Pre-shot Routines

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One of my favourite teaching adages is that “90% of swing faults start at address – and the other 10% start at address as well!” Teaching golf at Woburn over the last 30 years, I have been amazed how many new pupils come to me with complex and varied swing thoughts, yet pay little or no attention to the fundamentals of posture, grip, alignment and ball position.

It is now winter, the new golf season is four months away – so there’s no better time to re-vamp your pre-shot routines than now! Here are some things to consider...

Play for hours, concentrate for minutes
A round of golf lasts four hours or so; it is impossible to concentrate solidly for such a length of time. A pre-shot routine allows us to enjoy the scenery, chat to our playing partners and absorb the atmosphere. Then, at the point you take the club out of your bag, you can initiate your best “standard operating procedure”.

One shot... now!
It is a well-worn phrase, used in many interviews by Tour players, regarding “staying in the moment”. They handle pressure by trusting their pre-shot routine; they don’t take longer over shots later in the round, but try to maintain constant from start to finish.

A pre-shot routine makes you positive
A consistent pre-shot routine insulates us from shots that have just happened. If your last shot was poor, the last thing you must do is compensate for it; rather, focus afresh on what you should be doing, not on what you shouldn’t be doing.

Address is not a ‘position’, it’s a movement
I never use the word “position” regarding the swing. There was not a “position” until somebody photographed a “movement”. Similarly, the phrase “address position” tends to suggest a rather static attitude. Try to think of the pre-shot routine, not as a “position”, but as a series of small movements in readiness for the backswing and the downswing.

All the same, yet different
My mentor, the late, great Alex Hay, started commentating for the BBC in 1978. On arrival at a venue, he would make a bee-line for the practice ground to watch the players and garner any information that might be useful during the broadcast. He told me that what struck him most, initially, was how varied and idiosyncratic the swings were. In particular, he was struck by how different the pre-shot routines were between players. However, after a while, Alex started to notice that while the routines were unique to the individual, there were a number of principles that occurred in the vast majority. Here was a very important lesson – methods might vary, yet principles can still remain constant. Let me pass on some of Alex’s observations to you.

- Players took their chosen club from the bag and proceeded to view the anticipated shot by standing behind the ball, on the “ball-to-target” line.

- Invariably, the player would then stand opposite the ball. Alex noted that the ball was opposite their left foot; they did not start their routine with the ball between the feet. This ensured the player used both eyes to assess alignment and depth perspective.

- Almost every player then presented the club to the ball; as they did so the right foot shuffled forward, causing the hips and torso to “open”.

- The player then leant forward on that right foot as they aimed the club.

- The grip was finalised at this point.

- By presenting the club like this, with a sound grip, the shoulders fell naturally into line, parallel to the ball-target line.

- Consequently, the torso, hips, knees and feet fell in line with the shoulders.

- Finally, the player would shuffle a hint from side to side to fine tune and adjust their ball position.

May I recommend that you create a consistent pre-shot routine this winter? By following the eight steps above you should develop a sequence that repeats.