Best Pre-Shot Golf Routine – Setup & Checklist from an Olympian

Let’s talk cross-training! I spent my youth putting holes in paper; I was a competitive target shooter with a national ranking. I competed in the Olympic Games in Atlanta for Team USA. I’m going to discuss how that experience translates to the best golf pre shot routine.

During that time, I worked with the best sports psychologists available to Olympic athletes at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I have since adapted my mental training in visualization, focus and follow-through in my shooting sport to other sports.

I use the mental training techniques and methods honed on the shooting range in my adult golf game. It was actually an easy transition as both sports focus on individual effort and mental agility throughout the entire event is key.

To be sure, I play golf for fun; however, I maintain my signature focus and mental discipline. A big part of my method is the same set-up every time. Never changes.

I know this gives me an edge.

As I enter into my pre-shot routine, I no longer allow myself to ruminate on earlier outcomes. Only the next shot is important.

As I start my set-up, I only permit time and energy on the execution of the next shot. This regimented approach takes the emotional ride out of a negative outcome.

You are simply not allowed to expend energy on a previous shot.

Let’s dive into developing a golf pre-shot routine.

Pre-shot routine basics

Camaraderie in golf and playing a round with friends is a terrific benefit of playing the sport of golf. You do not have to give up the social aspect of playing while incorporating your pre-shot routine. No one has to even be aware of your routine.

Talk and drink on your way to the next shot as you wish. Select a particular cue to enter your routine and begin the mental exercise.

This can be any cue or trigger common to your game such as arriving at the tee with your cart or selecting your golf club from the bag.

Now add the physical and mental components you want in your pre-shot routine. Keep it simple though.

My Pre-Shot Routine From my Olympics Event

As a target shooter, I would allow myself about 30 seconds after a shot to assess/record the result and clear my mind. Then I would start my pre-shot routine.

I would become aware of my breathing, and my stance as I regripped my pistol for the next round. I’d look at the card on my shooting stand that read “This Shot”.

I would reaffirm the balance of my weight on my feet and deliberately turn my body to the target. One deep breath and raise my pistol above the target. Slowly lowering the pistol and holding my breath until my sights met the desired location on the target.

I was simply aware of my grip pressure and slowly started to engage the dual-stage trigger as my hold hovered on the perfect sight picture and alignment.

The sight picture was everything to me. All I wanted to see (my entire mental focus) was a sharp front sight precisely located on my target.

I focused on that while subconsciously increasing the trigger pressure. The actual shot is a surprise or practically a surprise to me. This is essential for follow-through in shooting to be effective. You cannot be waiting for the shot. It has to manifest. And when you let it happen (as opposed to making it happen), the follow-through is natural and complete.

Exhale. Take in a deep breath. Lower the pistol and record the result. Wipe any feelings aside. Start again.

These pieces, these subtle actions comprised my pre-shot system. My comfortable, reliable system. Ha! I think I even rocked my feet the same number of times before settling into my stance. Extremely consistent. There was no time to dwell on any negatives. I was executing the next shot.

How did I transition my pistol pre-shot routine into golf play? Only slight adjustments were necessary. Simple pieces repeated and repeated again. This repetition reduces anxiety and gives an advantage in pressure-filled competition. Doesn’t really matter what sport we are talking about!

What is a good pre-shot routine

A good pre-shot routine is whatever works for your game and increases your confidence on the course. The design choices between physical and mental components are endless. You are merely restricted by the time you have to prepare and hit your ball without delaying play.

Visualization is a key component of a good pre-shot routine, it can be developed through meditation for golfers.

Develop a Pre-Shot Routine Checklist

checklist, action, check

Develop your unique pre-shot routine checklist. The best pre shot golf routine is the one that works for you!

Perhaps start with a positive affirmation like my “This Shot” reminder. Psych yourself up for success. Remember that the last shot is gone and done.

As you approach behind the ball (whether it’s on the tee or in the fairway), examine the course before you. Note the topography and the obstacles. Plan the best shot possible. See the best shot possible. Then go through your checklist.

Sample Pre-Shot Routine Checklist

  1. Address the golf ball the same way every time.

  2. Check your foot placement–the same every time.

  3. Ensure your grip positioning and pressure is the same every time.

  4. However you prefer to align yourself to the target, complete your alignment.

  5. Visualize the perfect shot.

  6. Perform practice swings or not, if so, visualize the shot while you practice.

  7. Visualize the shot

  8. Execute exactly what you visualized.

  9. Follow through. Absolutely necessary.

  10. After follow through, assess shot and move on.

  11. Take mental and social breaks.

  12. Repeat.

Why do you need a good pre-shot routine

So much happening for an amateur golfer on the golf course is unplanned. Accept that truth and don’t let it bother you.

There are, however, pieces of the game golfers can control and take comfort in the routine. Having a pre-shot routine eliminates pressure and avoids distracting thoughts. You will be too busy executing your routine to worry about the last shot or anything else.

FAQs for the Best Pre Shot Golf Routine

Golf pre shot routine Final Thoughts

Developing a pre shot routine is a great step to improving your game. It is critical that you find what works for you. It is well-known by sports psychologists that elite athletes adopt consistent routines.

Simplify the routine and practice it so it becomes second nature. You shouldn’t be going through 87 swing thoughts as you approach the ball. Simplify things.

There is a lot more to the mental game of golf than your pre shot routine, I’d encourage you to keep reading on the topic to put all of it into practice!

Good luck on the golf course, and in your mental approach to the game!

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