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Opinion & Analysis

How Solid is Your Pre-Shot Routine?

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Years ago, I had the pleasure of enjoying the wonderful golf courses with good friends at the American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin. A totally unexpected thrill was to be joined for two of the days by Ian Baker-Finch. He is, without a doubt, the nicest and most down-to-earth gentleman/celebrity that I have ever met, although my celebrity list is not all that long.

Over dinner, I asked Ian how he had handled the intense pressure of standing on the 10th tee of The Open, with a slim, two-stroke lead and nine more holes to play. Without hesitation, he said that he simply lost himself in his pre-shot routine, focusing on the exact same setup, two waggles, and WOOSH! Next thing he knew, he was a major champion.

This was by no means a new concept for me. I had a pre-shot routine and had worked to refine it, but Ian’s remarks made me refocus on its importance.

Let’s Define the Pre-Shot Routine

There are two important processes we should go through before we hit a golf ball. First, we plan the shot. This involves visualizing the shot and selecting the right club to make it happen. Once all the decisions are made and the shot is visualized, we step forward and move into our address position and execute the shot. I like to think of it as stepping into your “execution chamber.” When you close the chamber door behind you, you cannot hear or think about anything except moving through the choreographed steps of your setup and shot execution.

How Long Should It Take?

Here, I am talking only about the final stage of your routine. Specifically, the time when you step forward from behind the ball into the chamber. After my conversation with Ian Baker-Finch, I put a stop watch on the world’s best players, particularly in their greatest pressure situations. This included Phil Mickelson during his march to victory in the final round of the 2004 Masters and Tiger in one of his many major wins. The results were interesting and confirmed Ian’s story. It became clear that the pre-shot routine not only sets the platform for proper shot execution, but perhaps more importantly, occupies the mind with a positive script that prevents the interference of doubts or the fears of poor results.

Tiger’s pre-shot routine was relatively quick, 14-15 seconds, while Phil’s was 17-18 seconds. The longest I have seen was Hideki Matsuyama while securing his recent win of the 2017 Waste Management Phoenix Open. Matsuyama, who’s known for a trademark pause at the top of his backswing, took what seemed like a lifetime of 22 seconds to finally strike the ball. It was, however, the same for every full swing.

How Can You Use This? 

Develop your own pre-shot routine and divide it into the two segments discussed:

  • Step 1: Thinking, planning and visualizing the shot.
  • Step 2: Setup and execution. Ideally, all of Step 1 is accomplished before it is your turn to play.

Have your coach or a friend time you in Step 2 (the execution chamber) from the moment you step forward and begin to address the ball until your club makes contact. If you take more than 20 seconds, you are not only wasting time but also leaving too much of an opening for doubt and confusion to seep into your chamber.

Use your pre-shot routine whenever you practice. Make it an automatic part of each shot and the same every time, whether you are on the course or in the practice area. Remember, a solid pre-shot routine helps to insure proper ball position and alignment while promoting consistency in your golf swing. Further, relying on a solid routine is the best defense against the pressure of competition.

For a Complete Strokes Gained Analysis of your game, log on to www.shotbyshot.com.

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In 1989, Peter Sanders founded Golf Research Associates, LP, creating what is now referred to as Strokes Gained Analysis. His goal was to design and market a new standard of statistically based performance analysis programs using proprietary computer models. A departure from “traditional stats,” the program provided analysis with answers, supported by comparative data. In 2006, the company’s website, ShotByShot.com, was launched. It provides interactive, Strokes Gained analysis for individual golfers and more than 150 instructors and coaches that use the program to build and monitor their player groups. Peter has written, or contributed to, more than 60 articles in major golf publications including Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and Golf for Women. From 2007 through 2013, Peter was an exclusive contributor and Professional Advisor to Golf Digest and GolfDigest.com. Peter also works with PGA Tour players and their coaches to interpret the often confusing ShotLink data. Zach Johnson has been a client for nearly five years. More recently, Peter has teamed up with Smylie Kaufman’s swing coach, Tony Ruggiero, to help guide Smylie’s fast-rising career.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Jasian Day

    Jun 1, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    I walk the course 99% of the time….
    I guess most of all my preshot junk happens a few yards short of the ball as I’m walking to it…
    I check the pin sheet, get a rough yardage from my gps, and think about how the hole plays and how I’m hitting it
    Once I get to the ball I probably hit it in less than 25 seconds unless I feel alignment or ball position is wrong
    No practice swings yo

  2. Jack

    May 31, 2017 at 11:10 pm

    Visualize shot, choose club, wind etc. Step up then do a small practice swing, address ball and check aim, do a quick two waggles and smash it. I’m usually pretty quick but I have found it’s better to work in a practice swing or two executing the swing say a 3/4 swing or a punch shot. Full shots I just swing away. Checking the target really helps you be more target oriented as well as knowing your alignment.

  3. Mad-Mex

    May 31, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    What is this pre-shot routine you speak of ??!?!!? I think it changes almost with every shot! Need to establish one.

