Affirmative Pre-Shot Routine
Body language speaks loudly. It is normally easy to guess what kind of round a player is having by the way he carries himself. When playing golf shots, you will be much more consistent after forming a solid pre-shot routine. You are building your zone, a kind of force field pressure cannot penetrate. How do basketball players make free throws, with the game on the line and 20,000 people screaming? They TRUST their routine and diminish the importance of the situation. Please don’t underestimate the importance of this fundamental and incorporate it into your practice sessions.
I consistently tell a student, much of method building is negotiable and you are best to follow your instincts. Other things are so important that they are non-negotiable, if you hope to improve past a certain point. Your pre-shot routine is one area that allows a personal artistic expression that can pay huge dividends. You can find a comfort zone that allows you to finish off good rounds. You can develop the ability, through consistent action, to diagnose swing problems or gradual differences in mechanics. If it fells different, it probably is. How else do we form valuable instincts?
In deciding how to prepare to strike a golf shot, how many things do you accept or “put up with.”
Do you have a very strong grip? That might mean you hit a sweeping hook that has a violent kick left upon landing. You hit drives that either miss high and to the right or quickly hook into the ground left. (Same path with a different face at impact) Deep divots are the norm. It might be challenging to play the ball down, as some lies will not allow a quickly rotating clubface.
Is your aim typically right of the target? That means you must find a way to play with a closed clubface. It will either happen at address or while swinging, but it must happen to get a ball next to the flag. A good shot will never be acknowledged because it will finish right of the green. You will never see “real yardages and trajectory.” It will be a skewed version of changing loft and inconsistent flight pattern.
What then is your ball position? If you aim right of target, your ball position will work forward in your stance. Too far forward. Your shoulders will have to be left of your toe line at impact to “find” the ball and the target. Maybe you have the ball too far back or that it moves around in a random manner. Do you move the ball every time you hit a bad shot?
Does your posture change coming through he ball? Many golfers have a raise in their chest as part of their follow through. If they aim right, they must raise up to get out of the way. If you lean over too much at address, for the club you are swinging, you will bury it in the ground unless you have a quick, upward move to allow your arms to pass your body.
A part of a changing posture is an early extension. That means your right arm straightens and passes your right shoulder quickly, in an attempt to strike at the ball. That straightening arm, nearly always, also contains a roll that shows up on the clubface. This golfer experiences many different turf interactions and ball flights. Your downswing is dominated by the thrust of the club, at the ball, by your right arm. This is instead of allowing your right arm to straighten naturally AFTER impact.
Do you snatch the club away from the ball? I never say “take away” to a student because I want them to show a swinging away, that involves a turn of the body that motivates our arms and club. For many players, anxiety determines the beginning of their swing. They must then “find timing” somewhere through the course of their swing. Many times, I watch a player practice and wonder, what drives them to a backswing that moves that fast? We must protect our athletic position, that we built at address, until we begin our downswing.
Are your feet askew? Maybe you are technically aimed well, but your shoes are turned in a direction that brings bad movement to your backswing or downswing. I would quickly relate that I probably change (or bring focus) to a student’s foot positioning in practically every lesson. It is amazing what your swing feels like because of your touch on the ground. And I feel like it is an under-emphasized fundamental.
Practice sessions are a time to examine tendencies and consider the things that are healthy and those things we “put up with.” Is practice a continual march toward our goal of scratch golf or an exercise in momentary success, followed by frustration?
Another aspect of pre-shot routine happens just before striking the shot. This has to do with how long we stand over the ball. When it is time to go, we just have to leave. When it is time to swing, we must let it go and allow athletic movement to carry the swing. Affirmative thought goes with affirmative movement. Draw your sword, trust it and bust it and pull the trigger are all forms of mental freedom that allows us to play the shot.
In wedge play especially, the player sees the target in their minds eye, thinks the yardage and feels the swing. These are all forms of the “suggestive sell” that brings belief to the player that they will be successful in the shot.
Many great players are defined by their pre-shot routine. We know them by their movements. This month we will examine their motions and what they gained from them. There is much to learn from their body language.
PGA tournament golf has been wonderful lately. Jordan Spieth made a welcomed return to the winners’s circle. His grace under constant scrutiny has been nice to see. I hope he can keep up his solid play.
Hideki Matsuyama hung on to win the Masters. Rarely do you bogey three out of the last four holes and still win a golf tournament.
Stuart Cink played a great tournament in Hilton Head and struck a blow for the above forty golfer. The course was perfect for this type of player. He had a great week of driving and accuracy in general. He was once an elite-level golfer, by tour standards, so his ability to win a tournament should not have surprised anyone.
Fans are going to be returning to the picture of tournament golf and it is a welcomed addition. The energy they bring, to the ebb and flow of the leaderboard, is the final piece to the puzzle and what many players use to rise to the occasion. Many of the all-time great performances would have certainly been lessened without the crowd playing their part.
Videos will start to flow concerning our topic of pre-shot routine and other topics pertinent to our journey toward scratch golf.
Thank you for your time and attendance,
LOOK AT THE TARGET TO AIM AT THE TARGET
WHAT DO YOU SEE WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE TARGET?
THE EVOLUTION OF A SLUMP IN YOUR GAME
TAKING YOUR AIM TO THE COURSE
Michael Wolf, Certified Master Teaching Professional, has been playing golf for 46 years and teaching professionally for over 34 years. He has given over 30,000 golf lessons. Author of The Driven Golfer: Building Your Method For Scratch Golf. Harvey Penick Award Winner- 2016 (Top Instructor U.S./World Golf Teachers Federation)