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How to develop the perfect pre-shot routine, according to two of golf’s best instructors

April 20, 2020
Claude Harmon III Butch Harmon

Ben Hogan would brush his teeth slower.

He’d shower slower. He’d drink his coffee slower. He’d even drive and walk a little slower. Anything to get him slower as he stood next to his ball.

“All these things are geared toward your nervous system to try to keep your nervous system and your heart rate at a nice, level heart rate,” Butch Harmon said.

Tiger Woods did the same.

“One of the things Tiger learned to do very early on in his amateur career is he learned how to control his heart rate with breathing exercises between shots,” Harmon said of his former star pupil.

“It’s like the biathletes. They’re skiing really hard and then all of a sudden they have to shoot so they have to take their heart rate down. You have to do that at golf, and that really helps.”

Hogan won nine majors. Woods has won 15. What they did before their shots set up what they did after, which Harmon and his son, Claude Harmon III, both longtime golf instructors, broke down on an Instagram live video on Sunday.

“If you have a pre-shot routine, I think it helps loosen you up, takes the nervous system out of your hands and arms and allows you to at least make a nice rhythmic swing,” Butch Harmon said. “I think it’s very important.”

Other advice on the pre-shot routine:

Find a pre-shot routine that’s authentic to you

If you have Woods’, Hogan’s or another player’s exact personality, copy their pre-shot routine. But if you don’t have their exact personality, don’t copy their pre-shot routine.

“I think it’s important when you’re trying to find a pre-shot routine that it’s part of your personality because otherwise they’re hard to stick with if you’re trying to do something that goes against who you are as a player,” Claude Harmon said.

Find a pre-shot routine that slows you down if you’re fast, or speeds you up if you’re slow

Fast players might need to take a few seconds. Slow players might need to take a few less seconds.

“The key is you have to be consistent and do exactly the same thing everytime in a pre-shot routine,” Butch Harmon said.

Visualization helps in the pre-shot routine

Players like Woods, the Harmons said, see the shot before they hit it. Tiger, Butch Harmon said, plays in pictures.

“He would literally stand behind the shot, he would visualize the shot, the trajectory of the shot, the shape of the shot, everything about it before he hit it,” Butch Harmon said.

“They’ve got it in their mind, they’ve seen it and then they just go ahead and react to it,” he added. “But you stand there and try and physically say, ‘OK, to hit this shot I got to do this or do that,’ you’re never going to do it. If you get behind your ball, visualize the thing.”

Visualize small targets

Greg Norman, Butch Harmon said, didn’t look just at the fairway before his shots – he looked at a section of the fairway. Same with the greens. He didn’t look at the whole green. He would find a place where he wanted the ball to land.

“I call it glancing at the ball, staring at the target,” Butch Harmon said. “Get into the visualization of the target. Because all great players see the shots before they hit them.”

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