Pace of play is a popular topic of conversation (and regular point of contention) during friendly, competitive, and even professional golf rounds. Tour players who’ve been called out for their slow pace include Kevin Na, Jason Day, JB Holmes, and most recently, Bryson DeChambeau. While I’m not an advocate of overly long routines, in this post I want to share the best way to find a successful pace of play in your game.
There’s a big difference between a physical and a mental pre-shot routine. Physically going through the motions before a shot does nothing to engage your mind in the process. Because your mind is the origin point for every shot you’d better make sure that your pre-shot routine consists of well-chosen thought habits that are leading the charge toward your desired outcome.
Why a Consistent Pre-Shot Routine is So Important
The purpose of the mental pre-shot routine is to set the stage for a great shot, and each player has a process they must work through to get there. While the steps of the process may be very similar, the length of time it takes a player to complete the steps may vary somewhat. The most important thing to keep in mind is that an effective mental pre-shot routine actually helps you stick to a good pace of play more efficiently than if you take a varied approach to every shot.
I teach my clients a mental pre-shot routine that marches their mind through 4 specific steps to help them focus on the things that actually contribute to good shots — observation, selection, rehearsal, and execution. Each step is designed to guide your mind through the process of developing a solid shot plan that you can commit to with 100% confidence before you pull the trigger. These steps are simple and repeatable providing golfers with a time-efficient way to manage their thoughts one shot at a time.
The Consequences of Deviating from Your Routine
Golfers who short-cut or rush through their routine are left feeling nervous, doubtful or uncomfortable over the ball. When they choose to proceed with a shot they aren’t ready to hit they usually don’t produce a good shot. I refer to these types of shots as “anyway shots” — the shots you know you aren’t ready to hit well but you go ahead and hit them anyway.
Being undisciplined with your routine and hitting anyway shots as a result lengthens the amount of time it will take you to complete a hole. To play efficiently, you must consistently follow a systematic routine you can trust.
Discover Your Successful Pace of Play
To play at a successful pace you must first become aware of the things that can really bog you down. Below are the 10 biggest time wasters that can impact your pace of play. When you learn how to turn away from them it will be much easier to stick to an efficient pre-shot routine.
1. Thinking about past poor shots
Because you can’t change the past spending any time thinking about it is a waste. Your precious mental energy should be focused on planning a successful shot and nothing more.
2. Identifying where you don’t want to miss or think it might be okay to miss
It is much more efficient to focus on where you want the ball to go as opposed to including all the places you hope it doesn’t end up.
3. Worrying about what others might be thinking of you or your game
Catch yourself the moment you become aware of trying to write other peoples’ thoughts for them. I can guarantee they are thinking more about their own game than they are thinking about how you’re playing yours.
4. Helping others manage their game
There’s a difference between pointing out the direction that you saw someone’s errant shot go and helping them tramp through the bushes to find it. Let your playing partners manage their own game and you take care of yours.
5. Being annoyed by the behavior of others
Negative feelings about others are nothing but a time and energy drain. You can’t change how people talk and behave during a round, but you can absolutely control how you respond to those things.
6. Chasing your score
Just as you can’t change the past, you cannot directly control the future. Being acutely aware of what you’re shooting in relation to where you hope to finish the round keeps your thoughts drawn to the future. You will be less efficient planning for the present if your thoughts are someplace else.
7. Paying close attention to the group behind or the group ahead
Your job is to stay on pace in your group. As long as you are doing that the group’s position behind you should be of no concern. And since there’s nothing you can do to speed up those ahead, use the extra time you’ve got to your advantage.
8. Beating yourself up after a bad shot or hole
Negative reinforcement doesn’t work. Don’t waste time reading yourself the riot act and dwelling on mistakes. Wipe the slate clean and more on.
9. Giving yourself a swing lesson during the round
When you’re on the course your job is to play with what you’ve got. Don’t slow down your pace by trying to figure out how to fix your swing. Save that kind of investment for the range.
10. Hitting an “anyway” shot
As I mentioned above, hitting a shot you aren’t ready to hit does nothing more than add to the number of shots you must play to complete a hole. You’re better off taking a bit more time to get your thoughts centered on what matters than ever rushing through a shot that will likely lead to an extra stroke or two.
Leave me a comment below and let me know which time-waster you tend to struggle with the most.
When you make a point of catching yourself the moment these types of distractions begin to occupy your thoughts you can quickly redirect your attention back to the task at hand, which is planning your next shot.
The #1 Mental Strategy to Get Your Thoughts Back on Track
Knowing what can derail your routine and cost you time is one thing. Having a “go-to” strategy to get back on track quickly is the next step toward greater success. There is one extremely simple mental strategy you can use to reset your mind when you’ve gotten wrapped up in a time-waster.
Give yourself permission to step out of your shot and restart your routine.
You may be thinking, “But if I step out won’t that actually cost me more time?”
Think about what actually takes more time…
- to hit a shot you aren’t ready to hit and have to replay it, or go hunt for a lost ball?
- to step away from the ball, restart your routine and then step back into the shot with the confidence and commitment needed to hit a good shot?
If you find yourself distracted or uncomfortable or still trying to figure out your shot plan while at address, be courageous enough to step away and restart your process. It’s not that difficult to get your thoughts pointed in the right direction. The most challenging part of this strategy is giving yourself permission to do it.
While it might take you 5-10 seconds longer, even 30 seconds longer to give yourself a chance to reset, it is always going to position you to hit a better shot than if you execute when you’re not ready.
When you learn to avoid the siren call of time-wasters that are ever-present in your rounds you will be able to focus like a Tour player on what matters most — walking yourself mentally through a simple and effective pre-shot routine. The list of time-wasters are simply excuses for why you deviate from your trusted process. And if you’re going to make excuses then don’t complain when you hit poor shots.
Until next time…PLAY GREAT!
Need help developing a trusted and efficient mental pre-shot routine? I can help you with that.
If you’re interested in exploring how mental game training can lower your handicap I invite you to set up a 45-minute free consultation call with me. On the call I will evaluate your current mental game skills and provide you with a targeted solution to help you lower your handicap and love your game. Click on the image below to get started.
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K Williams says
This is a great article. I’m trying to be more ‘in the present ‘ instead of think about last shots or next shots or what’s my score now?. It does make a difference!
I also like your thought about giving ourselves permission to step away if we need to.
Great advice all around,