While professional golfers play mostly with their own kind, they get regular glimpses of the amateur game during weekly pro-am events. Ask any Tour player what weakness they see most often among average golfers and the majority will offer the same reply: lack of a consistent pre-shot routine.
It’s an easily overlooked aspect, for sure. Most of us are so obsessed with swing mechanics, we neglect this crucial fundamental.
The pros know better. Watch any PGA, Champions or LPGA event and you’ll notice that every single player repeats a step-by-step process before each shot or putt. The pros develop and hone their routines -- and never deviate from them.
Why It’s Important
Unlike a sound takeaway, swing plane or shoulder turn, it’s tough to quantify the benefits of a good pre-shot routine. But this much is certain: Without one, you’ll never achieve true consistency.
The pre-shot routine lays the groundwork for a well-executed shot: body and clubface alignment, grip, stance, ball position, posture and tempo. Ingrain a consistent routine and you’ll nail these pieces every time.
Perhaps most importantly, the pre-shot routine keeps you focused on the task at hand – the shot you’re facing – and prevents the mind from wandering toward unproductive thoughts. If you’re busy lining up to the target and assuming your address position, you won’t be thinking about the short putt you missed on the last hole or the career round you can shoot with a few more pars.
Who You Should Watch
Like the golf swing, no two players’ pre-shot routines are exactly alike. Generally speaking, though, the simpler the better.
On that count, nobody tops Steve Stricker. He always follows these basic steps:
- From behind the ball, Stricker chooses the target at which to aim.
- He picks a spot directly in line with the target and just in front of his ball, like a divot or broken tee.
- Stricker steps to the ball, grips the club and aligns the clubface with his alignment spot.
- He builds his stance, aligning feet, hips and shoulders with the clubface.
- Stricker looks at the target, then back at the ball, and repeats this a second time, waggling the club throughout.
- He swings away.
Stricker’ routine is as concise as it is precise, taking about 12 seconds from start to swing. In fact, he strives to maintain the same rhythm for each shot, so his routine rarely deviates by more than a second or two.
Most pros use Stricker’ alignment technique (aiming at an intermediate object), popularized by Jack Nicklaus decades ago. One pro who adds a helpful step is Camilo Villegas; standing behind the ball, he holds the club vertically, aligning ball and target, to make sure he’s got the line just right.
Apply It to Your Game
As described above, Stricker’ sequence is hard to beat. Using the same steps and timing for every shot is the most critical factor.
Develop your pre-shot routine on the driving range (and putting green). After you’ve established a consistent method, follow it for every ball you hit during every practice. You may hit fewer balls this way, but your sessions will become more productive – and your practice swing will transfer to the course better than ever.