Add A Pre Shot Routine To Your Golf Bag For A Better Score
From the time you get serious about golf improvement,you will hear the importance of a pre-shot routine . Most of the golf instruction manuals will tell you that you have to have a pre-shot routine , but few of them tell you exactly what it is. Indeed, for each individual, the pre-shot routine will be different depending on your personal style of doing business. Today I want to look at some of the elements that should be common to all of them.
The important thing to keep in mind is that in order to improve your game you need to establish a way to measure what you are doing. If every shot you take is different you will not know what you need to be doing to improve you golf game. So the primary reason for developing a golf routine is to give yourself a set of checks that you can tick off to know that you covered your bases.
Here are 6 elements that I have identified that are critical for my game to improve:
- Visualization: “Where do I want the shot to land?”
- Course Conditions: “Distance, club selection, wind, uphill/downhill, lie of the ball, trouble areas to avoid?”
- Target Orientation: “Is my body aligned with all of its parts to deliver the ball to the target?”
- Grip, Posture and Balance: “Correct grip, straight spine, distance from the ball, good dynamic balance.”
- Confidence: “For this situation, do I trust my ability to make the swing I need to get to my target?”
- Execution: “Do I use the same ‘swing trigger’ every time to make a relaxed/focused shot?”
Lets break these down.
We think in pictures, so the picture you are creating should include ball flight trajectory, landing in a safe spot, with positioning for your next shot. You may or may not know exactly how far your ball will travel or what it will do when it lands (will you get a “member bounce?”) but you need a picture of the direction and approximate distance.
As to distance, don’t limit yourself for any shot in the fairway. You will obviously want to get as far as possible so pick out a target that is beyond the distance you will actually carry. A tree, a house across the valley or something stationary that is too far to reach. You are doing this to establish direction only.
Pick something that is stationary so that you are not distracted by any motion. The flag on the green is not a good target for this reason.
As you complete your visualization you want to be selecting the best club to get there. Here you are assessing the lie of the ball. Do you have to go up or down hill? (more or less club?) Is there any trouble that you have to navigate around? (traps, trees or water?) Are there any adjustments that you will have to make for wind or a side-hill lie of the ball?
This is also where you need to make good course management decisions. For instance on a short par 4 you may be able to drive the distance to put you within a wedge shot to the green, however, for this hole you may need to land in a very narrow spot to get a clean shot on the green. Do you have that accuracy with your driver? An alternative might be to use a more accurate 5 iron off the tee with your trusty 7 iron onto the green.
These two parts can actually be accomplished as you approach the ball from behind on the fairway. The last thing to do is to pick out a very short intermediary target that you will see from your setup position. This is your reference target to insure that you are properly aligned to the target. A divot, a leaf, a spot near where you will setup, that you use to orient your body to your target.
Pre-shot Setup Check-list
Here is the money part of your pre-shot routine. By repeating these steps you are developing consistency into your golf swing. By learning to do these the same way every time you are giving yourself a chance to build a repeatable swing. These are grip, good posture by bending at the waist while establishing your distance from the ball and dynamically balanced setup.
Once we have decided how to hold a golf club it tends to become something that we ignore, thinking that since it feels good that it must be correct. Jim Flick tells the story about Jack Nicholas who had been having a challenge for the previous three tournaments his direction and ball flight were (for him) ever so slightly off. When Jim and Jack looked at his swing on the range, they discovered that he had moved his grip ever so slightly to produce a closed face at impact. Instead of his traditional high fade off the tee box he was now drawing the ball decidedly left of his intended target. If a pro can have his grip change without his knowledge, well I’m just saying… Check your grip every time.
Adjust your posture by insuring that your hands are directly below your shoulders and that you are bending a straight spine from the waist. Center of the face hits on the golf ball occur when you maintain your arc from your back-swing throughout to your down-swing through the ball. You want to give yourself the best chance for this to occur. Here is a quote from long drive champ Eric Jones: His program will actually improve your swing speed.
How Important is Center Contact?
