It cannot be understated that a consistent pre-shot routine is critical for playing good golf. If you ask my students, they will tell you that I preach this to the point of nausea. During range sessions, you will always catch me saying “Start with your routine as normal.”
So why is a routine so important in golf, especially while you are playing on the course? Simple...it quiets the mind and sets the table for success...
A consistent pre-shot routine is one of those key factors that commonly gets overlooked by many golfers. In many cases, it is that one critical missing piece that could be the difference-maker. To be clear, what I am not talking about is simply going through the motions of a routine. Actually making the pieces of this critical step in the process of executing a shot matter is what is key.
What should be included in a Pre-Shot routine?
I tend to think of this process starting as soon as your last shot lands. I start to accumulate information from that shot to help formulate my plan for the next. How environmental factors like wind, or topography played a part on the previous shots outcome.
As I walk or ride up to my next shot, I should have a rough idea of what’s to come. I’ll spend a minute or so making final surveys of the shot to come...the distance to the pin, the distance I actually want to hit it and how outside factors will influence that. I’ll then make my club selection. From there, I’ll spend a few seconds visualizing the shot needed and making a few practice swings to match what I’m visually seeing in my mind’s eye. All of this is happening in what is commonly referred to as the Think Box, a few feet behind the ball. At this point I have not yet addressed the ball. As soon as I have a clear picture, I then move up to the ball, focusing on my intended line of play and getting set with my alignment. Once over the ball, I trust, settle in, turn my head to look at the target one final time and execute the plan. My mind is virtually turned off once I leave the Think Box, other than what I am visualizing on...no mechanical or technical thoughts whatsoever.
Obviously, as described here relates to full swing shots. Around the green, I spend a little extra time walking around the line of play and surveying that ground a bit more since the shots in this area are more influenced by the ground.
It is important to have this routine not take all that much time but be thorough still the same. Sticking to this not only will make you more consistent but should reduce the chance for your mind getting too far ahead or dwelling too much on the past.