Pre-shot routines and why they are so important

Since my last email a lot has happened … Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship with an amazing performance against all odds, Jon Rahm destroyed everyone for 3 rounds at The Memorial and tested positive for COVID and had to withdraw and even I played in my first tournament of the year.

Starting with the PGA Championship, I noticed something very interesting in Phil Mickelson’s routine during the final round. Something that I believe can help everyone, it’s called … breathing. He was very noticeable taking at least 2 deep breathes during his routine and then a further deep breath after he had hit a shot. Why did he start doing this in the final round? Because despite his career success he was nervous, stressed, probably anxious and needed a release valve to slow his thoughts down and control himself.

Deep breathing is fantastic for controlling your heart rate, allowing you to think mindfully, make better decisions and improve your focus. It also helps your body to move smoothly and not tense up. All very useful when you make some bad swings or mistakes and you can feel yourself rushing through the motions rather than stepping back and slowing yourself down. We’ve all been there!

I decided to try and take a leaf out of Mickelson’s book when I played in my first tournament of the year a couple of weeks ago. I turned up quite early for my tee off time and felt relaxed, then went out to hit 25 warm up balls and my swing felt TERRIBLE!

I felt tight, uncomfortable, out of rhythm, really struggling to focus on the right swing cues and then my mind started to rush and worry that under the pressure of having a scorecard in hand it would be a complete nightmare. My plan B then was to add in some deep breathes behind the ball and slow down to give myself a chance and lower my expectations of myself to very low levels.

I then started birdie, birdie, birdie, par, par, birdie. I still didn’t feel good about my swing to be honest but I had managed to control my mind, decisions and anxiety and put together a really nice run. Now I was feeling more comfortable and relaxed and that’s when I started making mistakes. I became complacent in my routine and actually stopped my deep breathing temporarily. Suddenly I found myself making silly errors and hitting some really poor shots. It steadied again and my score was ok in the end but definitely a lesson learnt for me.

I’m not saying that deep breathing will help everyone, but I am saying that your unique routine should be consistent and repeatable under any circumstance and it may help in pressurised situations. It could be the dreaded first tee shot or when you start to rack up some bad holes in a row. You need to have something that you can go to to steady the ship and think clearly and mindfully. You also need to make sure that you practice your routine whether you are on the range, chipping area or golf course.

Maybe give it a try on your next round and let me know how you get on!

Lee Wilson; June 2021