Many instructional articles in golf publications focus on technique and swing analysis but so many players oversee a simple but integral part of their game. This article will be highlighting one of the most overlooked aspects of what makes a Tour player. They work on this feature of their game regularly with the help of a sports psychologist. In his prime, Tiger was incredible at this. He did it every single shot which allowed him the ability to hit the shot at the time when it mattered the most. It is something that without it, you will not be consistent. it is something so simple and requires no technical change. Yet, it can yield improvements you may have thought were unobtainable.
What is it? Routine.
This, from a coach’s perspective, is something that I do not see on the driving range being practiced. Yet as someone who understands technique and how difficult it is to change, I constantly try and reinforce this crucial aspect. My students that I teach at IMG Academy, which is a world leader in athletic development and offers a competitive environment to train elite athletes, are constantly reminded of this crucial piece of a golf jigsaw. When a routine is reliable and consistent, it allows your body to have reliable information so that it knows where it is in 3D space.
On television it is not entertaining to discuss this, though it is a major weapon in the golfers’ arsenal. It is an aspect that they rely on when they feel pressure. On a Sunday afternoon, when the cameras are on the leaders and with millions of dollars for the winner, the routine allows the golfer to remain composed. No golfers’ swing could be as consistent if they didn’t have one.
The routine varies from player to player. It can be the final few moments where the player gathers their thoughts, focuses their mind, sorts through the information they have gathered and the commits to the shot.
Here are just a few for examples of information:
- Lie of the ball
- Distance to the flag
- Type of shot / Club selection
- Distance to where they want the ball to land.
The routine may start from the moment they pull the selected club from the bag. A brief example could look like this:
- 2 practice swings
- Walk into the ball
- Check alignment
- Deep breath
A routine is not just a physical motion but also a mental one. Watch the PGA TOUR or LPGA Tour players when they are preparing to hit, the level of intense focus is something to be admired. They use mental imagery and are able to block out any negative concentration and unwavering thoughts or distractions. Negative thoughts lead to doubt, doubt leads to a lack of commitment and this leads to a poor shot. A well-rehearsed routine helps to prevent against it.
When we go to the range, how many golfers do you see working on their routine? Driving ranges are full of people trying to improve, yet unless you are working on something very specific, it is not conducive to good golf.
In 1993, an academic scholar (K, Anders-Ericcson) penned the phrase “Deliberate Practice.” Simply put, it means that all practice must be very specific to what you are trying to accomplish. So hitting 100 balls in 20-30 minutes on the range is not specific to the golf course. Instead spend 20-30 minutes hitting 20-30 balls while working on your routine. You should walk off the range with a sense of having achieved something.
I tend to liken the range to being at school and the golf course to the real world. You would think school prepares you for the real world, but it doesn’t. The real world is a different atmosphere with more pressure placed on your actions. As humans we are creatures of habit and actually cope well when we have a set schedule.
So how to start? Seeking the guidance of a good instructor who can help you in developing your own routine is a good way. You could also closely watch the best players in the world to learn more. If you want to have improvements that last more than a few rounds of golf, then routine is the key. If you have junior golfers within the family, slowly start to encourage them to create their own routine.
At my current position as a Coach at the IMG Academy, we are constantly developing some of the brightest junior players in golf. This way of practicing is constantly reinforced and encouraged, such is the importance that it is held.
If you adopted this style of practicing for a few months, as long as you practice well, improvements are imminent.