One of the single most important aspects of being able to play good golf is that you have a developed pre-shot routine that’s consistent. Whether you are hitting a driver, iron, or even putting, you need to develop a consistent pre-shot routine so you can put your swing/putts on automatic pilot.
Golf is a game where your ultimate enemy is distraction or “bad” thoughts while making a stroke, by having a solid pre-shot routine, you will eliminate most of those distractions while making each shot almost second-nature or automatic.
If you look at the top golfers in this world, virtually every one of them have developed a pre-shot routine that’s consistent down to the amount of time. For example, you might notice that Tiger Woods takes 40 seconds to hit a golf tee shot from teeing up the ball to actually hitting the shot, it will never vary by more than couple seconds in the same round.
I’ve seen great players over in Asia while I played there for couple months long time ago, they didn’t have any pre-shot routine. When I showed them, they thought I had a “personality” like all the American players. LMAO, I think they were focusing too much on golf technique, not on the mental side of it.
Anyways, those players I met probably will never reach their full potential because they have never developed a “sound” pre-shot routine.
Before I tell you how to develop a good pre-shot routine, let’s take a quick look at Tiger’s.
For about the last couple years, Tiger’s pre-shot routine hasn’t changed except his number of waggles have been reduced to mostly one. (But waggles, you can keep doing until you feel comfortable with the shot, the point of waggles. And yes, Sergio Garcia does way too many.)
(Left: Tiger Woods on Tee at 2007 Masters, Right: Tiger Woods on Tee at 2009 Masters)
1) First, Tiger tees up.
2) Then he backs away about 5 feet behind the ball then does “exactly” TWO practice swings. This number can vary on the individual but I think 1 to 2 practice swings is the best. I do just 1 practice swing usually unless it’s a special shot.
3) Then he gets right behind the ball lining himself (his eyes) on the imaginary line created by the target and the ball. He then picks out a spot about 2-3 feet in front of the ball where he can align his golf club to it. This is something virtually every pro does, lining up from the behind. Jack Nicklaus is probably the most famous for starting to do this but this is the best way to align your tee shots and longer shots, your eyes simply work best from behind the ball.
4) Tiger then steps up to the ball, gets comfortable, takes a look at the target, then does 1-3 waggles. In 2007, he did 3 waggles. In 2009 now, I believe he’s only doing 1 waggle. Also don’t forget that when Tiger lines up to the ball, he sets his clubhead first then sets his stance. This might be hard to notice as he does it very subtle but that’s what he’s doing.
5) After 2 waggles, he turns on the automatic pilot and BAM, on goes his muscle memory executing his swing that he has been practicing for countless hours.
You can also see the video here:
As you can see in Tiger’s pre-shot routine, it’s very important that you develop on consistent and sound pre-shot routine.
A pre-shot routine doesn’t have to be like Tiger’s at all but you must include couple key points:
- Have a “key” point that strikes your brain as “starting” your pre-shot routine. This could be as simple as teeing up your ball or even touch your cap slightly. This mental key will go a long ways to making your pre-shot routine virtually “automatic” every time you do it.
- Practice swings – It’s a good idea to take 1 or 2 practice swings, they don’t have to be full swings (why waste your energy?) but small miniture swings of the real swing that can make you comfortable and confident. Of course, some pros don’t even to a single practice swing. This is fine too if it works for you.
- Alignment – Aligning your golf ball to the target is very important. The best way for long shots is to do it from the behind and pick out a spot (such as a leaf) 2-3 feet in front of your ball. But if you have keen eyes and you can do it while standing next to the ball, by all means go ahead.
- Setting up to the ball – I usually begin with my feet close together, then align my golf clubhead to my spot, then open my stance parallel to my target line. Of course, this can vary depending on how you like it but make sure you do the same thing every time.
- Waggle – The waggle is perhaps another important key aspect of your swing, think of it as your “feel” for the shot. Of course, you don’t need to waggle if you don’t want to but try to develop something similar to that such as moving your lower body subtly from left to right or anything that can take some tension off your hands and body. Think of waggle as your last “pre-swing” before the real thing.
- Hitting to ball – What Jack Nicklaus used to do is actually “hover” his golf clubhead slightly above ground so the weight is never set down fully to the ground. (or take some weight off without the clubhead actually being airborne) This is actually what a lot of pros do now too. I think it’s a good idea because you never start from a completely static position. Jack Nicklaus did this on all his shots including his putts. I believe Tiger does this too. By the way, for Drivers and woods, this hovering actually might be airborne right next to the ball.
In all, I am sure you can develop a sound pre-shot routine by following my guidelines stated here. Try to practice your pre-shot routine on the driving range, not on every ball but mix it up like every 10 balls. Even better, play an imaginary golf course on the driving range and go through your pre-shot routine on every shot while playing that golf course.
Well, gotta go now, I need to get some practice myself.
Remember, a sound and consistent pre-shot routine is essential winning a skins game or even the U.S. Open.