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Get a Preshot Routine
Andrew Park

Do as the pro's do, and develop a series of habits designed to help you make a better swing more often.

To the untrained eye it might go unnoticed, but when a coach watches one of his players in a tournament he or she can tell immediately whether or not they are dialed into their A-game. Ernie Els is a perfect example, and a player we know very well at the DLGA headquarters here at Champions Gate.

When Ernie is playing and swinging well - often referred to as being 'in the zone' - he follows a very definite routine on every single shot that he makes. This involves identifying an intermediate target a few feet ahead of the ball (a leaf or divot mark that lies directly on his line to the target), and he uses that as his point of reference as he then goes through the motions of getting himself correctly and squarely set-up for the shot.

Ernie then takes a couple of looks at that intermediate target as he swivels his head to scan the distant target, then he pulls the trigger and goes. But when he's fidgety, not entirely happy with the shot or his club selection he will look up maybe four or five times before making his swing. And when that happens he usually hits a poor shot.

The point that I'm making here is that good players develop a pre-shot routine and stick rigidly to it when they are in full flow and playing well. Which is why we at the DLGA believe it is so important that our students learn to do the same - and rehearse it regularly in practice. Let me show you how to make this a habit that helps you make more good swings and hit more solid shots.

GET A FIX ON YOUR TARGET LINE

Identifying some sort of intermediate target is a key element of a good pre-shot routine, for the simple reason that it is much easier to aim the clubface squarely on a tuft of grass or an old divot-mark just a few feet in front of your ball than it is on the flag away in the distance.
When you practise, pick out a mark (a few feet ahead of the ball you are hitting) that lies bang on the line to your ultimate target, and then go through your routine - starting behind the ball - with that spot fixed in your mind's eye.

As you go about your business, everything revolves around that intermediate target: you aim the clubface squarely at it before getting your body into a good square position, your grip perfect, posture ready to make a good swing. Finally, look up once or twice (develop your own preference) and then pull the trigger.

IF YOU SLICE THE BALL, READ THIS:

Most higher-handicap golfers make the mistake of getting their shoulders aiming to the right of the target at the set-up (i.e. 'open' - aiming well to the left of the ball-to-target line). That leads to an out-to-in swing path and (most likely) a slice.

To fix that problem, make a habit of aiming the dub face with just your left hand on the grip, your right hand/arm down by your side. That will help keep the right shoulder back, so when you then bring the right hand onto the grip, your shoulders are square with the target line. You are then in a good position to make a good shoulder turn, get your upper body behind the ball and swing the club on the desired inside-to-square-to-inside path.

MAKE A SOLID FIRST MOVE

Simplicity is the key to inspiring a flowing chain-reaction

Not only do good players follow a regimented pre-shot routine, they make sure that they get their swing started with a solid first move that sets the tone for the whole motion in terms of its shape and rhythm. With a mid-iron, here's what you need to be thinking of.

From the set-up position, the key is to get everything working away together to create some momentum. By that (and this over the firm foundation of the lower body), I mean you think in terms of moving your stomach, hands, arms and the clubhead away as a unit. To achieve this, focus on keeping that triangle between your arms and shoulders pretty well intact as you move the clubhead the first two or three feet of your swing (above centre). As you do this, the wrists should be encouraged to hinge freely away from the target in the process of setting the club on a good plane.

One of the key checkpoints that we look for (and one you can check yourself in front of a mirror) occurs as the club reaches a position parallel with the ground, the back of the left hand facing forwards and nicely mirroring the clubface. As you can see, the left arm is working nicely across the chest, and the toe of the club is pointing up towards the sky.
When you practise, make a habit of going through your pre-shot routine and rehearsing this sequence of first moves to this first move checkpoint before returning to your address position and then hitting a shot.

The better and more consistently you make this first move the more you will find that your swing gels together as a whole. Basically, you are honing the first key link in what is a chain reaction from start to finish.

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