What you do and think about in the few hours before a round has a big influence on your performance. In this lesson, I’ve put together a list of 10 pre-round exercises I work on with my students.
I’m not suggesting you do every one of these, but give them a go and see which ones help trigger more confidence.
1. Have no expectations and set the goal of “process” not “outcome”
Do not “expect” to play well. Good golf is about embracing the possibilities and not expecting anything with regards to the final outcome. Expectations create pressure and that’s certainly something you could do without.
Chasing a score, typically has the opposite effect. Focusing on score means you are focusing on uncertainty, which will set you up for a rocky ride. You need to put your focus on those things you have 100% control over.
The only thing within your control is the process of hitting good golf shots.
Tour player’s talk about the importance of focus on “the process”, instead of getting caught up in all the distractions around them (their score, other players’ scores, what just happened or what might happen etc).
Make the shot routine (which includes the post-shot routine) your only goal for the round and make that your measure of success. This will ensure you are firmly in the present and the scores will follow. Having this mind-set from the beginning will take the pressure off and make good scores far more likely! Knowing what your shot routine should consist of is another lesson entirely!
2. Visualize success
When you’re driving to the golf course, play the round in your mind and imagine birdie-ing every hole. I don’t want you to start thinking about your score and setting that as a target for yourself, just imagine what it feels like to hit it down the middle of the fairway from each tee and hit your approach shots close and then hole the birdie putts. The idea here is that you are ingraining those positive images in your subconscious which will give you a better chance of making those images a reality when you’re on the course.
3. Make your warm-up repetitive
Watch any of the Tour pros and their pre-round routines are very repetitive. The idea here is that when you get to the first tee, you feel like you’ve done everything you can to prepare for a great round. If you know your total warm-up time is 45 mins, divide it up ahead of time, so you know exactly when you should be moving onto the next part. What this also does is make the time before any round feel the same, so if it’s a big tournament, it can feel just like a round with your buddies and lower your nerves. Some Tour players, like Jordan Spieth, hit the exact same number of balls with each club during every warm-up. Whatever you do, make it consistent.
4. Don’t judge your warm up
Another key thing to remember is that the way you hit the ball during your warm-up has no indication of how you’re going to play on the course! Get in to the habit of being non-judgmental towards all shots, which is what you’ll be doing on the course. Definitely don’t start giving yourself a lesson. Trust is one of the key thoughts of the day. Play a few holes in your mind, changing clubs from long to short. As soon as you hit one quality shot with one club, put it back in the bag and move onto the next one. This means your last shot with each club is a good one!
5. Eat and drink right
Start your pre-round preparation by fueling your body for a good performance. Be sure to drink plenty of water – it’s proven that being dehydrated lowers performance and if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Eat just enough to be neither hungry or full and keep it healthy (avoid starchy and sugary foods which will raise insulin and make you crash). Pack healthy snacks like fruit and nuts to maintain your energy levels (and stay focused) throughout your round.
6. Stretch and get your muscles loose
Always be sure to warm up your golf muscles and stretch properly. There are plenty of exercises choose from.
7. Start your “playing” warm-up with Putting
The slow movement of the ball is a good way to start synchronizing your body and mind for playing. One of main goals here is to get familiar with the speed of the greens. To get your feel warmed up, start by putting to the fringe from various distances and move on to putting to tees. This will narrow your focus and make the target of the hole seem bigger on the course. Finish by holing 10 1-2 ft putts (ones you can’t miss), to get the look and sound of the ball going in. It’s great for your confidence. Now when you’ve finished your putting warm-up you won’t have missed a single putt!
8. Play out of a variety of lies and distances when warming up your short game
To warm up your short game, try to play as many different shots as you can from a variety of different lies. This will not only get the creative juices flowing, but it will get you familiar with the type of grass you’re about to play. Get into the habit of visualizing and picking landing spots for each shot. Like your long game warm-up, be non-judgmental and as soon as you hit one good one, move on to the next location.
9. Practice your shot routine
Between every 2-3 shots during your warm-up, throw in a full shot routine that you’ll go through before and after every shot, just like you’re going to do on the course. Practice putting your focus in the right places. This is your blueprint for a good round and the only thing you can control on the course.
10. Have an attitude of gratitude and appreciation
Get into the Golf State of Mind. This involves being truly grateful that you have this opportunity to do one of the things that you love. Tell yourself you’re going to enjoy it whatever you score, as there’s no reason not to! This is your hobby, not your job (unless you’re a tour pro). If you don’t enjoy it, you should think about doing something else with your free time.
Make sure you have a yardage book, plenty of tees, a pitch mark repairer and a ball marker in your pocket. You could even splurge $10 on a new glove instead of playing with the crusty, wrinkled one you’ve played over 20 rounds with!
Photo by Claus Rebler