Pre-Shot Routine 101

Pre-Shot Routine 101

By Special Guest Contributor: Ryan Johnson, Professional Golfer

The pre-shot routine is one of the single most important aspects of golf. It can completely determine the result of a shot before it even happens. Many factors go into a pre-shot routine, and I will discuss them all today. No matter where you look, every successful person has a pre-shot routine of some sort: business individuals, doctors, lawyers, and athletes of all kinds. Routines are what promote consistency, and consistency is key.

Within preparing for a golf shot, there are so many factors. Not only that, but certain types of shots can call for different routines or factors to be taken into account. For example, let’s start off the tee. You start by playing the hole backward. Certain holes may require checking the pin location before just blasting the driver. Now with that said, there are holes where you do not want to overthink, and it is completely okay just to blast the driver. Deciding what shots to hit and when is all done within a practice round. Preparation in advance is vital. Having a lot of the work and decision-making done in advance takes the pressure and stress off of trying to figure all of that out on the tee.


So, for example...

If I am playing a short hole and know that my tee shot will end up somewhat close to the green, it is very important to check the pin location. If it is a front pin, I might not want to hit the driver because it is going to put me too close to the green and will make for a very difficult pitch shot. You always have to ask, “Where do I want to hit the next shot from”? If I lay back and hit a three wood or two iron, then I might have some more green to work with for the second shot. That is just one example of how important the pre-shot factors are when going through your routine.

Now let us talk about the actual routine itself. First, I’ll take into account the majority of the factors, such as: 

  • The wind (cooler wind makes the ball fly shorter)
  • Air Density
  • Lie
  • Spin
  • How you’re hitting it that day
  • Targets
  • Shot Shape Options
  • The leave
  • The situation (could be more aggressive if need be)
  • The miss (if it is a challenging shot, but do not focus on it if it is an easy number because it will be information overload)

Phil Mickelson once said in an interview with David Feherty, "Let’s say you have 120 yards, well you might have that in the afternoon, but if it’s in the morning, the ball is going to go 5-10 yards shorter. If I’m hitting off zoysia grass, it is like the ball is sitting upon a tee. Thus changing the center of gravity and changing the launch of the ball. All of this is taken into account when I look at the ball.” That is how it works. After you’ve factored all that in, you’re ready to start the actual routine itself. 

I can only speak for my own routine, but I am going to take you through it. I just played the Byron Nelson Monday qualifier, and I will use my first tee shot as an example. It was a short par 4, dead into a 20 mph wind, first tee jitters, hazard right, etc. So the routine is this. Factor everything in, select the Driver, and pick a target. Now I move to phase 2. From here, I stand behind the ball and envision the shot landing on that small target. From there, I have quotes that I say to myself to get me in the zone. Mine being “second sucks” to eliminate fear. From there, move into phase 3, walking into the shot. Get over the ball, one waggle, one re-grip, one look at my intermediate target, and one look at the actual target. Then I say to myself my swing thought, mainly revolving around tempo, which is why CTRL is such a help to me. From there, it’s full commitment to my swing thought and full send.

Hopefully, this short recap is a quick way to help you not only understand the importance of the pre-shot routine but also help you create one for yourself. Golf is all about being intentional, not intense. Work smart than work hard. The pre-shot routine is the epitome of smart golf and correct thinking.


-Ryan Johnson, Professional Golfer

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