“For instance, a 100 mph swing will drive the ball approximately 240 yards if hit perfectly square. A hit that is ¼ inch off-center will decrease distance 2-3%, or 3-5 yards. A hit that is ½ inch off-center will decrease distance 5%, or 12 yards. A hit that is ¾ inch off center will decrease distance 10-15%, or 25-40 yards!”
This is why your distance to the ball must be maintained by good setup and correct posture. Your posture is maintained throughout your swing when you setup with an athletically balanced stance.
To achieve this balance you want to distribute your weight over the inside balls of your feet. As you swing you want to keep that weight in between the balls of your feet moving from your right side to your left side, but never out side the edges of your feet. This keeps your body core centered over the source of your power in the legs and hips enabling you to deliver maximum power to the ball on your downswing.
There are a boatload of golf tips and instruction written about this; Tracy Reed will teach you to balance with Golf Swing Control. Especially when you learn to feel your body storing the power in the coil of your back-swing.
Trust and Execution of Your Pre-shot Routine
You have visualized, selected your club, analyzed your situation. Then you set up to the ball and established your aim, your grip and swing foundation. The last part of your routine is now more mental than physical. Are you relaxed and confident that the swing you are about to make will accomplish the task? In other words, do you trust your swing?
For instance is the shot you are about to make something you have done successfully several times before? Or is this shot something that the circumstances of “right now” seem to dictate? Something that you have not tried or have had limited success with? At this stage in your setup you do not need to introduce doubt. In fact if there is some doubt, you would be better off to re-think the shot and go with something that you are confident with.
For example, have you spent sufficient time on the driving range developing your ability to deliberately draw or fade the ball? Can you confidently curl your shot around that tree in the middle of the fairway to flow into the fairway on the other side? On the dog-leg you come up a little short and one of your options seems to be a shot through the trees? Are you really that accurate or are the percentages pretty high against you? You need to reach 230 yards to carry the water or you lay up with a sand wedge and a comfortable 7 iron to the green. Go with the shot you can trust until you know with confidence that you can execute what you were about to try.
The final part of the routine is where and when do you actually pull the trigger. This is a place that I should not get into in any prescriptive way. It is up to you to decide how to start your back-swing. Personally, the last thing that I do is to focus my eyes on the back of the ball with the thought that my swing is going right through there, then I use what is called a forward press, a slight rocking motion toward the target to rebound into my back-swing. Others will use a waggle of the club head in some manner over the ball. You just need to find the trigger that works for you and apply it consistently.
If you are just starting out, it might take a minute or so to make the decisions and adjustments necessary to follow the steps that I have outlined above. I realize that is entirely too much time, but with practice you can pare that down to less than 15 seconds. The time you devote to establishing a useful pre-shot routine will reward you for years with the lower scores that it yields.
The reasons for this are simple. You now have a repeatable behavior that you can measure your results against. When you make your swing after this kind of preparation you will be much more able to identify where you may have had a break-down.
If this is a new idea for you the best place to start this is on the driving range. Instead of a machine gun approach to hitting range balls, get a small bucket of balls and treat every one like a shot on the course. Approach the ball from behind, envision the shot, pick out your long range and short range target. Then move up and setup behind the ball go through your setup grip and alignment and balance procedures. Use the same swing trigger for each shot. That is 30 repetitions for a small bucket of range balls. You will have this ingrained in a few buckets.
You will be amazed at the difference that this can make in your game.
Hit them straight and seldom,
P.S. Agree? Disagree? Please leave a comment below. I read all the comments and I respond. If you liked the article a tweet, a like or a +tag would be appreciated. Google likes to grade articles on “social appeal” what ever that means. Anyway, thanks for reading. ~Mike~
Here are a couple of links to similar articles. The first is a humorous look at Mr Pre-Shot Routine Guy The second article is a bit more serious, they actually timed the pre-shot routines of Tiger Woods, Kenny Perry and Phil Mickelson
Filed under: Golf Swing Sequence
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