Golf for Beginners: The Perfect Golf Pre-Shot Routine

By Performance Golf Zone · · 8 min read

Playing golf and not having a golf pre-shot routine is like trying to take a test without studying first.

Sure, you may get lucky by not practicing or studying…but preparation can only help your chances at success!

The pre-shot routine in golf is essentially what lets your body know it’s time to make a swing and hit a great golf shot. When it comes to golf for beginners, this is especially important.

However, a consistent, thorough pre-shot routine trains your body on how to repeat a swing and be a more consistent player. The golf pre-shot routine is a key element in any golfer’s game, and you must learn the steps involved and how to create a repeatable and dependable routine.

What Is the Importance of a Golf Pre-Shot Routine?

The golf pre-shot routine is a process of various physical and mental steps (a checklist, if you will) that helps prepare you to hit a golf shot.

The golf pre-shot routine includes mental components, aim and alignment, and even a bit of golf swing mechanics. Without a proper pre-shot routine, expect:

  • Inconsistent play
  • Poor alignment and aim
  • Difficulty getting the ball close to the hole
  • Problems with accuracy under pressure
  • Inability to visualize and plan for shots

Implementing a pre-shot routine will positively impact all aspects of your golf swing, especially as a beginner golfer.

Creating and Executing Pre-Shot Routine (Step-by-Step)

To create a pre-shot routine, you have to make sure you hit on the key aspects, but you also need to pay close attention to your personal preferences. It is your personal routine, after all.

When watching the professionals, you see they have these little quirks and movements that make their pre-shot routine a unique fit to their specific golf game.

Step 1: Make Your Assessment

The first part of the pre-shot routine process is to assess the shot that you have in front of you.

Take a look at the following:

  • Total distance of the shot
  • Slope of the course
  • Environmental factors (wind, temperature, etc.)
  • Hazards and obstacles
  • Course conditions

Step 2: Develop a Plan and Pick a Target

Once you have assessed the situation, you need to pick your target and develop your plan.

Most great golfers will not aim at the pin every time; instead, they assess the best place to land the ball to leave the best chance of making a birdie.

When developing your plan, consider the normal ball flight of your shots so that you are able to accommodate a draw or fade that you may naturally have.

Use a distance measuring device to make sure that your yardages are accurate and you have the right club in your hands.

Pick your club and then move to the next step.

Step 3: Get the Body Moving

During the pre-shot routine process, many golfers get stuck and forget to keep their body moving. Remember that golf is an athletic activity, and you must keep your body loose and fluid if you want to hit great shots.

For this part of your pre-shot routine, go ahead and take the practice swing. You can be standing behind the ball or to the side of the golf ball, but make sure you take a warm-up stroke that feels solid and in balance.

Step 4: Aim and Alignment

The next part of the routine requires you to aim your golf club and align your feet and body to the target. It’s often best to pick a spot between you and the hole you can line up to, something closer than the long-range target.

Most golfers like to come into their golf shot from the side so that they at least have a chance to look at the down-the-line view and visualize their shot.

Step 5: Swing Thoughts

Now that you have addressed the ball and you are standing over it, you can start to think about the swing you want to have on this shot.

“Swing thoughts” need to be kept minimal and positive. It’s often best to focus on feelings as opposed to positions. Some examples of positive or helpful swing thoughts include:

  • Make a full shoulder turn and a relaxed finish
  • Let the arms go along for the ride
  • Smooth transition away from the ball
  • Brush the grass
  • Steady head
  • It’s a great day to play golf

It’s often best to keep that swing thought the same throughout your entire round of golf. Adding in too much variation can make it difficult to repeat your pre-shot routine.

While developing your swing thought and standing over the ball, you won’t want to take more than just a few seconds. Standing over the ball for too long of periods creates tension.

Implementing a pre-shot routine will positively impact all aspects of your golf swing, especially as a beginner golfer.

Step 6: Target Check

When you have your swing thought set, your clubhead in place, your alignment sorted out, and you are ready to swing, take one last look at the target and ensure everything is headed in the right direction.

If your feet are moving around a little, or your arms and shoulders are staying loose, this is a good thing. As mentioned, standing still for too long during the pre-shot routine creates tension and issues with consistency. So it’s best to stay loose!

Step 7: Execute

Finally, you are ready to take the club back and hit the shot. Make sure the takeaway feels like an extension of the pre-shot routine, and it is not a sudden or abrupt movement.

The execution of your shots will naturally be more consistent when you have a consistent pre-shot routine in place.

Spend some time practicing your pre-shot routine on the driving range. It’s hard to run out to the course and try to develop this. In addition, use your pre-shot routine when you are hitting balls at the range; it will make each shot that much more effective.

How Long Should a Golf Pre-Shot Routine Take?

A golf pre-shot routine takes around 20-30 seconds. It can be helpful to time your routine and see how long it takes you. When you have days on the course where you struggle with your timing or tempo, ensure your pre-shot routine speed is about the same each time.

If you can keep your pre-shot routine timing about the same from one shot to the next, it is just another way to lead to more consistent golf, especially for beginners.

Tips for Using Your Pre-shot Routine Effectively

Now that you have the proper steps in place for a great pre-shot routine, here are some of the things to know about how to use that routine effectively.

  • If you make a change to your pre-shot routine, practice it on the range first and make sure it’s effective.
  • Keep the pre-shot routine generally the same for all clubs in the bag (putting can be slightly different so keep that in mind).
  • Always ensure the body is moving and flowing throughout the process; standing still and completing the routine could leave you rigid or stiff when you strike the ball.
  • Ensure your fundamentals (grip, setup, stance) are solid to make your pre-shot routine even more effective.
  • Watch the pre-shot routine of professionals to learn how they differ and see if there are things you can incorporate into your golf game.

Practicing a Pre-Shot Routine

To practice and develop a pre-shot routine, make sure to incorporate training aids and devices.

Using tools like The Straightaway to help you achieve a repeatable optimal swing path and clubface control at impact every time.

The golf pre-shot routine is something you can work on at any time. Investing in golf training programs can also help you establish your golf swing process and then repeat your pre-shot routine every time you’re on the course.

Is a Pre-Shot Routine Necessary in the Short Game?

Part of the pre-shot routine includes shot practice. You warm up your body and your mind to be able to hit the shot you need to hit. Therefore, incorporating the pre-shot routine in the short game makes a lot of sense.

There may be some slight inconsistencies from your pre-shot routine with your driver to the pre-shot routine with a bunker shot, but you should at least have these elements in place:

  • An assessment of the situation and planning of the shot
  • Body warm up
  • Alignment and aim
  • Mental game checks (swing thought)
  • Target check

Creating a pre-shot routine in the short game will only help you be a more accurate and accomplished golfer.

While it would be great if having a solid golf swing was enough to shoot low scores on the course – the pros will tell you it’s not.

Incorporating a pre-shot routine into your golf practice and golf routine will ensure that you are properly lined up, ready to execute, and that your mind is focused on the task at hand.

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