One of the biggest "buzzwords" used in the modern game of golf is Pre-shot Routine. You hear it on the Golf Channel, in magazines and even from your own friendly neighborhood PGA Professional.
But what exactly does it mean?
Think of an NFL kicker - Adam Vinatieri for example. Long before the ball is even snapped, Adam engages in a process that prepares him to make his best attempt at a kick. He starts by standing adjacent to the holder, placing his right foot on a spot he chooses for the holder to place the football upon. He then takes two steps backwards, two steps to the left, then focuses intently on his spot. Once the ball is snapped, instinct takes over and he executes the kick. While the physical act of kicking a football and hitting a golf ball could not be any more different, they share many psychological similarities. Adam clearly has the capability of making his field goals without taking exactly two steps back and two steps to the left
So why does he do it?
The answer is because it is a psychological mechanism. By taking those four steps, Adam is able to consciously revert back to his practice habits; the habits that result in him successfully executing field goals time after time without even thinking about it. They act as a comforting agent - a way to block out distractions and direct his attention solely to the task at hand. By using the steps, Adam knows that he will give himself the best chance to succeed regardless of the circumstances.
Taking this knowledge and integrating it into your golf game is essential. A routine allows you to successfully take your range game to the course; an issue that many weekend golfers ask me for advice about. I always tell them, play like you practice. This means that your pre-shot routine on the course should mirror the way you approach a practice shot on the range. It can be anything you want it to be. If you rake range balls from a pile and mindlessly whack away at them on the range, it's most certainly not the best idea to take 3-4 practice swings and deeply analyze each shot on the golf course. I suggest using practice time to develop your pre-shot routine from both a physical and mental aspect. While on the range, simulate different ways you could approach each shot on the course (ensuring it conforms with USGA pace of play regulations) and stick to the one you are most comfortable with.