Category Archives: Pre-Shot Routine

I Had the ‘Nots’!!!!

“There’s an enormous gap between KNOWING and DOING.” -Some wise dude

Here’s a confession that might just help your game…..
Honestly, sometimes, when I’m practicing and feeling good about my game, I honestly have a difficult time relating to some of my students….  The gravity golf drills and my understanding of the swing make the game seem quite easy at times…..    
And then there’s the other 360 days of the year…….
These days, as most of you know, I’m so busy at work (and loving it!) that I don’t have a lot of time to practice and train.  My mechanics are fine.  My grip, stance and alignment are not going anywhere…. But sometimes my game can get a little chaotic!  It’s more frustrating now than in years past because I truly understand the swing.  There is no mystery to my bad shots, and yet at times this past year I have felt very little control over my shots…. It’s quite embarrassing and aggravating.
Today was no exception.  I got up extra early with the hopes of completing my ‘to do’ list in time to tee off with some friends at 9:30.  I was really excited and felt quite confident as I stepped on the first tee.  After 4 holes, I still felt like I could turn my game around, and I kept myself in the round with some good putts and ‘up and downs’….   It was on the 7th hole that my swing ‘bit me’.  Ugh, it was so bad… and it cost me 2 strokes.  
It was two more holes before I caught on to something…..   I HAD THE ‘NOTS’!!!!!!
You see, outwardly, or at least on the surface, I still felt confident and was trying to make full and free swings.  Just before my ‘ah ha’ moment, I really felt that I was doing the things necessary to produce quality shots.  It was really frustrating that almost every swing up to that point was not up to my standards….  really frustrating (can anyone relate so far?)
Then I thought about one shot that I did hit particularly well.  One that I seem to hit well most times on that particular hole.  It’s the 12th hole at Snee Farm, and it calls for a low hard draw to put yourself in the ‘A’ position.  It sets up perfect for me, and I get a GREAT IMAGE and GREAT FEELING EVERY TIME I step on that tee……..
………………………………………………………………..THAT’S IT!
That was the difference.  I swung with TOTAL confidence.  I SAW the exact shot I wanted to produce and truly swung with freedom and with purpose.   The rest of the shots that day, with very few exceptions… I was trying to NOT hit it right, or left, or short, etc…..  IT hit me like a ton of bricks!  As I quickly went through the holes that I had played in my head, I knew that I was trying harder to NOT hit the ball one way or the other, than I was trying to hit the ball the way I know I can.  
That’s what golf can do to us all.  A few wayward shots, a few tight holes, a few bad thoughts and it’s SO EASY to start thinking of where you do NOT want the ball to go, RATHER than thinking about exactly where you want the ball to go and how you want it to get there….  
I TALK about this in almost every lesson I give…..  BAM!  I had a bad case today…. 
Fortunately (and this is a feel good story!), I figured it out with enough holes left to play to really turn my round… well…. around!  I started to swing freely and with precise images of what I wanted on the second nine and was rewarded with some great shots and some solid play.  I stumbled around to a 38 on the first 9, and easily shot a 31 on the second 9*…… 
So here’s the lesson:  

****A TARGET creates A SWING****
If you have the Not’s as your target, you can pretty much guarantee inconsistent to bad results….
Moe Norman put it this way:  “Bad Thinking, bad golf.  Good thinking, good golf.”
So pay attention to THE BAD TARGETS in golf.  Catch yourself if you try to hard to hit at, to lift up, to steer or guide the ball….  Catch yourself if you too often try to NOT hit the ball right or left…. It makes sense…….. but……..say it with me…… “IT’S WRONG”!!
Now go PLAY GOLF!  Stop THINKING golf swing!   
Learn from the pro (who really mucked it up today!).  Best, 
*Results will vary.  There are no guarantees in golf.  Good thinking will just ‘up your odds’ of playing the type of golf you are capable of…..

Target Observation

While driving around the golf course yesterday, I noticed in 2 groups something interesting in some pre shot routines….. 

The D player in an event would set up to the ball, then spend 10-20 seconds gauging where the ball was.  You could see in their waggle, they were attempting to find the ball in the downswing….  Their practice swing was their backswing down to the ball… NO FOLLOW THROUGH!  Watching 2 groups in a row hit a fairway shot to the green, the D player in both groups never looked at the green once they placed their feet into their stance.  The major part of the check list was preparing to strike the ball…..

The A players in both groups did something very different.  Their pre shot ritual was much more focused on the flagstick and green.  The practice swing of one A player had almost no backswing, and you could tell he was just focusing on ‘throwing’ the club out towards the target…. Their practice swing was basically the follow through…. The other A player just kept looking up and adjusting to what was out in front of them….

