The concept of routines is pretty common in golf. With numerous instances all over the golf course that require the repeat of specific shots (e.g. a series of 9 or 18 tee shots), it is highly likely that golfers of all abilities have their own shot routine.
For some, such routines are purposeful, helpful, and effective at supporting the execution of the preferred golf shot. In contrast, routines can be unhelpful, ineffective, and can contribute to unwanted and badly executed shots. For example, the start of a self-fulling prophecy (e.g. If I can just avoid OB left…then creating a swing that lets the ball sail out of bounds).
Routines are a collection of thoughts, behaviours, and actions that we undertake (either consciously, or unconsciously) prior to (or even after) executing a shot or delivering a performance. Many golfers are aware of the important their routine, but few proactively work on ensuring that their routine is fit for purpose and impactful.
Building an effective and reliable routine in your golf game is simple. The first step is to standardise what you do. The second step is to optimise it.
This article hasn’t been put together to get you to consider whether you have a routine or not, but rather to help you (as the reader) understand how to develop a reliable routine. By following the guidance in this article (the first of two articles on routines) you can take the first step…to standardise your routine.
Sound like something your game needs? Then read on!
What EVERY golf shot has in common.
In my experience, many golfers hear the word routine, and focus predominantly upon what they do pre-shot. There is no doubt that this can be helpful. However, it is rather short sighted. As It only covers a third of what a golf shot ’asks’ of you.
From a psychological perspective, every golf shot has three things in common. Three phases if you will. To ensure we start on the same page. Think of a specific golf shot. Choose one of the following shots, 1) a tee shot to your favourite par 3 green, 2) a challenging approach shot over some water, or 3), a breaking 10ft putt to sink a birdie.
Once you’ve chosen one of these shots, grab a pen and paper, and note the following three questions down (with space for further notes underneath each question):
-What would I need to do to effectively PREPARE for this shot?
-What do I need to EXECUTE this shot to the best of my ability?
-How should I REACT to the outcome of this shot?
These are the three things ALL golf shots have in common.
These three phases (preparation, execution, and reaction) are the common themes of ALL shots you take. These are the three pillars of developing a robust routine to support your ability to think clearly. In both practice and competition settings.
Understand your Routine
A routine that purposely considers all three areas (preparation, execution, and reaction) supports a player’s ability to approach each golf shot in a consistent manner. It enables you to adapt to the specific situation that you find yourself in.
The focus here is on the collection of thoughts, behaviours, and actions that you undertake surrounding execution of your golf shot. Understanding what you do within each section is the starting point to standardisation.
Creating a personalised approach to your routine is important. Rather than rights or wrongs, this is an opportunity for you to collate all of the actions, thoughts, and behaviours to tend to do when you play your golf shot.
To help you to picture your routine, use the shot that you selected earlier in the article to help you to build a personalised list of what you routines includes.
It is your job (as the player) to collate the technical, tactical, physical, environmental, and psychological aspects that you want your routine to include. And then to implement these. If you are unsure what to include or if you want to check you are along the right lines, then speak with your PGA professional. Ask them for some advice or top tips for each stage.
Read each section below, and under the question headings that you noted earlier, lists all of elements your find helpful at each stage of your routine.
Phase 1 – Preparation
This is the period of time before you hit the shot, where you plan the best course of action, and consider how you can get the ball from A (where it currently is) to B (your desired end point). Here, what you do, think, or feel, before you step into your shot, that helps you to feel prepared and committed to your selected course of action is important.
Within this phase, the focus is all doing what you need to do to effectively PREPARE. Assess the lie, assess the yardage, check the wind, the break, selecting the appropriate club, deciding upon the best swing (full / half etc.), and picking your target line, are all aspects that could be taken into consideration within this first stage. Your personal PREPARATION is highly individual to you. What do you need to think before you hit your shot? What do you want to feel?
List of all checks that you go through within this phase of your routine. When complete, move onto the next phase.
Phase 2 – Execute
Once all of your planning has occurred, it is time to step into the shot. You are now in the EXECUTE phase. Here is where you do what you need to do move the ball from A to B. This is were technique becomes important.
Within this phase, some players use a specific swing thought, a trigger word, a specific feel, or rehearsed movement to support their execution of the desired shot.
How do you want to think standing over the ball? What do you need to do physically? How do you execute technically? List all of the things that help you to best execute your shot next.
Phase 3 – React
As soon as the ball is on its way to its target (whether that be the intended target, or not), this is where your REACTION begins.
At this time there are a number of behavioural elements that are required (e.g. replace club in bag, pick up bag, and walk to next shot). But, this is the phase of the routine that majority of players overlook.
Being proactive on working on your reaction, can be the source of a competitive advantage, a greater sense of freedom and enjoyment, or a platform to a better next shot.
Spend time to consider your ideal or helpful reaction. What does an ideal reaction look like? How long to you want your reaction to last? List all of the thoughts, feelings, or behaviours that you typically include within the reaction stage.
What do you want to standardise?
You need to standardise what you do, before you optimise it.
Routines are best built, purposely. In reading this article and completing the reflective task, you’ve made a start on building a robust routine within your game.
Armed with this list of thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and actions relative to each stage of your golf shot (prepare, execute and react) you are now in a position to review your current routine/s.
For a total review of your golf routines – complete this process this process for type of shot (a tee shot, approach shot, and putt) you take out on the course.
For the best results, take each lists out with you on the course and add to it, whilst you play. The greater the level of detail you have about your typical routines, the better.
You need to standardise, before you optimise.
For advice on how to do this, read our second article on optimising routines.