How to create a pre-shot routine modeled after the best pros

How to create a pre-shot routine modeled after the best pros

One of the many things that great golfers -- especially pros -- do that the average golfer doesn't is have a pre-shot routine. Having a pre-shot routine is an important part of the mental side of golf, a series of activities and motions a golfer does before stepping in and hitting a golf shot.

A great pre-shot routine calms the mind and prepares a player for a shot. The pros have great pre-shot routines. Jordan Spieth takes a few practice cuts before stepping in to swing. Jason Day closes his eyes behind the ball and imagines the shot before he takes to his stance. Lots of pros use their pre-shot routine to emphasize a particular aspect of their swing.

However, every good pre-shot routine -- from Phil Mickelson to Tiger Woods -- have some key common aspects, regardless of what the actual steps are.

Here's a look at the components of a good, reliable pre-shot routine.

How to create a good pre-shot routine for golf

  • Simplicity: A pre-shot routine shouldn't be overly complicated, to the point that it's hard to remember all of the steps. Typically, some mix of looking toward a target, imagining the shot in your head, taking a practice swing or a few and a few waggles should do the trick.
  • Repeatability: After all, the important thing with a pre-shot routine is that it's something you can do without thinking about it to calm your mind down before hitting a shot. You should do it every time you're in a particular situation.
  • Final Preparation: The pre-shot routine should be the last thing a golfer does before they take their stance and hit the shot. That doesn't mean a golfer can't take special practice swings on a unique type of shot (draw/fade, high/low, etc.). Take that time ahead of the pre-shot routine, then go.
  • Several Routines: A golfer doesn't have to have a single pre-shot routine. The routine can be different for driving, approach shots, pitches and chips, and for putts. They can all be different and emphasize different things. So long as they're repeatable and the difference doesn't clutter the brain.

My pre-shot routine

  • My pre-shot routine is pretty simple. For every full shot, I stand behind the ball, take one practice swing as the swing I would want to take when I execute the shot, reset behind the ball to pick a target and take a breath, then step in and hit the shot.
  • On less than full shots (pitches, chips and sand shots), my pre-shot routine is slightly different. I stand behind the ball to pick a target, take a simulated practice swing, then step in parallel to the ball and take one more simulated practice swing before placing the clubhead behind the ball, taking my stance and executing the shot.
  • For putts, my routine is different altogether. I get my final read behind the ball and pick out an aiming point, then I step in parallel to the ball, take two simulated practice putts, put my putter head behind the ball and aim it at my aiming point, then putt.

Make sure you have a pre-shot routine that makes you comfortable. It could take time and tweaking to find it, but it's well worth developing one to have more confidence over the ball.

About the author


Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]

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