Find a pre-shot routine that brings you to your ‘happy place’ — here’s mine

There are lots of scary shots on the golf course, but a good pre-shot routine will make them easier.

Lou Guzzi

I can’t tell you how many times my students would come in for a lesson and say “coach, I don’t get it! I was hitting the ball great on the range and as soon as I went onto the course everything fell apart”. 

As golfers we have all had this experience and we all know how frustrating and painful it can get.

Everyone has had that feeling, that paralyzing feeling when you get to a shot that has no bailout, no escape, you just need to hit it pure. The picture below is an example of “that shot”!

As you can see, I am on the tee box with a very narrow fairway, OB left and OB right, with my driver and a minimum of 220 yards to carry it over the water.

Just a nice, easy shot. Right?

It’s not easy hitting a shot like this, but a good pre-shot routine can get you into your happy place, which can make scary shots like this easier to manage.

I’m going to go over my pre-shot routine and describe what I see when I’m hitting a shot, from my happy place, when on the course.

Step one.

As we know, once we get on the course we can get, what I call, “disoriented” or frozen by what we see in front of us.  It puts us in a position where we can’t even swing. Something like stage fright.

But hitting shots from your happy place can make life much easier to handle the shot at hand.

What is my happy place? When I’m on the course, I visualize myself at ease and back on the range. I don’t see the trouble, because I’m in my happy place. My pre-shot routine takes me there, and leaves me better equipped to hit the shot at hand.

When hitting a basic shot I want to make a practice swing and feel the club that I am about to use. This is important because I may have just hit a driver and now, I am coming into the green with an eight iron. That eight iron is going to feel much different than the driver that I just hit off the tee. This practice swing also gives me the opportunity to release some tension before the shot. Now, after my practice swing, I’m going to get behind the ball where I want to relax and start to see my angles, where I need to aim to start the golf ball.

Step two.

As I’m looking at the fairway, I’m starting to pay attention to where I want to start my little left to right fade. I’m going to visualize hitting my golf ball through a field goal. I see that shot shape starting at the left side of the field goal and moving right into the middle of the fairway. That red line is my aim line and I know there is some additional fairway to the right of the field goal. That added knowledge of the fairway makes it much easier to hit the shot. Now I’m bringing that image back to the range where I’m used to hitting my driver. I can now see the range with the same aim line and field goal. That range image is going to make it so much easier for me to make my swing on such a difficult hole.  

Learn your ‘windows.’

Now I am back on the hole with the image of the range clear in my mind.  As I get ready to hit my shot, I take a deep breath in through the nose.  As I start to walk towards the ball, paying attention to where I need to aim the club, I then let the oxygen out through the mouth nice and slow. This breathing technique helps to release a lot of tension before the shot.  Now I’m going to make two waggles and just before I make my swing, I go back to the range, back on the mat that’s in my teaching bay, the place where I can see the shot that I’ve hit hundreds and hundreds of times. That image makes me relax, and now I’m ready to make my swing. As soon as get towards my follow-through I am back on the course, enjoying the visual of the shot that I know. 

A closer look at setup position.

I want you to find your happy place. Find a spot on the range where you really like to practice. Go to that spot as much as possible so when you’re out there on the golf course you are freed up to swing and enjoy a beautiful shot. Remember, take the golf course to the range and take the range to the golf course. Ben Hogan said it best, he played thirty-six holes a day. Eighteen on the range and then eighteen out on the golf course.

If you’re looking for more golf tips from me, check out the videos on my website right here.

Watch yourself find that fairway.
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