Why a pre-shot routine in golf (and life) is absolutely essential

In some ways, the pre-shot routine is almost as important as the actual shot. Ladders spoke with Brian K. Shaver, the head golf pro at The Abaco Club.

“Visualization is the most powerful thing we have.” – Nick Faldo, Professional golfer

Though many people think about breakfast, family or coffee when they first wake up, the majority of us think about work, according to a recent study. We think about what we are going to tackle that day at work, how we are going to do it, who we need to communicate with (whether over Slack, texts, email or face to face.)

If we have a presentation we may be thinking about the outfit that makes us feel the most confident as well as aesthetically pleasing. We go over the points we want to make, the hand gestures we are going to use and our pronunciation and delivery. We visualize how we want to attack our goals.


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The same is true for setting up that perfect shot in golf. In some ways, the pre-shot routine is almost as important as the actual shot. Brian K. Shaver is a PGA Professional and is the head golf pro at The Abaco Club on Winding Bay on Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas.

Abaco is a private sporting club with a world-renowned Scottish-style links golf course that runs along a 2.5-mile absolutely pristine white beach. In other words, it is a golfing mecca. The club is also the host of the Web.com Tour’s Bahamas Great Abaco Classic, which draws some of the best players in the world.

He told Ladders, “A pre-shot routine is vital to the success of both amateur and professional golfers. Routines in life are a sequence of actions regularly followed to produce an organized action or result. To shoot lower scores a pre-shot routine is important to ensure your thoughts are organized, without a good Pre-Shot routine your opening the door for tension and anxiety to creep in which are both killers of the golf swing.”

The importance of the pre-shot routine

As a novice (actually is there a word that precedes beginner that also means absolutely atrocious because that’s what I am) the concept of the pre-shot routine is quite appealing as anything to mitigate the anxiety of hitting the ball would be a great help. The first task is to come up with the routine that is going to set you up for success.

Shaver says, “It starts behind the ball, looking down the line of play to get a visual for the shot. I then stand parallel to the line of play, still well behind the ball and make one to three practice swings, looking to feel the swing that I want to make for that shot. Now I am behind the ball, with arms hanging low and trying to get as loose and relaxed as possible. I now look down the line of play and bring my line of play in, closer to the ball (about 3 feet).

“I am now staring at the spot 3 feet in front of the ball and approaching the ball while still staring at that spot until I get my feet parallel to the spot and the line of play. Now that I am in a good set-up position and ready to make the swing I waggle and look, a second waggle and a look and as soon as my club touches the ground after the second waggle and look I swing.”

So how does one develop an effective pre-shot routine? Shaver says, especially for beginners, a lesson is the best way to go – and one with a PGA professional like himself would be best: “I ask my students what their pre-shot routine is when working on course management, this will set them up for success in both practice rounds and tournament rounds.”

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Just like a pre-shot routine can make you a better player, a routine, in general, can boost your productivity and the way you approach life overall.

Mariana Plata of Psychology Today wrote of routines, “The reason behind this is that when we organize ourselves and know what to expect, it’s easier to actively work towards counteracting the thoughts and symptoms of any of the aforementioned mental health conditions [bipolar disorder, addiction, depression, etc.,]

She cited a study that people that use daytime routines sleep better which can help to lessen the risk for developing mental health disorders.

Loosen up

The pre-shot routine has the same impact for an anxious golfer. Shaver told Ladders, “Breathing is key to have less anxiety on the course and this relates to the pre-shot routine. When golfers are feeling pressure to hit a good shot breathing provides more oxygen to our body which relaxes our muscles and provides a better opportunity for a fluid swing. Inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth three to five times before hitting a shot will assist in eliminating anxiety especially during tense situations.”

It also helps to play on a great golf course. Abaco is the brainchild of real estate whiz kid David Southworth, the President and CEO of Southworth Development Property after he transformed a Ritz-Carlton Destination Club in 2014 into this now acclaimed golf venue.

“The Abaco Club is a jewel in the Caribbean where golfers view crystal white sand beaches and rocky cliffs along the ocean, what more can one ask for during a round at the club. The Scottish tropical links are always sunny and for the most part warm which provides optimal playing conditions throughout the year,” Southworth said. “The practice facility is the best place to practice in the world as we have five target greens with a variety of bunkers, slopes, rough and tight lies to practice from. A driving range with tees on both sides along with two putting greens provides a total golf experience for members and guests alike.”

Now all you need is that pre-shot routine.


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Meredith Lepore|is the Deputy Editor of Ladders and can be reached at mlepore@theladders.com.