How you look, your score, your swing, everything has to be shut out for at least that 30 seconds from when it’s your turn to play, to when you put your club back in the bag. The Shot Routine takes you through these 30 seconds and give you the best chance of hitting the shot as best you can.
Every player will have their own variation on the steps they go through before a shot, but what you’ll notice is that it’s the same every time, even down to the number of seconds it takes. Annika Sorrenstam says that her pre-shot routine is 22-24 seconds EVERY time.
My best advice for this season is to work on honing a routine every time you practice and play.
It serves a couple of purposes. It takes you into the concentration zone, and gives you confidence through preparation. If you’re standing over the ball about to swing knowing you’ve done all you can do to execute that shot as best you can, you’ll swing a lot more confidently and aggressively at your target.
Secondly that time before the shot is NOT the time to have any doubts or negativity – so following the steps of you routine meticulously squeezes out any time for those counter-productive thoughts and keeps you firmly in the present moment.
As I said, there are several variations but my suggestion for a good shot routine is the following. At first ask yourself these questions and soon the answers will be subconscious:
Ben Hogan said that he only hit about 3-4 shots per round that came off exactly how he visualized them. The rest were good misses. Golf is a game of percentages and misses, and we have to factor that in to every shot. Those who miss best win most. You’ve probably also heard of Dr. Bob Rotella’s book titled “Golf is not a game of perfect”. Point being, we all miss our desired target (most of the time), it really comes down to how good our misses are.
Q: Where is the most ideal spot for this ball to land? If I miss this target by 10 yards where is the best spot for that to happen?
A: Determine these spots and make your new target halfway between them.
If we take an example of water being short-right of the green, then clearly is it better to pick a landing spot on the back/left quadrant on the green, giving us the largest margin for error. This sounds obvious but it’s amazing how many good players don’t think about (inevitable) misses and just aim at the pin or center of the fairway. This is an integral part of the thought process of the top players (called a “conservative-aggressive strategy). They are not thinking or swinging any less aggressively, but by allowing for a miss (which even for the tour pros happens 1 in every 3 shots if you look at the Greens In Reg stats), they avoid bigger numbers and save valuable strokes per round.
Once you have decided on your target, find a spot on the horizon in line with it (e.g. tree branch, spot where a tree meets the sky etc). Be very decisive and have it clear in your mind.
2. Visualize that shot (shot shape) and see the ball going to that precise target
Q: How is this shot going to look?
A: Learning how to visualize is something we can all do. Once you can see the whole shot in your head, the closer you will get to hitting it. See the shape, trajectory and even how it will behave on landing. Try it! Also, the more you can focus on that positive outcome, the less you will be thinking about a negative one. Golf is a very target oriented game, and learning to focus on this instead of your swing will really help you improve.
3. Feel that shot with a specific number of practice swings
Q: What does the swing feel like that will produce that particular shot?
A: Let’s find out with our practice swings!
These practice swings are not to simply loosen up or practice a swing drill, it’s about rehearsing the shot in your mind. This increases our commitment to it and will also take our mind from anything technical. Actually imagine the ball coming off the club face and flying to the target. This is especially important with the shorter shots where feel and speed are required. Try to make the number of practice swings the same every time.
4. Align – make sure you align correctly to your starting target
Alignment is a cause of poor shots and swing problems even for the best players in the world. It is key that we get something in our routine and make this meticulous. Several things may work for you but my preference (and for most of the top players) is for a spot 6 inches in front of the ball and then aligning the club-face to that.
5. Breathe – a deep breath can get rid of any tension/nerves and improve focus
This is the time for the sub-conscious mind to take over. The logical/analytical mind has done its job. We are as prepared as we can be.
Take a deep (full) breath in through your nostrils and slowly exhale through your mouth. When you have fully exhaled, then (and only then) approach the ball. This will ease the tension in your body and allow you to feel your center (abdomen) and improve your balance.
If any negative thoughts creep in at any time, START YOUR ROUTINE OVER.
You are now centered over the ball and can be completely confident that you have done all you can to ensure a good execution.
6. Have a “go” trigger – this could be a waggle, glances at the target, a verbal cue like saying “commit” in your head, whatever it is you need to do to say “I’m ready for action!”
This is not the time to hesitate or create time for our positive work to be undone, so I like to make this part fairly quick. You can try something like “Align, Look, Go”! This can also be thought of as “ready, set, go!” or “aim and fire”. You are ready to swing aggressively.
7. Control your reaction with a post-shot routine
Bob Rotella said “It’s not what happens to golfers, but how they choose to respond to what happens, that distinguishes champions.” How we choose to react (and you do have a choice) plays a big part in how we perform.
Choose to react indifferently to bad shots and always try to take a positive.
This might sound like a lot to remember at first, but with practice The Shot Routine will become second nature. Perfecting it and choosing process over results will do so much more for your game than thinking about how well you are playing.
Throughout the course of 8 lessons, and exclusive only to GSOM members, you’ll be able to get 25% off the Mental Game Practice Drills eBook. This gives you everything you need to build the foundation for a strong mental game and those that have taken the course have knock an average of 5-7 shots off their handicap over a period of 6 months. Simply use the couple PRESHOT13 to get your 25% discount.