Are you looking for more consistency, better resilience under pressure and overall lower scores? Of course you are – read on.
Every golfer has a routine, whether they know it or not; some routines are just better than others. There are certain things I look for in a good routine, and a good amount of practice should be spent to develop your routine into something rock solid. A lot of sports psychologists say to focus on your routine, yet I’m pretty sure that when players are really in the ‘zone’ they are not even aware of much of the routine itself, let alone the shot. Practice to create a top quality routine, until even the routine is automatic itself.
Brushing your teeth is part of a quality morning routine – but you practice it so often
that you don’t actually think about it. How often do you practice your Routine??
Main goals of the routine
The routine should achieve the following things
1. Appropriate strategy for that shot
2. Develop a visual representation of the shot in your mind
3. Develop a feel for the shot
4. Reasonable physical alignment – good mental alignment
5. Minimize thinking over the ball
6. Maximize flow/minimize external/internal disturbances
7. Maximize confidence
The routine would also be split into the following phases
1. Pre-shot analysis
2. Pre-shot physical preparation
3. The shot
4. Post shot analysis
I will describe the above phases of the routine below.
It is pointless putting the best swing of your life on the ball if you picked the wrong strategy. Not playing for the wind, picking the wrong club, playing too aggressive and judging the green hardness incorrectly can really affect where your shot finishes. You should aim to make a clear decision on what you wish to achieve and how you are going to achieve it before you even think about pulling a club out of the bag.
Once you have made a decision, commit to it. If you find that you are struggling to commit to the decision you made, perhaps you are picking a strategy which is too aggressive, and your subconscious is trying to tell you. But try to eliminate the times you stand over the ball and doubt your decisions by creating a good pre shot analysis. Looking at the following ideas will get you started.
1. What can I do with the Lie I have? How is it going to affect the distance/direction of the ball?
2. Where is a good target to aim for in terms of risk/reward?Read this article on adjusted targets here for more info
3. Where do I have to land the ball to get it to finish here – what are the green conditions going to do to the ball?
4. What type of swing suits this shot best (if you have different options in your skill-set). A high shot, low ball, draw, fade?
5. What will the wind do to the distance, what club do I need to take to compensate? Read This article on ‘where to aim’ for more information.
6. What will the elevation do to the distance and spin – what changes do I need to make in shot height/club taken to adjust for this?
7. What will the wind do to the direction of the ball? Where do I need to aim to compensate for this?
Once you have taken these things into account, make a decision and stick to it completely. I would rather a player stick to their decision and get a poor result than to double guess themselves and get lucky, especially in practice sessions.
Faced with a difficult golf shot?? There can be a lot of distractions on the course, but through
directing your focus on the correct things, they can ‘melt away’. Psychologists call this
phenomenon ‘innattentional blindness’. Read more about this by clicking HERE
Pre-Shot Physical Preparation
This phase is designed to open up the neural pathways in your brain to help you access the movement you desire. This may include (depending on the individual)
1. Visualization of the desired decision from the previous phase Read This article on Ideomotor effect here
2. A practice swing to feel the movement you wish to produce
3. Use of words which can help you perform the movement, such as “punch the ball” or “compress the ball” or even saying the words “Draw”.
4. Picking an intermediate target with which to line up to
Doing these in this order can maximize your chances of success, before you move on to the next stage in the routine.
Try to visualise the shot in hand – it will help you focus your mind and
lead to better performance.
Now you have a rock solid decision in your head, and you have fully physically prepared for the shot. Now is the time to execute. The following are the goals of your execution phase of the routine – you can work on each thing separately in your practice, perhaps introducing one concept each week.
1. Create a calm mind through breathing techniques
2. Create confidence through body language
3. Create flow through rhythm Read this article on ‘Flow’ here
4. Minimize thought over the ball – walk in and hit the ball when you feel ready, avoid overly technical/complex/too many thoughts
Don’t forget to breathe
Post shot analysis
After the shot, you either got the result you wanted or you didn’t. If you did, well done, a great routine followed by great execution was the drink of the day. If you didn’t get your desired result (and most of your shots in golf will fall under this category) we have to analyze why.
Now you could obviously look at this one dimensionally and say you hit the ball left therefore it was a swing fault. But try to analyze exactly what went wrong; Was it the clubface, was it the strike? Further to this, we should be analyzing any mental influences which can contribute to the poor technical. For example, you may have hit the ball way right, but was this caused by a technical fault, or were you frightened of the out of bounds on the left, didn’t commit to your decision and ‘bailed out’ right? Here is a list of fault categories you can put any shot into – maybe even take a pad and pen with you and keep note of them.
Strike – heel/toe
Strike – Fat shot/ no divot
Clubface – Too open/closed
Path – too far left/right
Too aggressive strategy
Too conservative strategy (yes, you can have this)
Poor judge of conditions (wind, lie, green hardness, elevation)
Incorrect decision (Club choice, energy used)
Changing your mind/lack of commitment
When you have analysed the shot, make note of it mentally or physically (ideally by writing it in a note pad) and work on resolving and consistent issues coming up. Awareness is key to improving, and nothing is more awareness building that writing down notes on the above.
Take a notepad out with you. There are several worthwhile things you can jot down
which would give you a much greater understanding of your own game, and
also give your coach a better understanding when you show it to him/her.
Take home notes
Don’t try and do all of the above in one big leap. Just pick one thing, or maybe one thing in each section, and work on adding it to your existing routine. At the end of a year, your routine will be rock solid. We can always improve our routines; I have hundreds of other ideas on top of this which will personalize your routine further. The most important part is that your routine is consistent, the second most important part is that it is good quality.
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