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Top Tips for Golf’s Pre-Shot Routine

Your Pre-Shot Routine should be created by you for you. You are the expert on what makes you feel comfortable and well prepared. However, if you aren’t playing to your potential and you feel a change in your routine might well help you, here are some useful ideas. Make them your own and explore what works and what doesn’t. Remember this is a skill that you must practice and commit too.

At this point I want to remind you of some of the research that has been carried out in recent years around how we best access our playing skills and execute our best golf shot. Kinesiologists and Bio mechanists agree that if you are mentally instructing your body on how to swing the golf club in a certain way as you take your shot,

then your chances of executing that shot will drop dramatically. I know a lot of you will have swing thoughts that you feel that you must remember in order to swing the golf club well. You may even watch some of the top Professionals like Alex Noren and Justin Rose take unusual practice swings that appear to be reminders of parts of their swing.  Science has proven beyond any doubt that the time for this thinking is well before you make your swing. You want to be as free from this type of top down instruction (from your mind to your body) as you can be, while you are playing your shot, as this interferes with your motor skills. I’m pretty sure that when Alex and Justin make their swings they aren’t trying to remember swing thoughts.

Vision54’s coaches have a great way to separate the thinking side and the playing side of your shot.

Think box / Play Box

Draw an imaginary line about a metre behind the golf ball. Behind this line is your think box. This is where you do all of your calculations about the shot and this is the place for all of your swing thoughts.

As you step over the line into the ball you enter the play box. In the play box you want to be athletic and simply connect to the target and to the shot. Then without too much delay or thinking, you play your shot.

Think Box

As I mentioned already, if you haven’t asked the questions What am I thinking? and How am I feeling?  then do so now. (Read the post here) When you have regained your present moment awareness you will have a clear mind to start your pre shot routine.

Well behind the ball you can start to make your calculations about what shot to hit. Decide on your own questions to get you focused and prepared. The ones below are just possibilities.

  • How is the lie? What club shall I hit?
  • What is your target line? What shot shape am I going to hit?
  • Where is a good miss? Where is the danger?
  • What is a smart play here? What would a great shot look like?
  • How about the wind? Where would I like to land the ball?
  • What swing feel or thought will I pay attention to as I swing the club.

When your calculations are complete imagine the shot you are going to hit and rehearse the swing. Do this until you get the all clear signal from your body. By this I mean that you feel comfortable hitting the shot. If you don’t get the all clear signal then STOP. You are entitled to take a minute or two to regroup and go through your Think Box again.

Ask yourself what was making you feel uncomfortable and address this by changing what needs to be changed. It could be the line you picked was too tight. It could be the wrong club. Re-set and feel comfortable. Get into the shot or the target. Pick a focus point for your swing. Something to pay attention to as you make your shot. It could be the target, the club head, tempo or anything that interests you. You choose but remember that you will be observing this and not trying to instruct your body. (Top down instruction ruins your swing).


Play box

  • Take aim.
  • Ball position.
  • Waggle or get comfortable
  • Swing while observing swing thought or feel
  • Accept the outcome
  • Evaluate


Notice how much shorter the Play Box list is. One of the biggest mistakes I see in the golfers I coach is that they spend too much time thinking when over the ball. This should all be done before you walk into the shot in order for you to walk into the shot and be athletic and play.


Evaluation after each shot is part of the Post Shot Routine. While working with elite professionals, I have found that it often benefits them to ask themselves a few simple questions after each shot. It would also help you.

How was my mentality before and during the shot?

Physically was my swing technically sound?

Answering can often stop anger and frustration developing and lead to an objective framework of assessment. However, don’t be fooled. Often a mental error will impact the swing so the two may well be linked.


Over the ball it’s important to be clear about where you will keep your focus through your shot. We all know that a rogue swing thought often creeps in at the moment you begin your stroke. This thought unbalances your mind and the body reacts with a poor swing. Developing your ability to keep focused as you swing the golf club is a skill that rarely gets mentioned yet I’m sure on the odd occasion that you “find” a swing thought that keeps you interested and engaged while you swing, you have noticed how your performance has gone to another level. This is not a coincidence. Neither should the credit go to the swing thought that you “found”. The real difference is in your focus levels. Your trust in the swing thought allows focus to develop and Bingo! your swing improves as does your performance.

The current culture of golf isn’t really interested in the subtle art of developing focus levels to improve performance so Pre Shot Routine gets thrown around by every golf psychologist from here to Timbuktu.

Sure, the Pre Shot Routine is an important part of the process but to play well find the right attitude for your shot before you start it, clearly separate your thinking from your playing and when over the ball,  observe one thought or feel and stick with it to develop a well focused mind as you swing the golf club.

If you enjoyed this post then why not get in touch and book some Telephone Coaching with me.

Comments (1)

  1. Hi Jon Everything you have said makes perfect sense and I have tried to adopt these thoughts in my preparation for a game with improved success.
    Regards Robert

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