Golf Pre Shot Routine Basics: The Most Overlooked Fundamental in the Game

The golf pre shot routine, one of the game’s most overlooked strategies…

Great golfers go about their business in many different ways on the course.  Aside from posting low scores, they really don’t have a lot in common while playing the game.

Some golfers hit bombs and attack the course at every opportunity, like Bryson, while others work in a methodical way, tactfully working their way around the course in a disciplined manner that most recreational golfers can’t even imagine.

The one thing they ALL HAVE…  their own go-to PRE SHOT ROUTINE!

There are a ton of great golf tips for beginners and amateurs, but it seems that the mention of pre shot routines is often overlooked. If you are serious about improving your game, then consider creating your own pre shot routine. 

This post will cover everything you need to know, and our hopes are that after reading this you can stand over the ball with great confidence going forward. 

What is a Pre Shot Routine?

Often called a pre swing routine, the pre shot routine is essentially any ritual that a golfer follows prior to hitting their next shot. 

Yes, it is really that simple!

More importantly, the basic idea of the pre-swing routine itself is to get you in the right headspace to hit your next shot.  It’s mental preparation for the game, and it is every bit as important, if not more, than the physical aspects.

So there’s that…  Let’s move on!

Why is Pre Shot Routine Important in Golf?


Have you ever heard anyone tell you to model people that have things you desire? That is not limited to the game of golf, it is something you hear throughout life in many situations.

In golf, that translates to adopting some of the actions that the best of the best play the game with.  You don’t have to yield the same results as the pros to take advantage of some of the mental strategies they approach the game with. 

This strategy, if used consistently will help improve your game, which is what ALL golfers want!

Some of the benefits to a pre-shot routine are:

  • Increased confidence
  • Improved quality of play/better scores
  • Speed up play (how so? fewer shots taken! ????)
  • Helps play unfamiliar courses by sticking to your game/plan/routine

Truthfully, there are many benefits to using a pre-shot routine while you play. You can find examples in many other fields where a similar routine is suggested.

Pre Shot Routine Psychology

There is an abundance of benefits to this. It should be a fundamental aspect of your mental game in golf and any other sports that require such strong mental commitments.

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The psychology behind the pre swing routine is that it helps golfers commit and trust to the swing they are about to take.  All golfers know that it is rare for anything good to come from a shot when you are wavering over the ball, confused about what might happen.

Your goal when golfing should be to hit each shot to the best of your ability, and the pre-shot routine is your best chance to prepare your mind and body for that action.

Of course, it does not guarantee good results, however, it does prepare you to get the best results you can in that given moment on the course.  Additionally, it can and will help you reach your full potential with the game of golf.

smart in dictionary

A few things you can focus on with your routine are:

  • making the smart play
  • rehearsing the smart play
  • setting yourself up properly to hit the shot you want

How to Start Your Pre Shot Routine

Every golfer’s pre-swing routine is different. There are certain things that you should develop in yours, but ultimately it comes down to doing whatever you can to prepare yourself to put the best swing on the ball you can.

Here are some things you should implement when building or creating yours:

Start With a Swing Trigger

One key thing to consider here is that your pre-swing routine should begin well before you are standing at your ball. Whether you are walking or riding, pay attention to the slopes, contours, and features of the hole. This will help you play things out in your head prior to addressing the ball.

Then, create a trigger that actually starts the sequence. This trigger can become a signal to your brain that it’s time to get focused on the shot you are about to play.  This could be something like velcroing your glove, or anything else that you can come up with that signals to your mind that it’s time.

Get Your Distance Nnumbers Calculated

At this point, you need to get your distance. Things like rangefinders and GPS make this pretty easy, but on windy days it can be tricky.  Not all rangefinders calculate the up and down of the hole so we think it’s best to create a way to do that math in your own head. That will help you to create a strategy you will use to play the hole.

image of a golf hole

The thought process on the tee box could be:

  • How will I attack this hole?
  • What club do I need?
  • What is my desired outcome? (some holes carry different expectations)
  • Where can I miss and get away with it? Where is the trouble?
  • Where is my ideal target?

