, stay patient, and pick targets.
Once you’ve done the research, picked your club, and committed to the intended shot, it’s time to pick your target. But don’t just pick one target, you need to pick a long-distance target and an intermediary target.
For your long-distance target, this will be a specific tree, 150 mark or something similar. The target should never be the right side of the fairway or the middle of the green. Always pick something in the distance to zone in. Remember, aim small so you miss small.
Once you have picked your long distance target, you should find an intermediary target 6-8 inches ahead of the ball. This is what Jack Nicklaus and so many of the great players did. This will help you line your clubface up square to the target when you get over the ball.
Now that you have chosen your club, ideal shot, and targets, it’s time to imagine the shot. Will you hit a draw, fade or straight ball? Where will it end up if you hit how you like? Try to imagine in detail, the more detail, the better. Like Jack Nicklaus said,
I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head.
Now for some players who are visually oriented, this is easy. But if you’re more kinesthetic and feel things, think about the feeling of swinging perfectly to create your ideal shot.
Once you have a clear image in your mind or solid feeling, take 1-2 smooth practice swings. These shouldn’t be full, massive swings. Instead, think about having a good tempo and feeling what your ideal swing is like for your next shot.
Pro Tip: This is NOT a time to get mechanical. You should not be thinking things like “Take it more outside”, “Cock your wrists sooner”, etc. No mechanical swing thoughts, simply positive thoughts about tempo and swing smooth. Also read our article on self-correcting bad shots mid-round.
Now that you have everything you need to hit the perfect shot, it’s time to execute. After feeling a few smooth practice swings, take a deep breath behind the ball. Then, start walking to the golf ball.
Before setting your stance, address the clubface to the intermediary target. Then address your fee to the clubface to ensure you’re properly aligned to the target. Take a look at the target, then look back to the ball. You can do this more than once if you would like or take a waggle as well.
Then, take a short breath over the ball and execute. Do not stand over the ball as this will allow your mind to wander and tension set in. For 99% of amateur golfers, this will create doubt, worry, fear, and a myriad of other negative emotions. Instead, look at the target a few times and then pull the trigger!
Once you’ve hit the shot, your routine isn’t quite over yet. Whether you hit it stiff to the flag or leave yourself a tough bunker shot, you need to accept it. If you want to get a little mad, make it quick. Dwelling on bad shots only leads to more bad shots so accept the outcome.
Remember, not every shot is going to be perfect because let’s get real, it’s golf! Once you’ve accepted the shot, un velcro your glove. Talk about stuff other than golf, your last shot or the upcoming one. You need to let your mind wander and try to stay calm.
If you try to think about golf for 4-6 hours straight, you will end up worn down and mentally exhausted. Instead, enjoy the scenery, your playing partners and simply being outside.
Hopefully, you have a clear understanding now of crafting a solid pre-shot routine for your full shots. But don’t forget that roughly 60% of your swings happen from 50 yards and in. So make sure you have a short-game pre-shot routine as well.
Not much changes for your chipping, pitching, and putting pre-shot routines either. With chipping and pitching, make sure you commit to a target of where you want the ball to land. You also want to think about where is the best place to leave your chip so you have an easy putt.
With putting, this is different for everyone. Some players read greens from both sides, plum bob, use Aimpoint, and other methods. No one method is better than the other, simply find what works for you.
The last thing I want to mention is that you need to practice your pre-shot routine before you get to the course. On the range or practice area, make sure you are honing your pre-shot routine. This will make it feel like clockwork once you’re on the course.
Not to mention, it will help you commit to picking targets on the range and probably have a much better range session. The same goes for your short game practice. Train it on the practice area so you can trust it on the course.
While it might feel like a lot right now, I promise this will get easier the more you do it. A pre-shot routine can give you tons of confidence and really help your game if you practice it enough.
Remember, a pre-shot routine is your wingman on the course. It will help you feel like Bones or Stevie Williams is by your side. Find a pre-shot routine that works for you and stick with.
Lastly, try to have a pre-shot routine that doesn’t slow you or the group down. Slower is rarely better for amateur golfers. Instead, be swift and decisive to build confidence once you’re standing over the shot.