What is a Pre-Shot Routine? How do you use a Pre-Shot Routine?

Iain Highfield
  • Article Posted By: Iain Highfield
  • Performance Psychology Consultant
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Iain Highfield
Article Posted By: 
Iain Highfield
Performance Psychology Consultant
Iain Highfield

Modeling is a subject I remain fascinated by and one that many coaches I know are striving to create through the way we teach. Broadly speaking what I gathered from my studies was that any type of human behavior can be modeled through mastering the beliefs, physiology, and specific thought processes that inhabit a particular skill or behavior. In even simpler terms, it’s about achieving an outcome through studying how others go about achieving it.

Most certainly this kind of approach is applied to a player’s golf swing (Ben Hogan’s swing being a particularly popular model). It is not, however, applied to their golf game. 

But in reality, modeling just a great player’s swing, or any individual component of their game, feels incomplete, even one-dimensional. What about the many other elements, of both his game and character, which made Hogan such an outstanding player? These are the aspects that are strangely forgotten as coaches try to model their students on the greats.

It was this seemingly fatal flaw that led me to pursue modeling in my coaching, not in terms of an isolated aspect of a player, but by considering their entire process. My findings were remarkably simple but have helped myself and Matthew Cooke to develop an extremely effective coaching method, that we call OSVEA.

Imagine for a moment a player with the ability to assess Options and make Selections with the detail and discipline of Bernard Langer. 

Now add the ability to Visualize the shot like Jack Nicklaus, a golfer who took his own mind ‘to the movies’ before every shot, effectively watching himself swing and seeing the ball land precisely where he wanted it to be. 

Combine this with the ability to Execute a shot like Tiger Woods in his prime, a golfer whose ability to respond to the immediate task (and never the situation the task was packaged in) is almost unrivaled in the history of the sport. 

And finally we sprinkle a little of Jason Dufner and his ability to maintain a state of optimum focus and performance, simply by Accepting everything that comes his way on a golf course.

Iain Highfield Golf Swing

The principles are straight forward. Every PGA Tour Professional undoubtedly takes in huge volumes of information for all the external variables that can impact a shot. These are, simply put, the conditions. Some of these pros even pay great sums to professional caddies in order to support that analytical process.

Once the data is assimilated the elite player looks first at the shot Options that are now most appropriate to the requirements of the situation.

They then make their shot Selection, a decision that not only considers which club to use but elements like flight, shape and a series of significant targets.

What happens next is that the elite tour pro enters what is effectively an imaginary world, one that is comprised of sight, sound and touch. This sensory state is known as Visualization and it enables our golfer to complete a free and fluid Execution, the penultimate stage of the process.

Finally the player must Accept the outcome, effectively acknowledging what has happened and moving on to the next shot with a clear mind. And then the process is replicated shot after shot until the round is complete.

What this meant to me was that to truly model excellence and enable that very highest level of performance in its entirety these 5 OSVEA components of a golf shot – Options, Selection, Visualization, Execution and Acceptance – are precisely what we should internalize in our students.

A Player that develops this kind of pre and post shot routine on every shot, no matter how high the stakes will develop the ability to get their mind and body connection to a level where they can now discover that Ben Hogan like golf swing they have worked so hard to perfect!

golf pre-shot routine
Golf Psychology
golf pre-shot routine