Ask the Top 100: Pre-shot routine will lead to consistency
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I am constantly shooting a good round, between one-over and one-under par, only to mess up one or two holes with a double or stupid bogey in the middle of my round. How do I stay consistent through the entire round?
Robert M., via email
A few years ago, someone timed Tiger's putting routine and found that it took the same amount of time, within .08 of a second, each time. His father, Earl, said that "when he gets over the ball and starts his procedure, watch him after he sets his putter. He checks his alignment. He adjusts his feet. He takes one look, another look and then strokes the ball." I timed his full swing in several tournaments, and unless the shot required extra analysis, Tiger didn't vary.
So what's the takeaway? If you're consistent in your preparation, you'll be consistent in your execution.
Over the years I've been asked the consistency question by so many students that I decided to write a book about it (The 30 Second Swing). It took me 166 pages just to get warmed up, but for blogging purposes, I think I can name that consistency tune in four paragraphs.
Pre-shot Routine or Ritual?
Good players have a routine that doesn't vary. The step-by-step pre-shot process should actually be more than a routine. It should be a ritual, which is more powerful then a routine because it focuses your attention and gives you the focus of a snake charmer for the 30 seconds it takes to hit a golf shot. Your pre-shot ritual is a golfing amulet that protects you at every turn.
The sequence and composition of the ritual should not vary, and this sameness gives the brain solace even in the most stressful situations. Hazards, wind, the pressure of a downhill three-footer for the match, a simple chip or a drive to a wide open fairway -- it doesn't matter because all the shots are run through the same process as equals. No shot is given more importance.
A pre-shot ritual is powerful because it gives you control over half of the golf-shot equation. You can't control the outcome, but exact repetition at address is empowering. No matter how bad the shot, the grieving period ends at the start of the next pre-shot ritual. In practical terms, this means you play one shot at a time and stay in the present. The past is gone and the future hasn't arrived. All you have to work on is the next action in the sequence. All you have to work on is the present.
I start off the first few holes doing reasonably well and then seem to lose my rhythm. I think I am all arms, which throws my timing off and does funny things to the club face. What can I do?
Desperate (Dick K.), via email
No wonder you're desperate -- you're letting the linkages run the assembly, and that's a rhythm-ruiner.
To get your lost rhythm back, use this two-club sync-a-rama. It's an oldie but a goodie that I recommended about two years ago in Golf Magazine, and I'm sticking with it. It works because it overloads your arms so that they can't do their own thing. Instead of being initiators, they become simply connectors.
Take your normal address position, but hold an 8-iron in your left hand and a 7-iron in your right. Sole the 8-iron directly behind the ball as you usually do, and sole the 7 about four inches behind it. The clubheads should be lined up like two planes waiting to take off.
Next, swing both clubs slowly back and through, noting that if you slow down or speed up one side independently of the other, the two clubs will collide. Your reward, if you keep everything moving correctly, is that the shafts never touch. After a few practice swings, actually hit some balls with the leading left hand, but only try for about 30 yards.
During your swing, take care to make a good upper-body turn with only a slight bend in your front elbow. If you use your core to move the club instead of your arms, your swing will be collision free. When you want to swing faster, simply speed up your core rotation.
(Photo: Rob Tringali)