“The foundation of consistency is a sound pre-shot routine.” – Bob Rotella
With golf courses having been reopened for nearly a month now, many of us can feel the rust falling away from our golf game. We’ve seen the good, the bad, and the slice, over the past few weeks but boy does it feel good to be able to play golf in the summer sun.
As time goes on the golfer that was present before lockdown is re-emerging, which isn’t necessarily a good thing; but we’re just happy to be back playing the game we love. Since restarting play we’ve been subject to some excellent shots, some that leave a little to be desired, and if you’re anything like me, some truly horrifying shots!
But with the return of the PGA tour and world-class golf we are seeing consistency on an unrivalled level once again, leaving us in awe of their games, and striving to improve ourselves. But what techniques do the elite golfers use throughout their round to maintain high performance? Can we implement them within our own games?
Many elite athletes utilise pre-shot routines to prepare themselves both mentally and physically for the shot they are about to hit. These routines typically follow the same basic principles but the specifics are malleable for each athlete, and offer a chance for a level of consistency throughout your game, regardless of the shot you are faced with.
These are the key steps of an effective pre-shot routine using the specific example of a tee shot on any hole.
- This is where you mentally prepare for the shot being faced, maintaining self-confidence, emotional control and realistic expectations. For example, you’re confident you’ll hit the green on this par three, or the fairway on a longer hole.
- Picture yourself performing the shot to the best of your ability, culminating in a successful outcome. For example, hitting a drive straight down the middle of the fairway.
Focus on the surroundings
- Take a moment to focus on the factors in the environment which could influence your shot, such as the wind or your lie. Similarly, take time to focus on your target, for example, the middle of the green, or the pin.
During the swing
- Whilst swinging the club, avoid excessive thoughts. Try your best to perform the shot with as little thought as possible. The few thoughts that are going through your mind should be related to the task and helpful.
Evaluating the swing and thoughts
- After hitting the shot, take some time to assess the quality of swing execution and pre-shot routine. Taking these evaluations with you into the following shots.
As aforementioned these steps are structured in their order, but fulfilling these steps is a personal experience. Implementing this will take more than a couple of holes. I recommend playing rounds alone whilst you tailor your focus and add these steps to your own game. This can help optimise your focus, with as few distractions as possible.
In order to see the maximal benefits of a pre-shot routine you have to spend the time working on the steps, and tailoring them to your personal needs. By having a repeatable, structured routine you can offer some consistency to a sport which offers a diverse experience with every round.
By controlling the controllables you can offer yourself a more consistent, and (hopefully) enjoyable experience with lower scores as you begin to keep as much of the game under your control as possible. What more could you want as you shake off that lockdown rust?
To find out more
For more psychology resources visit psych-chek and to learn more about pre-shot routines take a look at these research papers which highlight the implications for coaches and how pre-shot routines have been utilised by golfers in their own games.