Hopefully your new year’s golf resolutions involve a progression to the course and not just beating the back of your neck with sunlight on the practice range. Ideally, your resolutions should all be focused and specific enough that they each strengthen an element of your game to better your overall skill and ability to produce quality rounds. With that being said, here are some easy resolutions to set and follow that’ll return your investment with lower, more enjoyable, and more consistent rounds.
Stretch: I don’t know why, but this seems to be the part of the pre round routine and first tee regimen I see implemented the least. Perhaps it’s because we all feel a little self conscious twisting and contorting ourselves in the audience of the outdoors and surrounded by a course full of strangers. Whatever the case, resolving to stretch sufficiently before a range session and again before making the first tee shot is a minimal effort resolution that will undoubtedly produce better scores.
When starting your stretching routine, it’s important you actually stretch your muscles out and warm and loosen them instead of just sticking your driver over your head and making owl like twists for 5 minutes. Stretch with a purpose. Start with the lower body, something dynamic like body squats and lunges is great, as are hip circles and high knees. You want to simultaneously loosen and liven your muscles, and that’s not going to come from three groaning toe touches.
Putt, Putt Again, Then Keep Putting: When I walk onto the practice tee I see around at least a dozen instances of golfers hit two wedges, four to seventy five irons depending on how long it takes them to hit the exact shot they were looking for, and then three to ten of the fastest swung drivers in history before sprinting to the first tee. It’s frustratingly unproductive. Pre round range time has its place, to be sure, but that place is after preliminary putting, only if there’s at least still 30mins left to tee time, and before a last round of easy practice green putting.
Putting before a round wakes your brain up. It tells it that it’s time to get into golf mode, it’s time to start observing the world around you, deciding shots, and then creating the thought processes necessary to execute those shots. Similarly, putting just before the first tee shot calms the brain back down, eases the golfer into a more solid rhythm, and reminds the brain that it’s time to move from practice mode to execution mode.
Narrow Your Target: When I take a client onto the course for a playing lesson, or even just on the practice tee, I always ask them what the target for their shot is, particularly if it’s the first shot they’re trying to make. Many times their target will be some variation of naive optimism such as “my target is everything but that sand trap,” or “well I’m hoping I’ll find the fairway but who knows,” or, my personal favorite, “I definitely don’t want to hit it in the hazard.”
Here’s the thing. Your brain is smart, it’ll tell you what to do. If you tell your brain “don’t hit it here,” you’re being so vague about all the other places on planet earth you might be okay with hitting your ball to that your focus becomes on the only point of specificity in that statement, i.e. the hazard you’re trying to avoid. When you have a real, identifiable target your swing becomes much more deliberate. You’re more invested in executing a successful shot because you know where you want the ball to go. It’s the difference between getting in your car and hoping you find Disney World and actually following a map.
Have a Pre Shot Routine: A pre shot routine is not the Happy Gilmore windup. Nor is it the Charles Barkley hitch and go. It is however the Keegan Bradley 400 club spin, the Jason Dufner waggle, and the Tiger staredown. The pre shot routine is, in my laymen’s opinion, the most critical element to success for a golfer. A good pre shot routine can make up for less than sufficient practice time, and can visibly improve a player beyond their normal talent level. Conversely, a poor pre shot routine can permanently hamper a golfer from ever dropping down to their desired tier of score range.
Pre shot routines should accomplish several things:
- Establish a target
- Establish the shot necessary to execute the desired shot
- Instill in the player the motions necessary to successfully swing the club and create the chosen shot
- Transition the player’s thought process from an analytically based decision making mindset to a calm, autonomous, execution based mindset.
- Physically activate the muscles require to swing the club in the manner the player has chosen.
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