If you have read much golf instruction in books or magazines, you've probably read about the importance of a good preshot routine. A good preshot routine is an important tool in any golfers toolbox, for several reasons: A good preshot routine will help a golfer properly and consistently prepare for a shot, while providing comfort in times of pressure because of the normalcy found in routine. The preshot routine will help ensure that you don't rush and forget to take into account the lie of the ball, the direction of the wind, the break of the green and whatever else may affect the path of the ball to the hole.
Here are my keys to developing the perfect preshot routine for you:
Start your preshot routine early:
Having a sound preshot routine doesn't mean you should become a slower golfer. Learn to start assessing the conditions as you're approaching your golf ball and while the other members of your group are hitting there shots.
Assess the conditions decisively and thoroughly:
Always consider the lie of your ball, the direction and intensity of the wind, whether the ball is above or below your feet, whether the green is uphill or downhill from your ball or anything else that may affect the path of your shot. Based on the conditions, along with your strategy for setting yourself up properly to score well (i.e. playing away from bunkers or water hazards).
Choose the club and the shot to be played:
Based on your assessment of the shot, make a confident decision on which club to hit and the best trajectory to hit the shot based on the shot at hand. If your shot is an approach shot to the green and you are between clubs, you will almost always be better off taking the longer club and swinging easier.
Pick a tiny target:
Don't pick the "middle of the fairway" or a grove of trees or a building in the distance. Pick the smallest target possible, the branch of a tree, a window of the building, a blade of grass on the green when putting, etc.
Visualize the shot:
While still standing behind the ball, use your imagination and get a vivid image in your mind of your ball following the perfect path and ending up where you want the ball to finish.
Take your grip:
Do this while standing behind the ball. This will help you avoid tinkering with your grip when you are addressing the ball.
Approach the ball, focused on the target:
Once you start walking to the ball, think of nothing but the target. Don't think about where you don't want the ball to go, don't think about any swing thoughts, just think of the target.
Practice swing until you feel the perfect shot:
It may take you 1 practice swing to brush the grass just right on you practice swing, or it may take you five practice swings. It doesn't matter how many you take, as long as your last practice swing gives you confidence.
Address the ball, look at the target, see the perfect shot, pull the trigger:
Once you're ready to address the ball, move in and give one or two last looks at the target, thinking about nothing other than the target, then pull the trigger. Don't waste any time over the ball. In fact, if you have performed your entire routine properly, this last step may only take you a couple seconds. The longer you stand over the ball, the more likely it is that negative thoughts will creep in.
Leave swing thoughts for the range or the putting green:
Don't use swing thoughts when you play. Just enjoy the challenge of the day and focus on your target and staying within your routine.
Enjoy the process, don't worry about the results:
Focus on the process of hitting your shots. Follow the routine described above, not letting any distractions into your mind. If something distracts you, restart the routine by walking back behind the ball and refocusing on your target. Once you've hit your shot, don't worry much about the result. There is nothing you can do about a shot after you have hit it. Don't beat yourself up over bad shots, just try to focus harder on following your routine on the next shot.