Simplify Your Pre Shot Routine

When was the last time you played through a group?

John Stahlschmidt
PGA Director of Instruction
JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club
Scottsdale, AZ

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When was the last time you played through a group? How did you feel at the time, with others watching you? Did you tense up a bit or feel as if you sped up or slowed down? Imagine how the Tour players must feel when they have to hit that shot on #16 at the FBR with 30,000 plus spectators watching. I guarantee the feelings you might have when playing through a group are similar to what they feel when hitting in front of 30,000 plus and on a hole so completely surrounded it is now called the coliseum.  
We all feel a level of anxiety when others are watching, no matter what level we play. This year during the tournament, watch the Tour pros prepare to hit each shot. They have it down to a science and it is always consistent. A pre shot routine is a necessary step in hitting a quality golf shot. Follow the steps below in order to build a rock solid routine. It will help you immensely when out on the golf course and will act as a “roadmap” so you won’t get lost.
1)  A pre shot routine consists of all the necessary steps needed to perform a well executed golf shot. A routine should consist of both ball data and swing data. The routine should give you confidence, allow you to relax, give you a high level of concentration, and provide you with the correct setup for the shot at hand.
2)  Ball Data. According to the rules of golf, striking the wrong ball comes with a 2 shot penalty. Your first step should always be to identify your ball.  From here, figure out how the ball is setting for this will determine your level of aggressiveness. Next, figure your yardage keeping in mind any wind and its intensity. Finally, select your club.
3)  Swing data.  Ideally, you want to keep the swing thoughts to a minimum. Always start this part of your routine from behind the ball looking at the target. Rehearse a swing or two from behind the ball. Make sure to grip your golf club from behind the ball before walking in to hit the shot. Establish a target line. Many Tour pros pick out an intermediate target (a spot 1 to 3 feet in front of the ball). Walk into the shot and aim the face first at the intermediate target, set your feet, look at the target and hit.  Remember to breathe.
4)  Post shout routine.  After the ball leaves the face, there is nothing you can do to get that shot back. You can however diagnose the ball flight error in order to hopefully not repeat the mistake again. My suggestion, make a few more rehearsal swings in an attempt to “feel” what didn’t happen correctly. For example, if you slice, rehearse 2 swings feeling the face close sooner. After the rehearsals, put the club back in the bag and get ready to do the process all over again.
John is the PGA Head Instructor for the TOUR Academy at TPC Scottsdale, in Scottsdale, Arizona – Home of the FBR Open. To book a lesson or comment on this tip, email John at