I get asked all the time - what is the ideal mindset for great golf?
The answer? I call it 'Good Excited’.
To play great golf you have to have some nerves, and they can actually help you by getting you hyper focused and giving you a little more energy. But it's that happy medium where they're working for you, not against you. That's an important distinction. There's nothing worse than your nerves working against you. It's just such a bad feeling! You lose the feeling in your hands and the world speeds up, it's scary. So, if you start at that happy medium and learn to stay there, that's where you can really play your best golf.
So throughout my career, how did I do that? Well, I have a pre shot routine that I do religiously, both on every shot in a competition and even on every shot in practice.
When the pressure was high, like on the first tee of a tournament, I just tried to feel like I slowed down my pre-shot routine a lot. In fact, it’s probably the same speed as it normally is, but to me, because the world is going faster, by slowing down my routine I could just focus on that and I learned that was a key to perform better.
My Pre-Shot Routine
Now, I want to tell you about my pre-shot routine and how did it developed, because there's an interesting story there!
My Dad was always ahead of his time, very into self-hypnosis and so on even back in the 70's and 80's, and he used to caddie for me in the early days. Well, he had been telling me for a while that I needed a pre shot routine. I was young and just like: “a pre shot routine, what's that? I just hit the ball when I'm ready!”
Well, credit to my Dad he kept on me about it. This one time he was caddying for me in a tournament during my first year on tour. I don't think I had even made a cut at that point. On the 17th hole hit my drive out to the right as we're walking off the time he says to me: "you did three waggles, normally you do two!” and I was thinking 'okay, whatever Dad...'!
But when I get up to my next shot, all I’m doing is thinking about what I'm doing, how many waggles am I going to take here? Telling myself that my Dad is watching and counting what I do, and so I back away. I'm not concentrating on the shot anymore. Anyway, I back away, reset. Hit a great shot and go on to make the cut, my first cut on the LPGA Tour!
After that I thought to myself – perhaps I need to think more about this routine thing and take it more seriously! Because otherwise, I'm going to be thinking about my Dad counting my waggles all the time! So, I get home, back to Shady Oaks in Texas where I was based, and I decided to go and talk to Mr. Hogan about it. I’d known him for a few years by this point, since moving down there for college, we became great friends and he was always offering me advice on my game.
So I asked him straight up - do you do a pre shot routine? His response was hilarious!
“A pre-shot routine!? What on earth is a pre shot routine? No, no! You just hit the ball when you're ready!”
All I was thinking was ‘I can't wait to tell my dad this!’ After all, one of the greatest players of all time literally just told me that there's no such thing as a pre-shot routine.
Anyway, then I'm hitting balls on the range, and I'm watching Mr Hogan and I keep watching him. You know what? Everything was exactly the same. Down to the number of times he moved his feet, his head. He did the same thing every time, so I figured. Maybe Mr Hogan does do a pre-shot routine, he just doesn’t know it?
I decided that was it, it was time for me to do the same, to find a consistent routine. Soon after that I met Bob Rotella and started working with him, and of course he was really, really pushing doing a pre-shot routine. So what I came up with was this, and you should know, I still do the exact same thing over every shot to this day. It hasn’t changed at all.
Firstly I get behind the ball. I look at it, look at the lie, and I picture my shot. I pick an intermediate target. Though, to be honest, I don't consider this part my pre-shot routine, this part varies a bit every time, it's the decision-making bit.
Once I’ve got that intermediate target I go up, step to the ball, I put my club behind it with one hand, make sure the club is lined up correctly. And this now is when I consider my pre shot routine to start. Every movement is the same every time, slow and deliberate.
So I make sure the club is lined up correctly, I put my other hand on the on the club, and then I set my feet. Then, I actually say to myself:
One (I look at the target)
Two (I look at the target again)
‘Back’ (I practice my takeaway)
Then I put my club back down behind the ball, and start my swing. The same thing every single time.
So I urge you to stick with a consistent pre-shot routine. It's really going to help you develop consistency on every shot. After all, even Mr Hogan did it, he just didn’t know it!
Plus, when things get stressful, when you’re playing under pressure, really slow things down. You won’t actually be going any slower, but when the world feels like it’s sped up and you’re struggling to stay in control all you’ve got to do is move a little slower, think a little slower, speak a little slower. That helped me throughout my time on the LPGA Tour, and it’ll sure help you too.
Kris played 25 years on the LPGA Tour, including 3 wins and numerous top 10 finishes in major championships, including two runner-up finishes - 2nd to Annika Sorenstam at the '96 US Open at Pine Needles, and 2nd at the '97 ANA Inspiration.
Now playing on the Legends Tour, and focusing on coaching golfers on the mental game, Kris has joined the Golf Guru team to help you improve your mental game and shoot lower scores.
You can find out more about Kris at Kristschetter.com
You can purchase her book, 'Mr Hogan: The Man I Knew" by clicking here.