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Every golfer on the planet has a pre-shot routine, but not everyone knows it! After all, who hasn’t just grabbed a seven iron from the bag, only to swing away in the blind hope that the ball will miraculously land at the pin?
We’ve all been there. But in reality, the minute or so that you spend before taking a shot is a really important part of your game. You need to focus on the right things and practice your execution.
Below, we explain everything you need to know about the pre-shot routine in golf and provide you with some top tips on how to get the very best out of every golf shot that you play.
What is a Pre-Shot Routine?
A pre-shot routine in golf encompasses the actions that you take immediately before hitting a shot. For most players, it includes shot visualization, club selection, practice swings, and addressing the ball.
Ultimately, your pre-shot routine can be as easy or as complicated as you make it. But if you’re a recreational player, we can’t stress enough how important it is to keep things simple. If you start thinking about the mechanics behind your swing (i.e., Bryson DeChambeau), you’re going to put yourself off.
Adjustments and the like are to be made on the range, not on the tee box. Honing your routine into some very simple steps that you can perform in a minute or less is precisely what you should be aiming for.
You want to picture your shot, practice your swing, and execute the desired shot. Thinking for too long about what you’re hoping to do will lead to confusion and cloud your judgment.
We explain some of the fundamentals of the pre-shot routine in golf in the following sections.
How Do You Get a Pre-Shot Routine in Golf?
Every golfer has a pre-shot routine. Even if yours currently only includes grabbing a golf club from your bag and swinging away, that’s technically a routine (albeit a bad one!). To develop an effective pre-shot routine in golf, you need to practice out on the range first.
You should always begin by visualizing how you want your shot to fly. Just stand behind the ball and picture its trajectory before executing a couple of practice swings. You’re then in a position to address the ball, adjust your stance, and swing away.
Check out this short but important video from Rick Shiels – who explains what a good pre-shot routine is:
For most recreational golfers, these components are enough to develop an effective pre-shot routine that will help improve your consistency. When you watch a pro tournament, you will see players spending lots of time with their yardage books and having in-depth chats with their caddies.
For most of us, this isn’t an option, and it’s not necessary. You can use the on-course markers to work out your distances, and you need to rely on your own game management to think about your shots and your club selection.
As we explain below, you don’t want to spend too much time on your pre-shot routine, as doing so will slow down the pace of play.
How Long Should the Pre-Shot Routine in Golf Be?
Ideally, your pre-shot routine shouldn’t be any more than a minute or so. While there’s a lot to get through, if you spend several minutes preparing every shot that you make, you’re going to upset the guys you’re playing with, not to mention the course marshal!
You can do some of your visualizations when you’re walking towards your ball and begin thinking about your distance and club selection. You don’t need to wait until you’re alongside the ball to begin thinking about your next shot.
Maintaining a good pace of play is one of the most important aspects of recreational golf, so we can’t stress enough how important it is to optimize your pre-shot routine and keep your game moving.
Another thing you can do is to prepare for your shot while your playing partners are addressing their golf balls. You can take some practice swings and visualize your shot, which means you’re all set to address the ball and swing away when it’s your turn to play.
If you’re spending more than a minute or so every time you address the golf ball, consider picking the pace up a little.
How Important is the Pre-Shot Routine?
Your pre-shot routine is one of the most important aspects of the game of golf.
In the minute or so before you play your shot, you have to think about the following:
- How far away from your target are you?
- Which club should you select?
- What type of shot should you try and play?
- How is the ball lying, and how will it affect your setup?
- What will your next shot look like?
You have to make a lot of important decisions in a very short space of time, which is why it’s vital that you have a routine that covers all the basics. In one of the following sections, we introduce a pre-shot routine checklist that will help you prepare the shot of your choice.
No matter how you go about it, don’t underestimate the importance of the pre-shot routine in golf. It allows you to calculate your distance, select your club, and practice your execution. In other words, if you skip the pre-shot routine, you will struggle to execute the shot that you desire.
Pre-Shot Routine Psychology – How Does it Work?
The psychology of golf is difficult to master, but it’s the difference between winning or losing in so many instances! When it comes to your pre-shot routine psychology, visualization plays such a crucial part in your preparations.
Before you address the golf ball where it lies, spend a few seconds visualizing the shot that you’re going to play. Are you planning a fade or draw? Do you have a target in mind? How are you going to avoid the hazards on either side of the fairway?
The reason that visualization is so important is that every shot is different. You can’t just rock up to your ball and expect it to go where you want it to. Visualization is the first and most important part of your pre-shot routine psychology, but it’s not the only thing you need to do.
You also need to approach the shot with conviction. Whether teeing off on the first or sinking a putt on the eighteenth, you need to believe that your shot will play out as you visualize. If you don’t have the belief, it will be nigh on impossible to execute the shot you’re hoping for!
Frankly, we could write a book about pre-shot psychology, but visualization and conviction are two of the most important things to remember as you approach your golf shot.
What is a Good Golf Pre-Shot Routine Checklist?
While everyone has a slightly different pre-shot routine, a 7 point checklist will help you ensure you consider everything that’s important before you play your shot. A checklist is good because it allows you to focus on one task at a time, and when it comes to golf, there are many things that need your attention.
The following checklist will help you prepare for any type of golf shot:
- Check the lie and conditions
- Choose your club
- Identify a target and visualize your shot
- Take a couple of practice swings
- Address the ball
- Adjust your stance
- Play your shot
You really don’t need to overcomplicate your pre-shot routine, and the more factors that you try and include, the more it’s likely to cloud your judgment. Something that you will see pros doing a lot is checking their yardage books before selecting which club to play.
In lots of instances in recreational golf, you might have to rely on the markers on the course to calculate your distances, but you can typically do this before you arrive at the exact location of your ball.
If you’re playing your home course, you will have a pretty good idea of your distances and don’t need to spend too much time working them out.
Should You Take Practice Swings in Golf?
Yes, practice swings are an extremely important aspect of your pre-shot routine. This is because every shot you take out on the golf course is slightly different, meaning that you will need to adjust your stance and approach ever so slightly to compensate for the way the ball is lying in front of you.
Also, depending on how far away from the flag you are, you might need to adjust your swing, be it to 75% or 50%. If you were just to walk up to your ball and hit it with the first club that comes to hand, you’re basically just guessing whether the ball will fly where you want it to go!
Practice swings allow you to get a feel for the shot that you’re preparing to play, as well as the lie that the ball is sitting in. While one or two practice swings will be enough for most shots, if you’re in a particularly tight spot, you might need to run through your swing a few more times before you’re ready to execute.
One thing to remember when you’re taking practice swings in golf is not to slow your pace of play down too much. You shouldn’t spend any more than 30-60 seconds standing over your ball, which includes shot visualization and your practice swing. If you take any longer than that, you risk upsetting the players behind you.
As you can see, there’s nothing overly complicated about a pre-shot routine in golf. The key takeaway is that you need to spend a little bit of time visualizing and practicing your upcoming shot, as this will help you to strike the ball more consistently.
It’s bad etiquette to spend too much time on your pre-shot routine, and doing so is likely to upset your playing partners.
Therefore, try and do everything you can within a minute or so of initially addressing your ball, as this ensures you can maintain a good pace of play out on the golf course.