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Pre Shot Routine & Golf’s Biggest Swing Killer

What if your pre shot routine isn’t as important as everyone says? What if the really important work is done just before your pre shot routine?

Let’s look at the facts
When the top players are playing really well and when they are playing poorly, it’s very hard to spot any difference in their pre shot routine.
Most of these golfers invest heavily in their pre shot routine but half of them don’t even make the cut. Some will shoot a 65 one day followed by a 75 the day after. Look at their Pre Shot Routine over the two days and try and spot the differences. I have. It’s really hard. They have the same number of waggles behind the ball, the same number of looks at the target, the same deep breath.
These repetitive actions within the Pre Shot Routine are supposed to guide us towards our best golf but even with a good routine the best golfers in the world don’t always play their best golf.



Golf’s  Pre-Shot Routine Pitfalls

Over many years of work in the field of Golf Psychology as a Golf Performance Coach, I have coached   all levels of golfers.  From European Tour players to high handicappers, the reality of the pre shot routine’s importance has revealed itself to me. Of course, having a sound Pre Shot Routine is valuable, but as the top players have shown, always having two looks and three waggles doesn’t guarantee a good shot.

Perhaps it’s less about the routine and more about the attitude and the mindset you bring to the routine. Outwardly the routine looks the same. But on the inside, as we all know, any kind of different thoughts and emotions can be playing out against the backdrop of our mind.
Like a Swan gliding gracefully over the surface of the water, look below the surface to see a different story.

Having the right mental attitude as you prepare for the shot and the right mental attitude towards the outcome of each shot is far more important than the actions contained within your Pre Shot Routine in my opinion. A good mindset sets you up to perform well before you go through your Pre Shot Routine to give a clear instruction to your body about what you want it to do. Any mental interference in this instruction will lead to poorer shots. So what kind of mental interference do I mean?



Which You is making the Pre Shot Routine?


It is really important that the correct version of you is going to start the Pre Shot Routine. By this I mean if you start the routine and you are full of fears or doubts or desires and cravings then this type of mental interference will ruin your shot no matter how well you execute the pre shot routine.  That is why I recommend that you always start your Pre Shot Routine with a couple of simple questions to flush out any thoughts or feelings that might impair your shot.


What am I thinking? How am I feeling?


Asking yourself these two questions can give you a window into your inner world and allow you a moment to step out of the game and take stock of your thoughts and emotions. When answering the two questions, what am I thinking? how am I feeling?  be as honest with yourself as you can.

Taking this mindful approach before you start the pre- shot routine, really helps the golfers I coach.


What am I thinking?


Giving yourself a moment to answer this question before you start your Pre Shot Routine. Tune into your underlying thoughts. Thoughts about winning or losing about looking foolish or impressive, about making birdie or avoiding bogie,  you can realize you are trapped in thought and that these thoughts will stop you from being fully present to what is about to take place, preparing for and playing your desired golf shot. This realization will bring you back out of thought and fully into the preparations for the shot. I have seen so many golfers start their pre shot routine before they have really let go of their last shot. This is a form of  mental interference, often remaining unnoticed as it is just below the surface of the mind. It can ruin your next shot unless you take a few seconds to check in with yourself.


How am I feeling?


Take a moment to tune into the subtle sensations that you might be feeling. Anxiety, excitement, fear, over confidence. Any or all of your feelings can distract you from engaging fully in the pre shot preparation. If anxiety is there, you may be doing well or facing a particularly tricky shot, don’t try and push these feelings away. You will waste your energy and fail. Simply accept that this is how you are feeling at this moment. You may be feeling anger or disappointment about your last shot.  Even the elation from a birdie can over spill into your next shot and cause mental errors which in turn can lead to poor shots. By becoming aware of your feelings and naming them, you can move on to your preparations for the shot with the awareness of how you are really feeling.  This awareness may change the shot you choose to make. At the very least you will have come back to the present moment and from this place you can give your full attention to the shot ahead and give yourself the best chance to execute it.


Remember your thoughts and feelings are linked. With honest reflection you may realise that you are getting in your own way. By asking yourself “what am I thinking? how am I feeling? you tune into your inner world and give a chance for a realistic, balanced mindset to be restored. Now you are ready to begin your Pre Shot Routine.

Learn more about effective Pre Shot Routine’s here in another great article.

Comments (2)

  1. Great article Jon. I have a question. So, before the pre-shot routine you ask yourself , how am I feeling? If the answer is “very anxious of hitting a terrible shot”, what happens next? The answer is usually a terrible shot! Just because you know you feel anxiety does make it go away. How do you take away anxiety?

    1. You are right Martin. You can’t make the anxiety go away but by acknowledging it and accepting it you can observe it’s effect on you and inquire into the root cause. The root cause is nearly always the result / score. So it is an opportunity to let go Martin.
      Remember you are doing this to yourself. So it makes sense that you can undo it too.

      Does your swing usually tighten up? If so do your best to swing with freedom. Does your breathing become shallow. If so pay attention to it as you walk the fairway.
      Whatever happens you will survive, so smile to yourself and see if you can let go of the outcome when anxiety is there.

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