It’s an important lesson.  THE BALL IS UNIMPORTANT in the golf swing.  Prepare to throw the club and let the ball get in the way. 


Pre-Shot Routine, Part V

My 100th blog!  How about that?  Just a couple months ago, I  wasn’t even sure what a blog really was….  Now that I’ve reached 100, I may not add an entry EVERY day.   I’m  quite certain it will be several times a week, so there should be plenty of thoughts, suggestions and opinions for you to ponder.  Send me more questions and comments via the blog or my email and I’d be more than happy to discuss it!  For now, soak this entry up.  It’s the last part of the PRE-SHOT ROUTINE.  Go back and review the other steps and put it all together!  This is great stuff!!!!


TRUST IT!  You’veDECIDED on the shot.  You’ve SEEN veryclearly the swing you want to put on the ball and the ball flight it willproduce.  You’ve FELT the swing that willproduce the shot….   You’ve done all youneed to do.  You’re mind is clear andfocused.  Confidence has been buildingbecause each stage pushes away doubt and fear!

 Now the goal is to simply set up to the target and TRUSTIT! 

 SEE IT –  FEEL IT-  TRUST IT.  Make it your pre-shot routine and it willhelp you play better golf! 

 Keep it simple.  

Pre-Shot Routine, Part IV

Each step builds upon the last.  Each word gets you deeper into focus and concentration… Each phrase erases doubt!
So you’ve observed your situation and decided on the shot.  See it is the first major word in the routine….  See the shot, see the flight, see the swing… You’re mind’s eye has a clear picture of the shot you expect to produce.  
The next step in the routine is to FEEL IT!  Experience the shot before you execute.  You choose whether that will be a full practice swing, or a small rehearsal swing.  You choose if it will be an exaggeration of a move you wish to make, or maybe just a “trigger” move that puts you in a powerful frame of mind.  
FEEL the shot you are about to hit.  You can FEEL it from behind the ball, or from the side of the ball.  You can FEEL it by overdoing something you are trying to change, or by taking just a small portion of the swing (for example:  FEEL impact with a small motion through the hitting area).  You can FEEL the shot by simply making a trigger move which is an association with a great shot.  Opening and Closing the Velcro latch of your glove is an example….  You see, some great players create a positive reference after each great shot they hit.  After every great shot, they make the trigger move…. After a while, they can just do the trigger move and the body “experiences” the great shot!!!  It’s what I do and it really helps me build confidence!  By focusing far more on the good shots than the bad, I am working on the better side of mental.  My brain stores more memories of the good than the bad because I anchor the great shots and marginalize the bad shots… 
So after you SEE IT,  you FEEL IT as you approach the ball.  It’s a powerful thing.  Eventually, as you SEE IT, you’ll also FEEL IT…. As you FEEL IT, you also SEE IT… This routine has a great way of helping you OBSESS about what you want to do!

Pre-Shot Routine, Part III

It’s like a funnel of
concentration…. As you go through each step, your focus narrows.  As you go through the routine, extraneous
thoughts (doubt, fear, lack of concentration) are pushed outside of the
conscious.  Many great players talk about
routine as walking into a bubble, where only the shot and its execution are

You’ve OBSERVED the situation
and DECIDED on the shot.  It’s now time
to really get into the thick of the routine!

SEE IT.  Say it
to your self!
  SEE the shot you want
to execute.  SEE the swing that will
produce it….  SEE IT!

You’ve chosen your club and now
stand behind the ball.  SEE the shot
vividly.  SEE the swing you will make….
Can’t see your swing?  SEE Ernie Els, SEE Tiger Woods… SEE what you want! 

You’ll be amazed at how you
improve at this step with repetition.  On
every shot, SEE the action, SEE the result. 

One of the critical results of
this part of the process is that while you are seeing what you want vividly,
you cannot (by definition) think about what can go wrong!  The entire routine puts you in a more
positive frame of mind (repetition of phrase on purpose)!

Pre-Shot Routine, Part II


 OBSERVE:  For example, you are 145 yards from the
pin.  The ball lies in the fairway.  The pin is tucked right with a bunker
guarding the front of the green.  The
wind is blowing 5mph from left to right.
It’s your second shot of the day and it’s early, so you are not full
warmed up.  You’re beginning to picture a
fade.  You’re beginning to consider an
easy 6 or a full 7…. 