Now, if this is not your tee shot you might need to approach it a little differently. You might ask yourself:

  • What are my key distances? (front, pin, middle, back)
  • What club do I need? (up/down, wind etc..)
  • Where is the trouble? (water, bunkers, tiers etc)
  • Where is my ideal target?
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All of this calculating on the fly might sound daunting, but with some practice, you will be able to work through this stuff quickly.  Another thing to note is that many courses do have yardage books and pin sheets, so take advantage of that when you can.

image of a targetPick Your Target

Now it’s time to get down to it. You’ve calculated the distance, you’ve identified the troubles, selected your club, and committed to the shot. 

Now you need to pick the target.

Your best bet is to pick both a short and long target.  The long target could be anything, a tree, or another object you can see clearly.  Aim small miss small.

For the short target, pick something less than a foot in front of the ball.  This is great for helping you get the alignment needed to hit the exact shot you have played out in your head.

Practice Swing

Now it’s time to rehearse the swing you have planned. Is it a draw, a fade,  a flop, a knockdown??

If things go as planned, where will it end up? 

Fill out all of the blanks in as much detail as you can.  Paint a picture in your head of the perfect shot.


“I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head.”

This type of planning comes easy to some, while others struggle to paint that picture within.  If you operate with feel more than visuals think about what the perfect swing will feel like to help you create the feel of your ideal shot.

Now you have established what this shot/swing will look and/or feel like.  It’s time to rehearse your swing 1 or 2 times so you can step over the ball feeling comfortable. Keep these swings to about 50-60%, think smooth and relaxed. Don’t get all technical in with those swings.

Addressing the Ball

green light

Now, it’s go time.  You have painted the picture in your head, or imagined how it’ll feel.  You have taken a few smooth, easy swings preparing your body for the shot.

Take a few deep cleansing breaths and approach the ball.

Go set the clubface to your ideal line, then set your feet.  Take a look up to your target, then glance back to the ball.  Every golfer has their own preference to the number of times they look up, so go with whatever makes you comfortable.  Heck, maybe you even throw a waggle or two in as well!

Then, while over the ball, take a short breath in and release, then execute the shot you have planned!

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Try not to stand over the ball for too long. Most amateurs will allow distraction to creep into their heads and will fail to remain focused on the task at hand.  Once you exhale, release all your tension and go for it!

Putting and Short Game Pre Shot Routine

man putting a golf ball

Don’t rest on your laurels just because you are satisfied with your pre-shot routine from distance.

The fact is, nearly 60% of all shots in a round of golf are taken from inside 50 yards, so make sure you have a pre-swing routine set up for short shots, including putts, as well.

Realistically, you don’t need to change much for pitches and chips. Just make sure you have a clear-cut idea of where your ball will ideally land for those shots before moving forward.

Putting is different.  Each player has different preferences for setting up to putt. Some read the green from each side, some plumb bob, and some use Aimpoint, and other methods as well. 

There is no “right” way to do it, simply choose the routine that works best for you and leaves you feeling most comfortable as you go to strike your putt.

Practicing Your Pre Shot Routine

allen iverson practice

When it comes to nailing down your own, unique practice routine you should probably consider getting this set before you get to the course.

Hit a range, set up in your back yard, go to a field, whatever… Just take some time to go find something that covers all of the important aspects we discussed in this article, and nail it down.  That’s it!

Doing this on the range will most likely lead to better, more efficient range-time as well.  The trickle-down effect of committing to this is bigger than you probably imagine, but there is a reason you see great golfers do it.  Because it works.

The Pre Shot Routine in Golf – Closing Thoughts

This might feel like a lot to digest right now, but it will get easier.  In fact, it will become second nature to you after a few rounds.

The impact the pre-shot routine will have on your game is significant.  Think of it as your co-pilot on the course.  Once you find YOUR routine, stick with it.

One other thing to note…

No one enjoys playing 6 and 7-hour rounds.  While it’s important to iron all of these details out for the best scores, it is also important to do so in a timely manner so all of your playing partners and other golfers on the course don’t come unhinged!  

That’s a wrap!

Thanks for sticking with me for this pre swing routine guide.  If you love the game and want to get better, it’s definitely something to dial in.  

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To your golf success! ????️

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