Did you know that for many golfers the golf shot begins before they even address the ball? Golfers tackle the mental aspect of the game by using a “preshot routine” for focus, confidence and consistency. Golf professionals often recommend a preshot routine to reduce the effect of distractions on the golf course. While a preshot routine can vary from player to player, once you develop a routine that works for you, stick with it. Get into the habit of using a preshot routine for every shot, from the tee shot to the putt, and you will be well on your way toward developing the consistency and accuracy you need to improve your golf game.
Getting into the “Golf Zone”
When you watch professional golfers, you may notice that when it is their turn to hit the ball they stop their conversation and focus on executing the shot. They may walk around the ball, gaze at the target a number of times, take a practice swing and waggle the club once or twice. Chances are they will repeat this preshot routine motion for motion for the same type of golf shot. Even if you are not a low handicap golfer like the pros, you can use some of their techniques to create a preshot routine of your own and enter the “golf zone” before hitting the ball. Work on developing an effective, systematic sequence of thoughts and movements before hitting the ball, and practice the routine on the driving range and on the putting green.
Developing a Preshot Routine
Some golfers begin their preshot routine the moment they select a club from their bag. For detailed and methodical golfers, the routine may include many elements including a practice swing. Some golfers prefer to go through fewer checkpoints, or go through several key points very quickly. In both cases, the preshot routine will serve to focus the golfer on the task at hand and prepare him or her for a consistent and targeted golf shot. The point is to feel comfortable with the rhythm of the routine and include details that are important to you. Use the familiar motions and thoughts of the preshot routine to gain control over the shot. As you free yourself from extraneous thoughts and worries, you will improve your focus and confidence and hopefully lower your golf scores.
Line Up the Shot
Begin the preshot routine by standing a few feet behind the ball in order to establish a target line. Look at the target, which may be the flag or some other point on the fairway or green, and then find an intermediate target on the ground. A twig, leaf or discolored blade of grass situated a foot or two between the ball and the actual target can serve as an intermediate target. This intermediary will help you to establish a visual target line between the ball and the target and indicate the intended path your ball will travel.
Check your Grip
You may want to establish your grip on the club while you are still standing a few feet behind the ball. That way, you will not risk losing focus when you are about to take the shot. Make sure you feel comfortable with your club selection, and then use the recommended grip on the club. For the popular Vardon overlap grip, the little finger on the right hand (for right-handed golfers) is placed between the index and middle finger of the left or lead hand. Make sure you are not gripping the club too tightly.
Squaring the Clubface and Aligning your Body
Once you have selected the appropriate club, lined up your shot and checked your grip, walk up to the ball. Check your aim and alignment by making sure the clubface is square to the target on the target line. Your body should be aligned with your feet, thighs, hips and shoulders parallel to the target line as you address the ball. Remember that tension in your body is counterproductive in hitting a long, straight golf shot, so loosen up before you take your practice swing.
Take a Practice Swing
Now that you have developed a feeling for the shot, take a practice swing. To make the practice swing effective, swing as hard on the practice swing as you will on the actual swing. Some beginning golfers hit a decent practice swing and then hit the real shot with a swing that is substantially different from the practice swing. You can solve this problem by making your preshot routine so habitual that you will develop the confidence and focus you need when hitting the ball. When you use a preshot routine, you will be rewarded with consistent golf shots that produce the distance and accuracy you are seeking.