We made it! It is officially Masters Week which is my yearly queue to know that spring is here. The grounds crew here at Cranberry Highlands has been extremely busy getting the course prepared for another great golf season. For this month’s golf tip, I have decided to focus on the Pre-Shot Routine. As you are sitting on the couch enjoying the Masters this week, I urge you all to pay close attention to what the best players in the world do before each shot. Notice their mannerisms and tendencies. Do they stand next to the ball or behind it? Do they toss grass in the air to check the wind? Do they take practice swings? I’m willing to bet you will notice that most of these guys do exactly the same thing before every single shot they make. This is their PRE-SHOT ROUTINE.
Amateur golfers often overlook the pre-shot routine and its importance to their golf game. Although there is something to be said for just “gripping it and ripping it,” your odds are better with a solid ritual that you do before each and every shot.
*Before I continue, I want to put out a disclaimer: Do not misconstrue the pre-shot routine as an excuse to play slower golf. We all know that slow play is plaguing our game right now and that can be attributed from golfers emulating the tour pros who play for millions of dollars each week. Pre-Shot routines can be short and sweet. It is all about doing the same thing before each swing.
What does a good pre-shot routine look like? This is a tricky question as golfers vary greatly in their style. The ritual you develop should include things like grip, stance, alignment, shot visualization, wind speed and direction, the waggle, and the rehearsal swing.
Pay close attention to how you put your hands on the club. Work hard to perfect your grip and keep it the same for every shot.
What type of shot am I playing? Should I narrow or widen my stance? Should I be square, open, or closed to my target? What shot shape am I looking for? Whatever the situation is, be mindful of your stance as you prepare to hit the shot.
As you watch the Tour Pro’s this week at the Masters, I am willing to bet you will see all of them start their routine directly behind the golf ball. No, they are not taking in the scenery on amen corner. (Practice rounds are for that.) They are looking for what we call INTERMEDIATE TARGETS. They find something a few yards in front of the golf ball that is directly in line with their target. Once they have an intermediate target, it becomes so much easier to align your clubface with that instead of the flag 200 yards away. Try this next time you play and you will be amazed at how your scores will improve.
Another reason to stand behind the ball before your shot. Try to visualize the flight of your golf ball and the shot you want to play. How high will it go? Will it curve in any direction? Will the ball spin when it hits the green? How many bounces will it take? These things may seem a little too specific, but having an accurate picture of what you want the ball to do will make it easier to pull it off. How many of you saw J.B. Holmes closing his eyes during his pre-shot routine this past week on his way to winning the Shell Houston Open? No, he was not taking a quick power nap… He was visualizing his shot, and you should too.
WIND SPEED & DIRECTION
Wind speed and direction is very important to be aware of when playing golf. Throw up a few pieces of grass and pay attention to what it does. Is the wind in your face? Is it blowing toward the target? Is it blowing across? Paying attention to the wind is imperative if you want to play better golf.
For those of you that have seen the movie “Tin Cup” you will know what I’m talking about. As Kevin Costner points out, the Waggle is “just a little relaxing ritual we do.” A few waggles will work wonders for you if you are someone that likes to give the club the death grip. Relax your fingers and hands before you play a shot, and the waggle is a great way to do it!
I like to call it the rehearsal swing instead of the practice swing. The reason being is that it is just that. A rehearsal. All too often I see players make a practice swing that looks nothing like the actual swing when the ball is in front of them. This type of practice swing does nothing for you. MAKE THE EXACT SAME REHEARSAL SWING AS THE ONE YOU INTEND TO MAKE AT THE BALL.
I hope that my ideas on the Pre-Shot routine will help you understand its importance. Again, please don’t use your routine as an excuse to play slower. Your fellow playing partners certainly won’t appreciate that. With practice, these routines will become your natural approach to hitting a golf shot. I promise it will make you a better, more consistent player.
Enjoy this week’s Masters and we hope to see you at Cranberry Highlands very soon!