This is far from a long post, but one that you should read, and then read again. Standing over a tough shot can be hard on a golfer. Whether it is because the situation or there are extra eyes on you, preparation is your first step on the road to success. Unfortunately, we see the same mistakes from golfers of all skill levels at every course we go to. Everyone’s pre-shot routine might be different, but there are a few key do’s and don’ts when it comes to how to get ready for your next shot.
A pre-shot routine is not about finding some revelation that magically transforms your swing from that of a 20-handicapper to that of a scratch golfer. Despite this fact, we see people trying to solve mysteries that hours on the range and thousands in lessons cannot fix. As such, we need to change the attitude we approach the pre-shot routine with.
An effective pre-shot routine is about being comfortable over the ball. As we’ve mentioned (and will continue to mention), pre-shot routines are not about your swing. Jim Flick once said that golf is 90% mental and the other 10%…is mental. Any golfer with a bit of skill knows when they’re feeling it, and when they’re not.
Half of the battle in golf is trying to latch onto your last good shot or round and replicate it the next time you step onto the tee. I hate to get all quote-y, but there’s another famous line I always think of when things aren’t going well. This time it’s Ben Crenshaw telling us he is “about 5 inches away from being an outstanding golfer, that’s the distance my left ear is from my right.” Ben won 19 times on the PGA Tour, I’ve won zero—this is about the only things our games have in common.
A good pre-shot routine puts you in a good headspace. A routine that is overly involved muddles your brain and puts too many thoughts in your head. For an average golfer, the only thought or idea you should have is one that involves the ball going forward.
Do the same thing enough times in a row and you’ll get good at it. Do the same pre-shot routine every time you approach a shot and you’ll get comfortable. There are plenty of studies unrelated to golf we could go into that back this up, but we’re far from qualified for that. What we know is golf. Watch any professional, the masters of the craft, they hardly ever variate from their norm. See, replicate, succeed.
Switching gears a bit, we’re going to talk about what goes into a terrible pre-shot routine. Practice swing are the number one spot inexperienced golfers go off the rails. One practice swing, maybe two is necessary to find the sweet spot where you want to go with your swing. Anything more than that is overkill.
A part of bad pre-shot routines that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough is exhaustion. If you take too many swings you run the risk of tiring yourself out. A golfer that shoots around 100 takes 60-70 shots (not including those on the green). Add three full effort practice swings at each shot and you’re swinging 250 times. A more conservative golfer will take half that number and have more energy to complete the last few holes. Conserve your energy, lower your score.
Pace of Play
Nobody likes to play a five-hour round of golf. Somehow, we all play our fair share and if you ask anyone on the course that day whose fault it is, they’ll never answer themselves. What most people don’t realize is that a time efficient pre-shot routine could shave an hour off of their round, without scores dropping at all. If everyone in your group drops the length of their pre-shout routine from 40 to 30 seconds, the savings won’t immediately be noticeable but creates a lasting effect on pace of play. For some, this means they get to go home earlier, for others it’s more time at the bar. Either way, everyone wins.
Let’s talk divots. You should never take a divot with a practice swing. Let me say it a little louder for the people in the back. Under no circumstance should you ever need to take a divot while taking a practice swing.
In the situation where you accidently take a divot on a practice swing, it becomes inexcusable to not replace that divot. It’s unrealistic to think that you’ll never take a divot when getting ready for a shot. But, the way you redeem yourself is by replacing the divot.
This is something we shouldn’t have to say, but by the looks of every course in the world we need to. Replace your divots—every single time. With a big divot, you can find the whole thing. Pick it up, bring it back to where you hit from. Place it in the hole you created, step on it and move along.
If you have a divot that “explodes” find as many pieces as you can and fill it to the best of your ability. You won’t ever be perfect on the golf course, but little things go a long way when it comes to turf management.
It never hurts to replace a few extra too. If you’re walking and see the turf from a divot in the fairway pick it up and carry it until you find another divot you can repair. If you’re in a cart, use as much fill as you have by replacing your divot and a couple around it. Pay it forward, gain some karma, and you’ll have fewer great drives come to rest in holes scattered throughout the fairway.
Back to How to Get Ready for Your Next Shot
Keep it short, keep it simple. A good pre-shot routine puts you in a place to succeed, saves time and protects the course. Don’t try to solve all your problems on the course. Use the range and practice green for that. When you’re on the course, enjoy your time. Above all, make sure to hit a good shot on the closing hole so that you’ll remember why you’re there in the first place (and will always come back).