The Importance of a Pre-shot Routine for High Handicappers

In 2022, around one in seven Americans played golf. These days, there are more golfers than ever before.

If you’re a new golfer who has a high handicap, there’s a lot for you to learn to improve and bring your best to the game. To improve your golf skills, one of the best things that you can do is establish a pre-shot routine.

So, what is a high handicap golfer pre-shot routine, and how can you create one? In this guide, we’ll tell you everything that you need to know.

What Is a High Handicap Golfer Pre-Shot Routine?

A pre-shot golf routine is a routine that you’ll go through every time you need to take a shot. This routine can consist of anything, but having one is more important than you may think and is a big part of the mental game of golf.

All of the pros and experienced players have a pre-shot routine. Developing one of your own can help you improve your game and feel more confident with every shot that you take.

As a high handicapper, a great pre-shot routine can help you play faster, be more competitive, and feel more relaxed. A routine can also help you feel comfortable in a new golf course that you haven’t played at before. 

With a routine, your shots will be more consistent, and you’ll get more predictable outcomes. Taking the same steps before every shot can help you feel better about your skills and can help you get into the right mindset to make a great shot every time.

There’s no set routine that you should follow, and you shouldn’t just copy someone else’s routine. You should make your routine your own. However, having one can do a lot to help you become a better golfer and is worth putting some thought into.

Phases of the Pre-Shot Routine

It’s important to note that there are two distinct phases of the pre-shot routine. Following these successfully and knowing them can help you a lot when you’re trying to golf better as a high handicapper. Here’s what you should know about each of them.

Thinking Phase

During the Thinking Phase, you need to think about your shot clearly. Consider all of the different tactics that you’ve learned to take a calculated approach. 

At this time, you’ll want to think about the distance that your ball will travel and select the club that you’ll use. You should run through a checklist in your mind of each of the details of the shot, such as how you’ll aim your shot, what hazards you need to avoid, the wind conditions, and the width of the fairway. 

A lot of what you decide to do during this phase will depend on the golf lessons you’ve had and the strategies that you’ve learned before playing a round of golf. Considering all the details of your shot during this pre-shot routine can allow you to make better moves once it’s time to actually take the shot. 

Engagement Phase

Once you’re done thinking about your shot, it’s time to walk into the ball and begin the second phase of your pre-shot routine. During the Engagement Phase, you should let your body take over and remove thinking from the equation. 

Since you’ve already thought clearly about the shot, you can then make your shot and let your subconscious mind take over for the rest. Focusing on your breath or visualizing the success of your shot is all you’ll need to do at this point. Once you have let your subconscious mind take over, you can then take the shot with your best ability and let the results fall where they may.  

What to Include in Your Pre-Shot Routine

There’s no specific routine that you need to follow as a high-handicap golf player. However, there are certain things that tend to be a part of a golfer’s pre-shot routine. Here are some of the most common things that golfers do as part of their pre-shot routines.

Start With a Trigger

The first element in a pre-shared routine is a trigger. A trigger can help send the message to your mind that it’s time to focus and plan your shot. It’s a simple action that you take that you use habitually to begin to determine the best strategy.

A trigger can be something simple like velcroing your golf glove, shuffling your feet, or cocking your head to the left side. It might also be a verbal phrase that you say to yourself such as “Commit” or counting to three. It can be anything that you want it to be.

Plan Your Shot

Once you’ve completed your trigger, you should then start planning your shot. Start by calculating the distance of your shot and determining your strategy. You should think about which club you’re going to use, what your target for the shot is, and how you’ll avoid any hazards that are in the way. 

Thinking clearly about what your approach will be for the shot is an essential part of the pre-shot routine and should begin as soon as you perform the trigger.

Choose a Target

With your target in mind, you’ll want to use all of the techniques and skills you’ve learned to line up your shot and visualize where you want your ball to go. Stand behind your ball and try to get a clear picture of the path you want your ball to take to reach your intended target.

The better that you can visualize your shot and plan out your approach, the more likely it will be that you’ll do a great job. There’s a lot of power in visualization, and nowhere is this more true than in the game of golf. 

Take Some Practice Swings

Before taking your shot, you may want to take some practice swings. This is a very common part of a pre-shot routine that experienced golfers like to go through before lining up to take an actual swing. Before you take your shot, continue visualizing where you want your ball to go, and be sure to focus on the feeling rather than the actual technique. 

Take a few light practice swings to get into a good mindset and to get a feel for how your actual swing will be. This can be a great way to get ready before you decide to step up and put the ball into motion.

Take Your Shot

Once you have the right club and you’ve visualized your shot and taken some practice swings, it’s time to take the shot. Breathe deeply, walk up to the golf ball, and prepare to take the shot. Be sure that you get your stance right and that you align your club properly. 

Take another look at what your target will be before shifting your focus back to the golf ball. Once you’re prepared, take your shot.

After you’ve taken your shot, don’t worry about the outcome. Try not to get too emotional about any bad golf shots that you take but accept what happened and continue on. 

Is Short Game the Same?

It’s important to realize that your pre-shot routine may change for your short game. Since many of your shots will take place within 50 yards, having a separate short game pre-shot routine can be helpful. 

While much of your pre-shot routine will be the same as with your long game, there may be differences as well, depending on how you decide to play. The way that you calculate your shots and plan your targets may vary a bit from your long game. However, you may also want to take different actions during the short game as well such as using a different trigger and doing practice swings a bit differently. 

Only you can decide what’s right for you. Be sure to experiment and decide what helps your game as you iron out your routine and find something that works for your needs.

Should Pre-Shot Routines Change?

Generally speaking, once you have developed a pre-shot routine that you’re happy with, it shouldn’t change all that much. Since it is a routine, you need to stick to it and go through the actions each time you take a shot.

As mentioned above, however, the type of routine you follow may change a bit based on the type of shot that you’re taking. You’ll likely have a different approach for driving, putting, approach shots, and bunkers. While there will likely be a lot of overlap between them, the way you line up your ball and plan, your target will vary between each of these types of shots.

Developing Your Pre-Shot Routine

So, what is a high handicap golfer pre-shot routine, and how can you make it work for you? Remember that there are two distinct phases in a pre-shot routine, including the “Thinking Phase” and the “Engagement Phase”. Thinking carefully about your shot and then letting your subconscious take over while going through your routine will help you play better and become the golfer that you want to be.

Need more tips for improving your golf game? Learn about the most common mistakes that high handicappers make on High Golf Handicap now.

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