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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

THE IMPORTANCE OF A GOOD PRE-SHOT ROUTINE AND WHY IT HELPS




THE IMPORTANCE OF A GOOD PRE-SHOT ROUTINE AND WHY IT HELPS

- by Digraj Singh

I remember that as a junior there were times when I tried really hard and then there would be times when I didn’t, but still played as well, if not better. In fact, most times, the harder I tried, the worse I played. And by harder I mean over thinking, over trying and taking more time on shots. And this would happen under pressure. Then thanks to some great advice I received from Bamby and Bunty Randhawa’s father, Col Randhawa, to keep statistics of all my shots, I started realising the importance of a pre shot routine. And the more I read on it and practiced it, the more I realised the value and practicality of it and benefi ted tremendously. I was a statistics student and managed to put together a very detailed assessment procedure which included correlating the outcome of each shot to my thoughts and effort. On analysing the results I realised that when I followed a routine, I had more consistency. I realised that whenever I was under pressure, I would start getting more careful and would start taking more time. And as a result, due to this inconsistent pre shot process, would invariably play worse golf when it mattered. All this changed dramatically once I understood the importance of the routine. And when I started following it, I became a better player under pressure. More research followed to understand why the routine is important. I read many papers and observed top players. I remember reading about and watching Jack Nicklaus and his deliberate routine which never changed. In fact he was perhaps the first golfer to introduce visualisation into his pre- shot routine and had timed his entire sequence, which he followed diligently. And it seemed to corroborate what I was reading. So what exactly is pre-shot routine and how does it help? Well simplistically stated, routine is doing a set of identical actions prior to each shot. Easy. Right? Well, that’s the challenge. And how does a routine help? Let me try and explain it by using an example that I share with my students. Imagine that the same set of athletes are running two different races. In the fi rst race there is a starter who goes ready, one, two, three “Bang” – the gun goes off. And in the second race there is no starter. The gun can go off anytime and so the athletes have to be ready right through for the gun to go off. Bang – the gun goes off. Which of the two races will be a faster race? Well, the fi rst race will be the faster race. This is because the athletes will begin from an optimised state of muscle preparedness.

When the starter says ready, one, two, three, “Bang” , the entire network of muscles, tendons, ligaments, tissue etc are in the most prepared state for explosive action. And there is synchronicity in the body thanks to the preparedness. In the second race, the athletes have to get to that ready state on their own and stay there till the gun goes off. Now any muscle, in the prepared state for too long starts tightening up. And a tight muscle is not as effi cient as a relaxed ready muscle in an optimised state. And the synchronicity in the network that is employed for the movements also goes down a bit. As a result, the same athlete, with the same technique etc may not have the same timing as when he runs with an optimised state of preparedness.. The golf swing is similar. When a player has a consistent routine, an automatic starter begins in the brain. It knows from practice that disciplined Digraj will now begin his swing in 15 seconds. So it issues a command to the network to start getting ready. Digraj will initiate the swing in 15 seconds.15, 14, . .., 1 ,”bang”. And the swing begins with the muscles in an optimised state. On the other hand, when the player starts taking more time, or has no routine, the golf swing faces the same challenge as that of running the second race with muscles not in the most effective state of preparedness. And as a result the swing is made with the same set of muscles in a tighter state or conversely, at a softer state, both of which could lead to a difference, a loss of effi ciency, which could impact both the club head speed or the face of the club at impact. Naturally, the results of the shot would be different. And as I read more and spoke with more knowledgeable people, it became clearer that a good routine was about having the same thoughts, of the same intensity and also doing an identical set of actions and taking the same time for each shot. The sequence and actions could be different for different people, but for the same person to be consistent and most effi cient, it meant that the player should have the same thoughts, with the same intensity and should do the same things, in the same time, every time. And if he could train himself to do so, he would run the fi rst race each time and have the highest probability of getting the best results each time.

Once I understood the importance of this, I created a sequence of thoughts and actually started timing how much time I took on my shots, both on the course and while practicing. My caddie would do so. Initially, sticking to the same routine under pressure made me feel that I was rushing the shot. Not giving it enough attention. But the paradox was that on the contrary I was giving my body the best chance to make a repetitive, efficient swing. And I soon realised that this process works as I started seeing the results under pressure and that gave me a lot of inner confidence. Now everyone talks of process which is simply being able to apply yourself to each shot through an identical routine. A routine which you should create carefully and then “time” it. Write it down initially and then practice it. And then take it to the course. You will be amazed at how quickly your good shots get better and your misses also improve and suddenly with the same ability, your scores will show an improvement. I have experienced this magic and am sure you will too. The key is to follow the routine for each and every shot, not just when the pressure is on. The routine has several other advantages as it ensures that there is no time to dwell on negative thoughts, it helps you play fast and makes you confident and fearless. For all the benefits stated here, I would recommend that take action now. Review your pre-shot routine, freeze it and follow it with discipline. It is certain to help your game in the long run.

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