It recently dawned on me that I spend too much time thinking about my game when standing over the ball, rather than focusing on the shot in hand.
Such thoughts include worrying whether my takeaway is too much on the inside or whether my spine angle is set correctly. At other times, I’m wondering why an earth I spent £200 on a new pair of golf shoes.
But after listening to the advice of several PGA Tour pros at the Tournament of Champions last weekend - yes, I stayed up late to watch it despite my views - I now realise what I’ve been missing for the past ten years. A pre-shot routine.
When you watch pros on TV, many of them have certain mannerisms they go through before each shot. David Toms licks his little finger, Aaron Baddeley closes his eyes and Bubba Watson gets fidgety.
A pre-shot routine is perfect for eliminating extraneous thoughts prior to hitting the ball, grounding the player to focus more exclusively on the target, as Toms explains.
“Having a pre-shot routine, one that you can put into play on every shot, really means alot,” says the 2001 US PGA champion.
“I lick my pinky finger. It’s something I’ve done since college, but it acts as a mental trigger for me to get into the shot and focus. You want every shot to be the same and that works for me.
“My pre-shot routine helps me to focus completely on my target instead of my swing. Licking my finger helps me grip the club, before giving the shirt a little tug by my left shoulder.”
Likewise, Baddeley, well-known for his fast-paced approach to putting especially, prefers to shut out his surroundings to visualise the shot.
“It’s important to see the shot in your mind before you strike the ball - to picture your desired shot - so I close my eyes,” said the Australian.
“You want as much positivity as possible. Under pressure, it’s a perfect technique to fall back on. I’ve used most of my career.”
Some players, like Toms, consider their pre-shot routine to begin when they select the club from their bag; others like Baddeley start their pre-shot routine as soon as they approach the ball.
Personal preferences vary greatly. After all, the whole point is to give you a feeling of comfort, familiarity and confidence, and to occupy your mind with relevant tasks rather than let all those extra unwanted worries.
So whether it’s the placement of hands on the club, body alignment, shot visualisation, waggles like Jason Dufner or a certain number of looks at the pin, perhaps we should all adopt our own unique pre-shot routine in 2012?