Of course golfers are athletes. Where does any professional athlete end up when they are done playing? On a golf course. Golfers are among the most well paid athletes in the world. To be honest, your opinion doesn’t really matter on that tidbit. I just wanted to cut off all the people who say golfers aren’t athletes early, because they’re wrong. It's okay to be wrong, but if you disagree with my above statement you are wrong and a fool. That being said, all top level athletes have a routine they go through before a big game. That routine could start the night before or even 10 minutes before, but before they do whatever it is they do, they go through their routine. Why? Because it gets their heads, and bodies in the right place to perform at the highest level they can. Why does any of this matter? Because so many golfers either don’t have a pre shot routine or they do it wrong, and it really affects their games, ESPECIALLY in clutch situations.
What is a Pre-shot Routine?
Have you ever watched a pro go through this motion where they check the lie, the wind, the distance, pick a club, swing it a couple of times, nod and step up to the ball, waggle their club, stay still for a second and then take a swing? That is a pre-shot routine. They go through the same routine every single time, so they can get into the same headspace every single time. A pre shot routine can be anything that helps you get in the right headspace to hit a great shot.
What is a trigger?
A trigger in golf is the move you make to start your swing. The trigger in my opinion is really important because it is what separates pre shot routine and set up and then the actual swing. The easiest trigger to see on tour as an example is Matt Wolff with his knee kicking in and forward press to start his swing. It's really important to set a boundary between the swing and the set up. During the set up, the pre shot, and really any time before you take that swing you can think about any measure of thing. You can think about the risk of the shot, you can think about whether you should hit the shot or not, you can think about your set up. However, right before you hit the shot you pull the trigger and you switch to only one swing thought/feeling. If you watch closely every player on tour has a small trigger, it's just really easy to see with Matt Wolff.
What is my pre-shot routine?
I love my pre-shot routine, it isn’t too complex, it isn’t grandiose, it doesn’t take long. I start by checking my lie, the wind, what is in front of me, usually a tree of some kind, and my distance. I then decide on a shot shape, high, low, normal height, and draw or fade, and how much. Then I choose my club based on all of those factors. If I have to hit a low fade I may club up to be able to swing easier and influence a lower ball flight. Once I have the club in my hand I go ahead and take a loosen up swing, that means nothing, then I set up behind my ball staring down my aiming line. This is usually not straight at the pin as I typically work the ball so my aim line is where my ball is going to start. I usually tilt my head slightly then I imagine the ball flight. I imagine the ball flight down to the last rotation of the ball on the green. I imagine hitting the perfect shot, this does not always mean the ball goes in when I picture it in my head. If I’m playing it safe I often don’t aim to have the ball end up even next to the hole but try to set myself up for a makeable putt. Once I have envisioned my shot’s ball flight I start taking practice swings. This is when I focus on getting the correct feel to make my shot work. I focus on a good feel for that shot, once I have it then I step up to the golf ball. I step into the ball with my trail foot. I use it to mark my ball position. I use this to aim where my club face is pointed, this is my target line. I then put my front foot into place compared to my back foot which gives me a way to measure where my ball position is each time. I then set my back foot and check my alignment by looking up at the target area again. I waggle the club, make sure I feel comfortable over the ball, if I don’t I restart. Once I am comfortable and ready I activate my trigger and take my shot.
What should your pre shot routine look like?
The simple answer, whatever you want. The only goal is that you do it every single time. Its really important, you should even do it while you are warming up, practicing, always because it gets you into the right set of mind during practice and then during the actual game, then when it actually matters. Please just make sure you do your pre shot every single time, and once you hit your trigger, you only think about your one swing thought or the feeling that you were going for in your practice swings.
Should You incorporate a pre-shot routine?
YES! I think after reading what I wrote above it should be pretty obvious that you should absolutely have a pre shot routine, but you want more evidence? Easy. If you are like me and my dad, you watch a tournament on TV and you sit there and they are standing over a big putt to win, hitting a really difficult shot coming into the last couple holes, and you think about how the pressure must be unreal. My dad and I always talk about and wonder, how the heck do you even pull the club back in this situation? I’d be terrified. Well the answer is they go through their pre shot routine and it sets them into a different mindset about what the shot is. It becomes the same thing they’ve done a thousand times. The pros on TV use their pre shot routine as a way to calm themselves down and make the situation a little smaller. It takes their head out of the situation and into the moment.