Pre Putt Routine

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.


Before the drive 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.

A pre-shot routine is a fundamental part of a golfer's preparation before each shot. It helps establish a consistent and focused approach, leading to better execution and performance. Here is a basic outline of a golf swing pre-shot routine:

  1. Assess the Shot: Begin by assessing the shot you are about to play. Consider factors such as distance, wind conditions, hazards, and any other relevant information. Visualize the shot in your mind, picturing the desired outcome.
  2. Select the Club: Based on the assessment, select the appropriate club for the shot. Take into account the distance, the lie of the ball, and any other factors that may influence your club choice.
  3. Align Your Body and Target: Position yourself behind the ball, facing the target. Align your body parallel to the target line, ensuring your feet, hips, and shoulders are all aligned correctly. Take note of any specific target or reference points that can help with alignment.
  4. Address the Ball: Approach the ball and take your stance. Position your feet shoulder-width apart, with the ball positioned appropriately in your stance according to the club you've chosen. Ensure your weight is evenly distributed between your feet.
  5. Grip the Club: Take hold of the club with your hands, forming a grip that feels comfortable and secure. There are different grip styles, such as overlapping, interlocking, or the 10-finger grip. Choose the grip that works best for you.
  6. Waggle or Rehearsal Swing: Perform a small waggle or a rehearsal swing to help relax your muscles and establish a smooth tempo and rhythm. This can also help visualize the swing you want to make.
  7. Final Check: Take a moment to mentally review the shot in your mind, reaffirming your target, club selection, and swing thoughts. Make any necessary adjustments to your setup or alignment if needed.
  8. Takeaway and Swing: When you feel ready, initiate the swing by starting with a controlled takeaway. Maintain your focus on the target and execute your swing with proper technique, fluid motion, and balance.

Remember, the pre-shot routine is a personal process, and you can tailor it to your preferences and what helps you feel comfortable and confident. Consistency and focus are key elements, so practice and refine your routine to develop a reliable approach to every shot.

Q: What is a golf swing pre-shot routine? A: A golf swing pre-shot routine is a series of actions and mental preparations that a golfer goes through before executing a shot. It helps golfers focus, establish consistency, and build confidence before each swing.

Q: Why is having a pre-shot routine important in golf? A: Having a pre-shot routine is important because it helps golfers stay mentally and physically prepared for each shot. It can reduce anxiety, eliminate distractions, and promote a consistent swing.

Q: What are the key elements of a typical pre-shot routine? A: A typical pre-shot routine includes selecting the club, visualizing the shot, addressing the ball, taking practice swings, checking alignment, and taking a deep breath to relax before swinging.

Q: Can golfers customize their pre-shot routines to fit their preferences? A: Yes, golfers can customize their pre-shot routines based on their preferences and comfort levels. The routine should be tailored to what helps the golfer get into the right mindset for a successful shot.

Q: How can a pre-shot routine improve a golfer's focus and concentration? A: A pre-shot routine allows golfers to eliminate distractions and direct their focus solely on the upcoming shot. By going through the same routine before every swing, they can build mental discipline and concentration.

Q: How can golfers use their pre-shot routine to manage nerves and pressure during important shots? A: During critical shots, golfers can use their pre-shot routine to stay composed and manage nerves. By relying on the routine's familiarity, they can create a sense of normalcy and reduce anxiety.

Q: Is it beneficial for beginners to develop a pre-shot routine early in their golf journey? A: Yes, developing a pre-shot routine early in their golf journey can be beneficial for beginners. It establishes good habits from the start and helps them develop a consistent swing and mental approach to the game.

Q: How can golfers maintain the pace of play while going through their pre-shot routines? A: Golfers should aim to keep their pre-shot routines efficient and not overly time-consuming to maintain the pace of play. Practicing the routine during practice rounds can help streamline the process on the course.

Q: Should golfers adjust their pre-shot routines for different types of shots, such as drives and putts? A: Yes, golfers may adjust their pre-shot routines slightly for different shots, taking into account the complexity and importance of each shot. However, the overall routine's structure and purpose remain consistent.

Q: Can a pre-shot routine be useful in handling adverse weather conditions or challenging situations on the course? A: Yes, a pre-shot routine can be especially valuable in adverse weather conditions or challenging situations. By relying on the routine, golfers can maintain focus and composure, making better decisions and executing shots more effectively.

Q: Can a pre-shot routine help golfers recover from a bad shot or refocus after a mistake? A: Yes, a pre-shot routine can help golfers recover from a bad shot or refocus after a mistake. Going through the routine reinforces positive habits and shifts the golfer's focus back to the present shot.

Having a well-established pre-shot routine is an essential part of a golfer's mental and physical preparation. It allows golfers to approach each shot with a clear mind, build consistency, and handle pressure effectively. Customizing the routine to suit individual preferences can make it even more beneficial in enhancing performance on the golf course.