By David Louys-Moroney, BGGA Senior Coach
When playing a round of golf and especially in a tournament situation, there are several distractions that can come into one’s mind: “I cannot believe I am already 5 over par”; “People are going to laugh at my result”; “Don’t slice it into the water” or “Don’t hook it OB” for example. Unfortunately, this is a common thought process that goes on in many golfers’ minds as they prepare to hit a golf shot. They focus on what they do not want, rather than their focus being on what they do want.
Golf is a unique sport where you are not reacting to a moving ball like other sports. This gives you so much more time to over think the shot and therefore you may end up hindering your performance rather than letting it flow. This brings us to the points why the pre-shot routine is so important. The best way to explain what is important, is to take note of what we have control over which are: our thoughts, our decision making and how we hold ourselves on the golf course.
Below is a list of thoughts and feelings I recommend within your routine:
- Gather as much information as possible about the shot you have in front of you: Distance, wind direction, lie and options of the shot shape.
- Choose an option/shot (after considering that information) that you could confidently execute six to seven times out of 10 attempts. Do not try to play a shot shape that you struggle with just because it looks better. Go with the shot shape that you feel comfortable with.
- Prior to stepping in to play the shot, you need to engage and become intimate with the shot you are about to execute: Visualize the start line, the height it will fly and where you want it to land. Do your best to choose targets in the distance which enable you to re-engage with the target when standing over the ball. A lot of people visualize the shot like the shot tracer you see on TV. This is one of the main differences I see between amateur and elite players. Elite players get more engaged in this section of the routine.
- When standing over the shot, chip or putt, it is important to have a simple but consistent thought. It could be simply saying to yourself: “1 and 2” to help create good tempo. Another example is you could focus your attention on maintaining a certain amount of grip pressure during the swing. This will help control negative distractions and promote positive movements within the swing.
- It is very common to see negative body language post shot, as most of the time the shot was not exactly as we had visualized. You have two options at this stage.
- 1. React poorly and reinforce the negative points about the shot. This will not facilitate good thoughts for the next shot or;
- 2. Focus on a couple of positive points about the shot which will help you move forward to the next shot.
- Your pre-shot routine is like any other skill. It has to be trained to ensure it flows and you react in a subconscious level. When you train on the driving range, make sure to use your last 10 balls to ingrain these steps into your routine. This will give you the best possible chance of executing it well on the golf course.