Golf Pre-Shot Routine: Everything You Need to Know

This golf pre-shot routine article and video explains how to clear your mind ahead of every shot on the course

Golf pre-shot routine 2
(Image credit: Kevin Murray)

Golf Pre-Shot Routine

A pre-shot routine is a consistent and systematic procedure (a sequence of thoughts, checkpoints, movements, or details) that is executed by a golfer prior to hitting a golf shot. The pre-shot routine in golf is one of the most acknowledged but underused mental game tips for golf, especially by amateur golfers. In the video below, Top 50 Coach Ged Walters explains how you can use your pre-shot routine to establish some of the key technical fundamentals like how to aim and finding the perfect ball position. In the article that follows that, I'll take you through the mental process that will help you set a more positive mindset. 

Many golfers start their round with all the best intentions of the pre-shot routine but by about hole 12 the routine is discarded. One of the main reasons people struggle with a pre-shot routine is time - they worry they will take too long doing a routine and feel that other players will think they are holding them up. This article we will take you through a foolproof pre-shot routine that addresses both these issues.

How long should a pre-shot routine take?

There are four stages to a golf pre-shot routine which we will go through below. However, it is important to say this doesn't have to take a long time and some of the elements we are discussing here can be done while other players are preparing to hit. On Tour, players have between 40 and 50 seconds to play their shot and the process that follows should easily fit well within that framework.

1) STOP and think 

This stage starts as you approach your golf ball when you will consider the following: your distance to target (pin or avoiding danger), the wind direction, how the ball is lying and finally your golf club selection.  

2) Prepare and Rehearse

The next stage is about preparing yourself for the shot you are intending to play. Take a practice swing from behind the ball facing your target. Then step into the address position, aim your club face to the target first and then align your feet accordingly. 

3) Execute the shot 

This is the point when many people freeze over the ball with lots of thoughts running through their mind. The key in this step is to have a trigger - so give the following a try:

4) Evaluate the shot 

Once you have completed the first three steps of the pre-shot routine take your glove off (if you wear one), walk and consider the following questions: 

When you reach your next shot, your glove goes on, your bag goes down, the previous shot is gone and out of your mind and you focus on the next shot and repeat your routine again. 

The golf pre-shot routine isn’t something you can just apply overnight; you need time to practice and perfect it on the practice range before you take it to the course. On the green, a routine can really help guard against the putting yips. Lots of people will ask me, ‘what if I mess up the routine?’, and my response each time is, ‘start that part over again’. Take some time to plan your pre-shot routine and take it out for a test run on the course before you finally add it to your game in tournament play. For this routine to be effective you need to practice before you apply it! 

Gareth Shaw
PGA Professional

Gareth is an Accredited PGA Professional with an MSc in Applied Sports Psychology & BSc in Sport & Exercise Science who specialises in Mental Skills Training. Within this field, he has worked with international athletes and DP World Tour Players. Gareth has also developed a series of golf products (including Mental Markers & Golf Training Diary) and has been published in the Psychology of Sport and Exercise journal with a study exploring 'choking' in Sport. Gareth has worked in the golf industry for over 20 years.

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