Golf in the zone with every shot

How often can you enter the zone in golf?

Getting to this optimal state can become a habit and I’ll show you how. To do this, we need to start with the pre-shot routine…

The pre-shot routine is what we need to continually repeat and practice to become better players. It enables us to go into a concentration zone on demand, during our rounds and practice. Watch any of the top players in the world and they have the same approach to EVERY shot, which optimizes their chances of playing it as they intend. The shot routine enables us to switch from being relaxed and enjoying where we are and what we doing, into a highly focused state which connects us with the shot required. With practice, one can golf in the zone automatically. There are many drills and processes we can go through to improve the way we play the inner game, but the shot routine provides us with the structure and the triggers to golf in the zone.


Most negative interferences in the execution of a shot happen before we start the back swing. The routine takes us away from any negative thoughts and reminds us to be in a positive state of mind. Our routine will lead to increased confidence for each shot, by knowing that we are subconsciously visualizing, setting up correctly and positively committing to the shot. The more we practice this routine, the more acute our powers of positive visualization will become and the closer we will get to executing the desired shot. But we need a post-shot routine also (and this is why I like to call it “The Shot Routine”). We need to get into the habit of being non-judgmental towards the outcome of the shot, whether good or bad, and thus move closer to removing the emotional ups and downs of golf which negatively affects our performance.

The Pre-shot Routine:

The aim of the pre-shot routine, is to get as prepared as you can be for executing the golf shot you intend to play. Reducing all possible variables before making the back swing will give us the confidence to perform better. There are many ways to play a golf shot, but the important thing is to visualize and commit to the one we have chosen. The more we can commit to a shot, whether it is the right one or not, will always result in a better execution. We can actually play the shot during our rehearsal, seeing the ball flying to its target and feeling the swing required to make that happen.

This process does not require any skill at all, it’s simply committing to the routine and committing to the shot. There is no excuse for not doing this as well as the top players in the world. It trains the mind to keep you in the present moment and thinking about nothing else but the how you want to play the shot at hand. The more precise you can be with your routine, the more focused on it you will become and the less distracted you will be, helping you to golf in the zone more consistently. If you include two practice swings and two glances at the target in your routine, then try to repeat this every time.

Here is my suggestion for a sound pre-shot routine for a long game shot:

1. Analyze and determine the correct shot to play. The most important thing here is to get a clear picture of the shot and determine the best club to execute it. See the shape of the shot in the air. You need to see it as vividly as possible. Pick a clearly visable spot on the horizon (or green) where you want the ball to start.

2. Now feel the shot with 2 practice swings. With each swing, see the ball flying to its target. This lets you feel what your body needs to do to execute your visualized shot. This exercise is also increasing your commitment to the shot, reducing doubt and negative images. We get to feel and look at what we want to happen. If you have no plan, it is easy to have doubt.

3. Now get aligned. Alignment is a fundamental of the game we must continually practice. Poor alignment will lead to poor shots no matter how positive your visualization. It can be helped greatly using the following technique. From directly behind the ball, close one eye and pick a spot (one that you can clearly see), 6 inches directly between the ball and your target-line (where you want the ball to start not finish).

4. You are now ready to execute the shot you have visualized and rehearsed. Start by setting the club down so the face is square to your spot. Now set your feet so you are square to the club-face and your spot. Your body will now be well aligned. Center yourself and feel balanced and connected to the ground. Feel athletic and ready for action.

5. Take two deep breaths and feel relaxed. You can now be very confident you are set up to the target correctly and you have committed to your shot. Take a glance at the target seeing your shot and then look at the ball. Do this twice. Try to have that picture of the target and the shot in your mind’s eye.

6. Now make your swing focusing on nothing else but making a good strike on the ball. Having the image of the shot and the feeling associated “pre-programed” will give you a much greater chance of hitting it.

So to summarize the pre-shot routine, the steps are:








Try it and let me know how it goes!


Photo by U.S. Army

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David MacKenzie

is a golf coach and golf publisher and lives in Washington DC. He is the founder of Golf State of Mind a teaching program designed to help golfers eliminate negative mental interference and play with confidence.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Eliminating Your Slice Through Mental Preparation

  2. David

    Hey Jesus, although a little too technical for me, I appreciate the contribution. I go for a purely visualization and feel approach to golf teaching and learning how to optimize the mind for improving performance.

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