  4. Edrem

    May 31, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    None of that makes any difference for you when you have a crap swing with which you can’t hit the ball straight like you lmao

  5. Philip

    May 31, 2017 at 10:47 am

    My pre-shot routine takes about 10-15 seconds, however, when I am in that mode it seems like time has slowed to a crawl. This season I am finding that once I enter my pre-shot routine I tend to no longer hear anything around me, my heart slows, and my breathing gets deeper and slower. If I can still hear others around me after 5 seconds than I usually miss my target – I still have to learn to stop and reload if I haven’t truly entered my space inside my head. I will cost my group more lost time with my miss than if I back off and retry.

    • Philip

      May 31, 2017 at 12:46 pm

      Nothing … the objective is to quite my mind while only focusing on my target where I want the ball to go. Before I start I have already decided on my target, miss, and ball flight (high/low/draw/fade) so once my mind is clear and calm I set up to the ball, create my shot and fire. If I am working with a swing thought I do it during my practice swing before I start my pre-shot routine … during my swing I let my body do what it does a LOT better than me.

    • Peter Sanders

      Jun 1, 2017 at 9:13 am

      Good Q! It is important to occupy your thoughts with the positive steps of your routine. I advocate that you can also have ONE positive swing key or thought. Mine vary depending how I am playing or what I am focusing on that day but it must be one, last positive thought.

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Opinion & Analysis

The History of Course Design is Yours to Play at Oglebay

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There is a much-talked about “New Golden Age” of golf course design underway that is driven by demand for ever-more spectacular courses at the top end of the resort golf market. Destinations such as Streamsong, Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links, Sand Valley and others provide the traveling golfer a spectacular golf experience; unfortunately, it comes at a price tag that is equally spectacular. When a week playing golf in Florida can cost as much as a week in Scotland, where do you go for a golf getaway that doesn’t require a second mortgage?

Oglebay Golf Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia, doesn’t just provide an affordable golf vacation option; with its three golf courses, it provides players the chance to experience a condensed history of American golf course design through its three courses. The resort sits on land that was once owned by a wealthy industrialist and is now a part of the city park system. Located about an hour from Pittsburgh, Oglebay draws the majority of its golfers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. It’s kind of cool that when you drive to Oglebay from the Washington, D.C., you hit all of those states except Ohio, which is just a few minutes away from Wheeling. The area is especially picturesque in the autumn months when the changing colors of the leaves are at their peak.

The property has a rich history in the business and sporting history of West Virginia, but the three golf courses, Crispin, are a special prize that taken together form a primer on the history of golf design in the past 90 years. The 5,670-yard Crispin course is a one-off design by local golf enthusiast Robert Biery that was completed in 1930 and is a fascinating study of design techniques of that era. The slopes and elevation are severe and extreme by today’s standards. A clue was the raised eyebrow of the assistant pro when I said that I would walk the course. Uneven lies are the order of the day, the product of a time when there was neither the money nor equipment readily available to create gentle slopes and even surfaces; the course is true to the original contours of the West Virginia hillside.  There is little relief on the greens, which run a little slower than typical greens but make up for it in size and slope. It is by far the shortest of the three courses but the par-4 8th hole and par-5 9th holes are a thousand yards of joy and pain.

Hole No. 6 at the Klieves course

The Klieves Course is a 6,800-yard, par-71 Arnold Palmer design that was completed in 2000. The design features broad fairways, mildly undulating greens and opportunities for heroics on short par-4’s, all the prototypical characteristics of modern resort golf courses. While some architects choose to torture and torment, Palmer courses put a premium on fun and this one is no exception. The par-5, 515 yard 6th is a great example of the risk/reward available without that challenges the resort golfer without the need to humiliate. The course is very well maintained tee to green, and you’ll want to keep a fully charged battery to take photos of the vistas from the elevated tee boxes.

Hole No. 13 at the Jones course

In my humble opinion, the true gem is the Robert Trent Jones course. The 7,004-yard, par-72 Course carries a healthy 75.1 rating/141 slope from the back tees. It utilizes a gorgeous piece of land that meanders across the West Virginia hills to give a mesmerizing collection of holes that are equal parts scenery and challenge. Both nines start from elevated tee boxes hitting down into valleys that offer classic risk/reward propositions. Usually I have no problem identifying a favorite hole or two, but on this course it’s difficult. Having said that, the stretch of No. 4 (par 3, 193 yards), No. 5 (par-5, 511 yards) and No. 6 (par-4, 420 yards) are among the best I have played anywhere as a show of nature’s beauty and the at of laying out a golf hole. And the four par 3’s are not the place to pic up an easy birdie. The only one less that 190 yards from the tips is the 158-yard 15th, which is protected by a small, undulating green. All in all, it’s a perfect representation of the genius of Robert Trent Jones.

The golf is good at Oglebay and the prices are better. You can get in 18 at the Oglebay courses for as little as $32…on the weekend. And when you’re not playing golf, you can take advantage of the myriad of outdoor sports activities, tour the Oglebay mansion, hit the spa or visit the Glass Museum on the property (I promise it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds). There’s a lot of great new golf resorts out there and that’s a good thing for the golf industry, but destinations like Oglebay prove that there’s a lot of life left in the old classics as well.

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