Pre-Shot Golf Routine: How Important Is It?

If you’ve read any golf psychology books you’ll notice how each stresses the importance of a consistence pre-shot golf routine.  Bob Rotella, a famous writer about golf psychology talks about the pre-shot golf routine in much detail.  So if you’re unfamiliar with a what a pre-shot routine in golf is, it is basically a sequence of steps or actions that you take before every single shot during your round.  Every golfer has their own particular pre-shot routine, this can include alignment, the number of practice swings, waggles over the ball, as well as the timing of each movement or event.  This all happens before actually hit your golf shot.

Why is a pre-shot golf routine important?  A pre-shot routine basically makes you only focus on each step of your pre-shot routine.  It helps to eliminate any bad or negative thoughts, nervousness, etc. before hitting your shot.  A lot of golfers will step up to the tee and see white out of bounds stakes right or maybe there is a lake you need to carry and then you only start to focus on avoiding those obstacles.  So if you see out of bounds stakes right, you may make a swing that overcompensates and you end up in the left woods.  Or if you’re thinking about hitting it over a lake 200 yards away when you’re average carry is 220 yards away you may swing to hard to make sure you hit it over the lake when you really just needed to get up to the ball and take your normal swing.  The pre-shot golf routine helps prevent these negative thoughts.  It forces you to focus and only focus on the certain steps of your pre-shot routine and if you’re focusing on those simple, yet relevant tasks you’re not thinking about the lake you have to carry or preventing yourself from slicing the ball out of bounds to the right.

If you watch any golf professionals during a PGA Tournament on television you’ll notice they all have a pre-shot routine.  Each one has different steps and mannerisms before they step up and begin their actual backswing of the shot at hand.

Pre-Shot Golf Routine

So what can a pre-shot routine actually consist of?  There can be very few steps you take during your pre-shot routine or there can be more.  It all depends on the type of golfer.  Once you have your club selection and you’re confident you have the correct club you can start your pre-shot routine.  This can start with alignment.  Some golfers prefer 1-3 practice swings and some take their practice swings behind the ball, while others may take their practice swings right next to the ball lining up to the target.  It can also include any current swing thoughts you have.  Maybe you’ve been working on a move in your backswing that you repeat three times for muscle memory right before you step up to the ball.  Once you step up and actually rest your club behind the ball, you may have a certain number of waggles, and you may also have a certain number of times you look at the target.

A good example of a pre-shot golf routine to start with if you’ve never had one before would be as follows.  Choose your club selection and be confident with it before you start your pre-shot routine.  If you go through your pre-shot routine and are about to swing but feel a wind gust, step back, re-think your golf club selection and start your pre-shot routine all over.  This also includes any distractions during your pre-shot routine, just step back and start it over.  So now that you have your club, take 1 or 2 practice swings.  Then stand behind the ball and pick your alignment, a lot of golfers will pick a blade of grass 1 foot in front of the ball.  That way when you step up to the ball you’re only aligning your clubface to a blade of grass 1 foot in front of the ball.  This is much easier than looking back and forth and at a target and trying to line up correctly.  Then you take one waggle, one last look, at the target, visualize your perfect shot and take your swing.

This is just an example but it’s a starting point to developing your own pre-shot golf routine.  You can alter it in any way you want.  You can also watch your favorite PGA Tour player on TV for tips as well.  Also a lot of golfers will develop their pre-shot routine based how quickly they play.  If you typically are a fast player on the course your pre-shot routine might be very simple.  Sometimes this also helps with you giving you less time for negative thoughts.  Or if you are a slower player who is very meticulous and likes to take your time, you may take a few more relaxed practice swings and take your time with each detail of your pre-shot routine.  If you’re that type of golfer a fast-paced, quick pre-shot routine probably doesn’t make sense.  You do not want to feel rushed during your pre-shot routine, you should feel relaxed and focused only on the next step of your routine.

It is also worthy to note that some players have different pre-shot routines for full swings, chipping, sand shots, or putting on the green.  However, it’s still important to have a solid consistent pre-shot routine for every type of shot.  For chipping, one part of your pre-shot routine you may walk up to the green and determine exactly where you want the golf ball to land.  You may take extra practice swings to get the feel of the shot so you hit it with the correct force and achieve the correct distance.  For putting you may read a putt from behind the ball, then behind the hole.  You may stand over the ball once to get a feel for the putt, then step back from the ball and focus on alignment.  Regardless of all of this make sure all of your pre-shot routines are consistent and literally become second nature.

You may also find that over time you add steps or remove steps from your pre-shot routine.  This is perfectly fine, you may be working on take your club back low and slow, so you add that move in and repeat it 3 times for added confidence and muscle memory.  Developing a solid pre-shot routine may take some time before you are 100% comfortable and confident you have it perfected.  You want it to mimic your style as a golfer, but once you have it down and consistently apply it to each shot you’ll continually see improvement.  You also should practice it and not only make sure you apply it to every single shot on the course but you should also go through your pre-shot routine while on the driving range.  This will force you to not only solidify your pre-shot routine but also makes sure you are practicing properly on the range and thinking about every shot.  It’s important to practice with a purpose and rushing through a bucket of balls just to say you practiced today isn’t helping.  So start to begin forming and practicing your pre-shot routine today and you’ll begin to notice a lot of improvement in your scores as well as your course management and the mental aspects of golf.