If you’ve taken in all the
information needed, it’s now time to DECIDE.
I think back to my youth (and young adulthood) and realize that a great
portion of my bad shots were simply due to not deciding on a specific
shot.  I find that saying DECIDE each
time before I pull a club out of the bag is a great way to make a better

 On almost all shots there are
several options for you to choose.  For
me, that was a big problem!  I was not
great a committing to a shot, and that is critical for long term success (long
term being 18 holes or 3 months, or more….). 

 Back to the shot described
above.  Since it’s early and the swing
isn’t as free as it will be later in the day, I’m going to DECIDE on the 6
iron.  I’m already more confident because
I’ve observed not only the lie of the ball, the position of the pin, and the
wind, but also the state of my body and my swing…. 

 DECIDE clearly and confidently
on each shot and it will pay off in the long run.  I would much rather DECIDE and be wrong, then
be wishy washy on any swing!  

Pre-Shot Routine, Part I

This will be a saga blog (I may
have just coined a new phrase!) that will likely last for some time.  My intention is to lay out a simple and clear
cut mental pre-shot routine for you to use on the golf course. 

I developed the routine I use
about 18 years ago, after spending a day with Dr. David Cook.  The 3 simple phrases he uses to describe the
pre-shot routine are as follows:


 Here’s my attempt to discuss how
I like to use his system. 

 Let’s begin, well, at the
beginning.  You step on the first
tee.  I want you to simply OBSERVE.  How does the hole look?  What is the architecture asking you to
do?  What are your tendencies as a golfer
(Slice? Hook? Pull?) What are your tendencies on the first tee?

I want you to notice the wind,
the largest area of the fairway, the hole location…  I want you to observe the level of the tee

Most importantly, take all the
information in, rather than just grabbing your driver and teeing up randomly.

I want you to really observe on
each and every shot!  Notice the lay of
the land, and the lie of the ball.
Notice where the trouble is, and more importantly, notice where the best
place to put the ball is….  Notice if the
terrain is hard or soft, notice if you feel tight or really free and

This one step will put your mind
in a positive mental frame.  This one
step will set up the rest of the routine!  

Feel It, and Forget it!

When you get on the golf course, you should be PLAYING GOLF, not THINKING golf swing.  The best way to do this is through high quality, consistent and systematic training.  One of the goals of good training should be to put the golf swing on “automatic”.

Many of you know me well enough to know that I am a big believer in training.  I also understand that golf is a game to be played, and many of you are either too busy, or just don’t really want to put extra time into good training….  I get it. 
Not practicing doesn’t mean you have to give up trying to get better!!!
If you want to make a change in your swing, but don’t get the chance, or make the time to practice, here’s a great way to bring it to the course…. It’s so good, that even if you do practice a lot, you can use this to make the transformation from thinking to playing that much easier!  
I call it:  “FEEL IT AND FORGET IT”.  I adapted the line from the Ronco rotisserie infomercial that I think most of you remember (if not, just click on that link and chuckle!).  
Feel it and forget it is a method of rehearsal before you play a shot.  I truly believe we can all play better golf if we PLAY GOLF by swinging freely out to the real target.  I want you to swing with the freedom you have when you throw a baseball, shoot a basketball, kick a soccer ball, or just throw a piece of paper into the trash can, or toss your keys onto the counter.  You have a target and you react to that target.  THE END.  
To change your swing faster without THINKING GOLF swing while you play, OVER FEEL what you want to change in your rehearsal swing…..  Let’s say that you tend to slice the ball on the course.   Well,  the FEEL IT part of the routine would be to take several small practice swings really over rotating the forearms allowing the club face to massively close through the impact zone.   Once completed, you FORGET IT, and simply set up to the TARGET and swing freely and into BALANCE.  
Got it?  Let’s try another.  You really struggling with your follow through.  You seem to stop at the ball and not use your body’s turn in your swing.   The FEEL IT part of training would be a MASSIVE FOLLOW THROUGH 3 or 4 times, really stretching it out before you hit your shot….  After you’ve over trained what you want, simply FORGET IT!  Set up to your TARGET, and swing freely into BALANCE.  
Many tour pros have used this method for years and years.   I watched Corey Pavin take a pronounced outside in practice swing for over a decade before every shot to help him from swinging too much from the inside…. I have watched Mike Weir take a deliberate and “straight back” rehearsal move to ‘position 1′ for years to keep him from getting too quick and inside on his swing…. 
We’ve all seen baseball players in the on deck circle really over train with their rehearsal swings!  They feel a massively up to down motion while on deck, only to FORGET IT and swing freely and somewhat level in their real swings!  
Great stuff!  I hope you use it.