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A golf psychologist's guide to pre-shot routines

A golf psychologist's guide to pre-shot routines

Is there such a thing as the perfect golf shot? Probably not, but the best golf shots are often played by those who are able to perform under pressure and have a stable pre-shot routine that they are confident in and believe will bring them success.

Pre-shot routines are important. They improve the golfer’s concentration by directing their focus to aspects that help them carry out an effective shot, and stop them from dwelling on negative or irrelevant thoughts or distractions from their surroundings. A pre-shot routine can also improve the golfer’s confidence in their abilities, leading to an improvement in performance, as the routine is something that is familiar and allows them to visualise previous successes they have had before.

So, what makes a good pre-shot routine?

How to Execute an Effective Pre-shot Routine

Prepare to Perform

To perform an effective golf shot, the golfer needs to think positively about the task. Positive thoughts can be generated by the golfer by engaging in positive self-talk, using statements such as “I played really well last time out”. If negative thoughts start to emerge, the golfer needs to act and say “stop”, replacing negative thoughts with ones that motivate them.

Picture Perfect 

The golfer should imagine themselves carrying out the shot to the best of their ability, which will increase their confidence and affirm their capabilities for performing the task. Research has shown that whilst physical practice is essential, when it is combined with visualisation, performance is greatly improved. Visualisation also increases golfers’ motivation, encouraging them to spend more time practicing, set more challenging goals, and show greater adherence to their training programme.

Superior Focus

Distractions on the course may include an awareness of other golfers watching, recognition that your shots are being evaluated, and the performance of other golfers around you. All of these have the potential to degrade performance.

Research has shown that, when putting, elite golfers’ superior performance can be somewhat attributed to their focus on a single cue, such as the back of the ball or feeling the rhythm of the putt, whereas novice golfers have too many thoughts about the mechanics of the putt for example.

Play the Shot 

Before playing a shot, golfers need to ensure that they do not overthink it. At this stage, there is no need to consider the outcomes as these have already been taken care of during the preparations. Golfers can try and reduce “paralysis by analysis” by not learning the mechanics behind their shots. This prevents them from being consciously controlled processes and overanalysed when executed, which subsequently lowers performance.


Whilst having a pre-shot routine is important, what is essential for golfers is that their pre-shot routine can be consistently employed each time they play and is tailored around what does and doesn’t work for them.

The pre-shot routine, like the shots themselves, needs to be practiced not just during competitions but also during practice rounds and on the range. This way, the golfer not only gets into the habit of using it, but can also make adjustments to ensure that it is the best it can be and helps them perform when it really matters.

For more golf performance tips and resources, check out our Sport Psychology for Golf guide page.

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