In Year 33 of teaching this wonderful game, you can believe I’m rarely surprised by anything that shows up on my lesson tee.
I have seen swings that make Jim Furyk look like Gene Littler. I have seen putting strokes that resemble an octopus falling out of a tree. So rarely, if ever, does something surprise me. On almost a daily basis, there is one item which still baffles me. Rarely, if ever, do I see a club player, no matter the skill level, who has fully embraced the full value of the pre-shot routine.
Jack Nicklaus, defined by his majors record, is thought by many to be the greatest player of all time. In my estimation, he had the greatest pre-shot routine of all time.
Once, I was shown by a fellow instructor a split-screen video. On the left half of the screen was the great Nicklaus, on the 14th tee at Augusta, during an early 60s Masters round. On the right screen, was Jack on the 14th tee at Augusta during his epic fourth-round charge during the ‘86 Masters. Both films, when started simultaneously and when periodically stopped at any point of his pre-shot, showed this man of great discipline at exactly the same juncture in his pre-shot routine. I mean exactly the same juncture.
When he had finally addressed the ball and came to rest for a brief second before starting his backswing, both time counts on either screen showed the exact amount of time elapsed.
This was no fluke. I believe Nicklaus and the late Jack Grout, Nicklaus’ longtime coach, had designed a pre-shot in a cadence that kept Jack not only in full compliance of a 100 percent sound fundamental set-up condition, but also set the rhythm of his swing that would not vary when pressure was applied deep into the competition.
During a corporate clinic, I once heard a man accuse Jack of being a slow player. Jack looked the gentleman square in the eye and responded, “You could rarely start the trophy presentation without me!“ Folks at the clinic laughed. I watched Jack’s expression closely, and he wasn’t laughing. He couldn’t have been more serious.
If you really want to eliminate the sloppy little mistakes that often rear their ugly heads to cost you strokes during your round, allow your coach to help you build a rock-solid pre-shot routine. Make sure this routine includes things like grip, clubface aim, body lines, ball position, posture, spacing, and a perfect cadence that put you in a calm rhythm and is highly repeatable. I firmly believe your pre-shot needs to be developed and practiced off course, and perfected just like your take-away or downswing. You need to go to the first tee in total command of your pre-shot and play a disciplined, “Nicklaus-like” golf round.
Develop this type of pre-shot, and you will be on your way to a much better golf game.
Tom Patri gives lessons at the Quarry on Immokalee Road, and is at Friar’s Head in New York from May-December. Patri is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher. Visit Patri’s website at www.tompatri.com, www.facebook.com/TomPatri or email him at email@example.com.