Pre-shot routines…blast to the past
Kevin Na's pre-shot routine has been center of attention this week
Much has been made about the first three rounds of this week’s Players Championship, not because of leader Kevin Na’s good play, but because of what is occurring prior to him hitting the golf ball. Currently Na is going through a swing change and much like what occurred with Sergio Garcia a decade ago with is numerous gripping and re-gripping prior to hitting the golf ball, Na is waggling or taking several practice swings before he feels comfortable and actually attempts to hit the ball.
Kevin, who has never been known for his fast pace of play, is now even taking longer over each shot, which got me wondering; What is he thinking about? Na said as much during his post round interview yesterday stating that he was doing a lot of thinking out there. There are two interesting components to this story.
First what he is doing when he prepares to hit the ball and how it reflects the culture of golfers; and second, how this culture could be challenged and might not be the best approach to playing great golf.
Most golfers who have ever taken a golf lesson have been told by a friend, playing partner or golf teaching professional that they must develop a solid pre-shot routine. some believe that visualizing the shot, or “feeling” the shot prior to swinging the golf club will help them hit higher quality shots and perform better. Others rely on swing keys or thoughts that will help guide them to higher performance.
I argue that pre–shot routines and swing thoughts do not lead to better performance but actually create barriers to better performance in golf. First, I believe that routines are boring, predictable and exist simply as a thought about something that has occurred in the past and are not wholly relevant to what is occurring during the moment of swinging the golf club. I think this is one area where many golfers get caught or stuck because they are so focused on thinking about some instruction or tip, or article they read that they have no “real” experience – simply memory of a thought. That flies in the face of everything golfers want to do which is play free from thoughts.
I contend that good golf is played when there is less thinking about what and how to swing the club. Let’s consider another option: Instead of a pre-shot routine we could call it a pre-shot creation, which is how my good friend and teaching professional Fred Shoemaker terms it. This by its nature forces the golfer to create the shot in the present moment, instead of thinking about a past experience.
The most fascinating aspect of what we are seeing in golf, with Kevin Na, even Tiger Woods is that they have hit thousands of golf balls in their careers. It is safe to assume that they already know how to swing the golf club, so why do they – and us – continually give instructions on how to? We don’t do this when we stand up to walk, we simply do it.
One of the scariest places for a golfer to be is inside his head.