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The Pre Shot Swing Myth

11/6/2012 3:43:55 PM

By Jim McLean - It's ridiculous to say there is just " one best way" to teach a pre-shot routine! 

I'd love to write down all the advice of read or heard about what the "pre-shot routine" should be, but it would be about 10 books. Everybody seems to have their opinion on this subject. Yet, study the greats and you see a wide variety of routines.

It's ridiculous to say there is just " one best way" to teach a pre-shot routine!  That's a major myth in golf instruction.

Jack Nicklaus was criticized  for not having a repetitive pre-shot routine. He often took more waggles than the shot before,  or he took too long, or not long enough.  Fascinating since the people critiquing him were, in many cases, people who had never even teed it up in a major.

By simple observation we know that what Jack Nicklaus said he did, was true. He did not hit a shot before he was ready. That included full shots and putts. Nicklaus did not have a precise pre-shot routine.  He sometimes took additional waggles, hung over a putt for an extended time, and so on.  Yet he is the greatest player of all time.

Tiger Woods has no waggle, and has always backed off shots. He does take 2 practice strokes before each putt, but many other great putters do not take any practice strokes. Dave Stockton is adamant about taking no practice strokes. It works for some, but not others. Bubba Watson usually takes 3 quick practice putting strokes. At this years Ryder Cup his pre shot routine for his super pressure packed tee shot was to wave the gallery to cheer more. He went from " raising the roof gestures" right into his golf swing.

I've worked with Keegan Bradley since 2009.  Somebody always questions me on his unique pre-shot routine with both the long shots and his putting. He does have his own way, but I encourage Keegan to use the Jack Nicklaus thinking model. HIT WHEN READY.

The fact is, Keegan plays fast.  Once he gets to the ball, he's seen the shot and is ready to go.  Once at address position, he sets and goes.  Keegan's putting routine is no practice strokes, set the putter on his line, take 2 looks, and then stroke the putt. So far Keegan has been the Rookie of the Year on the PGA tour (2011),  major champion winner ( 2011 PGA Championship), Ryder Cup Member (2012), World Golf Championship winner at Firestone (2012), winner of The Byron Nelson PGA tour event (2011), Grand Slam Champion (2011), Shark Shoot Out Winner (2011), and certainly a break out a Ryder Cup performance at the 2012 matches at Medinah. All in all, I think Keegan's pre-shot routine is working just fine.

You need "your own" pre-shot routine.  I teach a routine, but I'm wide open to variable change. You should incorporate your own timing and rhythm to your pre-shot.

There are at least 5 parts to teaching a routine, with 1 part being the visualization piece, 1 part being the relaxation piece, 1 part being belief in the chosen shot, 1 part being the decisiveness of the player just before he hits, and 1 part doing this routine very nearly the same way each time, (their way).


  10/3/2014 1:08:08 PM

Ask Bob Toski 
The world of golf suffers from slow play. Jack Nicklaus lately commented on slow play blaming whatsoever but ask somebody like Bob Toski what he thinks about it. A few years ago Bob Toski told me that he blamed Jack Nicklaus of introducing slow play in professional golf with his LONG pre-shot routine. According to Bob Toski, in the 1950s professional golf rounds were played in under three hours. I played with Bob Toski when he was 81 years old and I recorded every shot. What was remarkable was that Bob Toski never aligned himself behind the ball. After arriving at the ball or teeing it up on the tee it took him exactly 12 seconds of watching the target and waggling until doing the shot. He hit every fairway and every green in regulation. Every first put was for birdie and he could have played 18 under PAR. All of his putts just missed by very little. That was the most impressive round of golf from a standpoint of course management, speed and control I had a chance to whitness as a co-player. Bob Toski was born into a family of golfers and he learned that the pre-shot routine in an integral part of golf and precedes each golf swing. Golf should be taught from day one to include a not-longer-than-12-second pre-shot routine like that of Bob Toski. Players shooting in their 100s imitate the pros who just hit an average of 74 shots. Your pre-shot routine has to ensure that you are aligned, you have the ball in the right position and that you are physically and psychologically ready to hit the shot. You have to learn to do that in 12 seconds - it is possible.
  6/1/2013 10:47:40 AM

New Comment 
"The fact is, Keegan plays fast. Once he gets to the ball, he's seen the shot and is ready to go. Once at address position, he sets and goes."

Are there two Keegan Bradleys on tour?
The one that I've seen is anything but fast or ready to go. He is unbearable to watch.
  2/1/2013 6:17:49 AM

New Comment 
Hi Jim . I have watched and learned from you for years for this i Thank You.
The pre shot routine i feel is 1.set your target line 2. pick an intermediate target 3. decide what club and shape of shot desired .Visualise and then set up and swing .
Thats the same for everyone but as you say some guys waggle others dont some take longer than others .These to me are personal traits or mannerisims thats not preshot routine thats there own unique tendencies to relieve tension before commiting to what they have decided to do in their preshot routine depending at that time how important that shot is to them .
  1/15/2013 3:33:21 AM
Olivier Raynal (French Coach) 

Hello Jim
I'm just happy to read you and i would like to thanks for your passion. many Thanks for your sharing, the problem, i believe in France....
  1/15/2013 1:07:37 AM
Oliver C. Morton 

A pre-shot routine is always a first person experience - player led. Knowing what adrenaline level allows you to enter your performance state is important to know. It appears that KB is a high adrenaline player - the performances speak for themselves.
  1/14/2013 3:34:52 PM
Peter Pappas 

Pre-Shot Routine 
I agree Jim, a pre-shot routine is as individual as fingerprints. I don't believe that emulating someone else's routine is very productive at all. I have mine that I'm comfortable and it has been known to change. I have always gone with what I feel comfortable with at that time. The key word in all that is feel.

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