It’s been rather too wet and cold to work hard on the swing in recent weeks, and apart from the odd social round, golf for me has been on the back burner. But there are things you and I can do to make improvements without even having to swing a club.
Everybody has a pre shot routine whether they know it or not. We all stand over the ball and think about something. The trick to getting under 10, or indeed to any lower score, is to think about the right things to produce consistently good shots.
I enlisted a sports psychologist at Sheffield Hallam University to define a pre shot routine for me.
Dr Rob Copeland, based at the university’s renowned Centre for Sport and Exercise Science , is no stranger to this work. He taught me to examine my goals and identified my pressing desire to reach single figures as a hindrance to progress even if it was, to me, a motivator.
The problem, he said, was that I was focussing on the goal rather than working on the way to get there. This is classic case of concentrating on the “outcome” rather than the “process” of achieving it, and one way to make a start in the right direction is to have a pre shot routine. I won’t bore you with the details of the Nideffer framework, but if you want to know more about the science behind it, that is the place to start.
Rob developed a five step pre shot routine for me and it will work for you too, with certain adjustments to suit your own game. Remember you must use this pre shot routine prior to every shot you take in future, with a few tweaks as your swing improves.
Here is mine, starting with the first shot from the first tee and then for every shot onwards
Step One – Standing on the tee:
deep relaxed breath
assess conditions (wind direction and strength)
assess hole hazards (bunkers, rough, etc)
Step Two – Determine the following:
type of shot (draw, fade high or low etc)
target (where you want the ball to land)
select your club
Tee the ball up and move back in line with the target and prepare for practice swings.
Step Three – Two practice swings. During each swing focus on the following swing thoughts:
turning right hip on backswing
holding right shoulder back on downswing
releasing clubhead to square
NB – these are my swing thoughts – you may wish to replace them with no more than three of your own
Visualise the shot you are about to make – this includes hearing the sound of the club hitting the ball, seeing the flight of the ball, and hearing and seeing the ball landing at your target (this is all in your mind but is an essential part of the preparation.)
Step Four – Approach the ball; determine your target line a couple of feet in front of the ball, club in left hand only. Then check:
Step Five – place the right hand on the club, take a deep breath and then say a key phase to yourself – mine is “relax and let it go” – then hit the ball!
This is my pre shot routine aimed at giving me the best possible chance of hitting my best shot. That shot might not be brilliant, but it should be the best I can do on the day. The essential element is that as I hit the ball I will be relaxed as far as I can be, and that I’m focussing on the process rather than the outcome of the shot.
Try and draw up your own pre shot routine based on this framework. Memorise it – you can do this in bed before you go to sleep. Print it out, attach it to your bag and read it occasionally if you have forgotten the script. Above all make yourself use it prior to every shot you make.