Updated January 12, 2021
If You Don’t Have a Good Pre-Shot Routine, You’re Not Playing Your Best Golf!
Learning a strong mental pre-shot routine is the single most important thing you can do to improve your mental game, and your golf.
But not just any mental routine.
Your golf mental routine must:
- Compliment your learning style
- Ease you into narrowing your focus
- Free you to hit athletic, artistic, creative, right brain shots or putts
- And tap into your powers of self-fulfilling prophesy!
Sound complicated? It’s not. In fact, an effective mental pre-shot routine…
- Simplifies your thoughts
- Makes the game easier
- Allows you to think the same for every shot and putt, whether it is to win the Masters or a friendly round with your friends.
In our decades of work with the pros we have found that every great player has one, whether they call it a mental pre-shot routine or not.
A Good Mental Pre-Shot Routine is the Foundation of Your Mental Toughness
We regard the mental pre-shot routine as one of the essentials of a strong mental game. It lends to a very challenging sport….
- Saves Energy
We have long used the mental pre-shot routine as an excellent and effective standard for measuring and monitoring skill development in all other parts of your game.
It is not a coincidence that every single time one of our clients gets their first tour win, or claims their first major event, they are certain that their mental routine helped them do it.
Three Steps to the Best Mental Golf Pre-Shot Routine
Following is the routine we have taught to hundreds of pros and countless amateurs. These three steps form a proven mental pre-shot routine that will improve your play.
Tip: To make this fun and easy, start by assuming that you are of two brains. Let’s call the left brain the “thinker/analyzer” and the right brain the “athletic/creator”.
1.Turn on the Thinker!
We assign this first step to your Thinker/Analyzer brain.
Pre-Shot Routine for Shots
As you approach your ball, begin narrowing your focus by turning your thoughts to the analysis of your next shot.
This involves quickly sorting through the analytical details such as, wind, lie, target, yardage, type of shot, and club. Make your decision with as little vacillation as possible.
It is essential that you commit fully to your club, target and shape of shot before going to the next step.
Pre-Shot Routine for Putts
Consider the break, grain, and speed.
It is essential that you then commit to your read and speed.
When you pull your club, the analysis must end so that step two can effectively begin.
2. Free up the Athlete with Creative Visualization!
Especially if you are a visual learner–if you are not sure take our quick learning styles quiz. You will need to take a deep breath, relax and visualize the shot or putt that you want to hit.
Narrow your focus a bit more by standing behind your ball and clearly seeing your target. Now, visualize as clearly as possible, the flight of your ball to your target and the subsequent bounce or roll.
See the line to the cup (or to your spot) and visualize the ball rolling on your line at your chosen speed, at least the last couple of feet before rolling over your spot or into the hole.
During this right brain, creative step there is to be no more left brain analysis…no second guessing your swing, club, target, line, break or stroke. If necessary, repeat step one to again fully commit, then start step two again.
If you cannot visualize you are probably too tense. Focus on taking a deep relaxing breath then try again.
3. Feel Your Shot or Putt!
Finish narrowing your focus using the creative right brain once again. Consciously try to feel the exact swing or stroke that you have committed to use.
Make this an especially strong part of your mental pre-shot routine if you are a kinesthetic learner.
Some players achieve the swing feel solely by imagining it; some with waggles and imagery; some with partial swings and imagery; and most with smooth, full practice swings.
No matter which technique you use to feel your swing, it is important to use a single, reliable and simple swing thought as a cue to initiate the feel of your swing.
It is equally important to feel the putting stroke either with imagery or with the practice stroke before execution.
Players who are finding it difficult to feel their stroke can often accomplish this step by taking a practice stroke either looking at the hole, or with their eyes closed.
Use the same routine for every putt, regardless of distance. Once again, if you cannot feel your stroke, you are probably too tense.
Always separate step one, committing to your club, your swing, and your target before starting steps two and three.
You can interchange steps two and three to best fit your learning style and your current physical routine.
Either way, when you pull your club, the analysis must end so the creativity can begin.
Use Your Routine When You Need It The Most!
Take time to get comfortable with your mental pre-shot routine in practice before taking it into competition. This will make it easier to use when you need it the most.
There are two particular times when you will find it the hardest to stay with your routine. Ironically, these are the times when it is essential:
- When you are playing poorly and feel inclined to let your thoughts go to mechanics, techniques and general concern about your poor play.
- When you are playing extremely well, and feel inclined to let your thoughts escape to the excitement or pressure that can come with playing in contention, or otherwise playing out of your comfort zone.
No matter what the situation, always make your mental pre-shot routine your priority and you will be on your way to getting the most from your game!
Tip: For more help learning a strong mental pre-shot routine our Mental Pre-Shot Routine Video is an excellent demonstration by a Champions Tour Winner, Steve Veriato. This is shown at the top of the article and is part of the Online Coaching System. Also read our mental game golf swing tips article.