Golf Pre-Shot Routines to Set You Up for Success

By Savannah Richardson

golfer prepares to hit a shot

A pre-shot routine may seem silly if you’re an avid weekend golfer or just starting out, but once you find the one that suits you, it’ll only benefit your game.

A pre-shot routine is a way to get yourself settled into the shot, so you can take a carefree stroke at the ball. To define a pre-shot routine, it’s the sequence of thoughts, checkpoints, and movements a golfer takes to prepare themselves for their shot. 

Why A Pre-Shot Routine?

There are reasons why every winner on the PGA Tour sounds like they’re scripted to say similar things “I followed the process and stuck to the game plan,” they often say. In other words, they found a way to stay focused and eliminate the outside noise. A pre-shot routine helps golfers do just that.

One of the most important things to remember when finding your pre-shot routine is identifying one that works specifically for you. Slower golfers should try to find a routine that’ll help speed up their play while faster players should find one to slow them down a touch.

Your pre-shot routine can begin as early as the moment you select your club and check the wind.

Keep it simple so when you are on the course, it comes naturally. The purpose of your routine is to help zone out distractions and focus on the task at hand, not create slower players. 

Here are some things to consider including in your pre-shot routine that could improve your game. Try taking two or three of them to create your own personalized routine.

Trigger

One of the first things golfers should do when initiating their pre-shot routine is to have a trigger that signals you to start getting focused. Whether it's 20-feet from the tee-box or the moment you park your cart at the tee box, just pick a time to start getting into the zone, slow your breathing down and focus on the task at hand. 

Set Up 

This is the beginning of your pre-shot routine where you determine the distance, what club to use, wind speed and direction. It’s also the step where choosing the right club is important, you don’t want to take multiple trips back and forth to the cart. 

On the tee, some things you should think about at this moment is how you’ll play the hole, any penalty areas or other trouble to look out for, and what strategy gives you the best chance at the lowest score. 

The details of your thoughts will be different from the fairway, but your process should remain the same. Think about the distance to the flag, front and back of the green, and your target. Having the right club selection for the wind and type of shot is crucial. 

Visualize/Align

After you select your club, select your target and decide what kind of shot it’ll take to hit that target. Then, make sure you’re in correct posture, and align yourself to hit the proper shot.

Many people attempt to hit certain targets, but miss them altogether because they’re not aligned correctly. Make sure the club face is pointed toward your target.

On the tee, the visualization should come with avoiding those fairway bunkers you thought about in the set up and in the fairway, making sure you know what bunkers surround the green, where the safe miss is, and  select a smaller target. 

While this step sounds like a lot, it’s what Tiger and many professional golfers do to ensure they execute each shot. The more detail you can visualize, the better.

Practice Swings

Once you decide on your shot and target, it’s time to take a couple practice swings, if you choose. Sometimes players will take two to three practice swings, mimicking the kind of shot they want to hit. Don’t take more than that or it’ll start eating into the proper pace of play. This process should be quick and repeatable. 

Waggle

Another element some golfers include in their pre-shot routine is a couple of waggles to relax before finally taking that swing. Ben Hogan was a big believer in the waggle. Remember, keep it to a minimum so you’re not wasting too much time. 

Zen Mode

Getting into a Zen mode or simply put, getting in the zone means eliminating every single outside noise, distraction and thought. It’s all about focusing on the task at hand to make the best shot possible. Take a deep breath and avoid conversation.

If something happens during the pre-shot routine that gets you out of the zone you need to be in, don’t be afraid to come off the ball and restart.

You want to keep a good pace of play, but when there is a considerable distraction, don’t hesitate to come off the ball.

Short Game Routine 

The pre-shot routine isn’t just for those tee and fairway shots. It’s also good to have a short game routine as well. Like pros do for every other shot, when you watch them on the green, they all have their own tendencies to stay in a rhythm.

This routine can be identical to your full shot routine. Evaluate the shot at hand, and what elements will impact it. Grain, slope and elevation changes will factor into your target selection.

Now that you have a target, it’s time to zone in again on the club in your hands and how it feels. Then, get over the ball with confidence in your line, distance control, and speed.

Consistency is key

Incorporating two or three of these elements into your pre-shot routine will help you play your best golf. Consistency is key when it comes to pre-shot routines, and if you can keep it simple and do on every shot, you can become the golfer you want to be.

Image: John Fedele via Getty Images

About The Author

Savannah Richardson is a staff writer for GolfLink. She’s a daily golfer and has worked for two years covering amateur and professional golf events with Amateurgolf.com and The Brunswick News. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia.

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