Have you heard the bit of gossip discussing how top-ranked Australian golfer Jason Day concentrated his way to the top? Apparently, he did it by running himself through a rigorous and secret 15-step pre-swing ritual before every single shot. Well, it turns out, there’s some power behind this chatter.
His performance coach, Jason Goldsmith, told Golf.com, “The goal [of the pre-shot ritual] is to reach a state of mushin, a Japanese word that means “mind of no-mindedness.” Each point on his personal checklist is used together to help the world-class pro reach a meditative state of the mind-body connection. Since Day is currently rated number one in the official world golf rankings, we’d say whatever he’s doing is working for him.
Even though the pro has gotten to the point that his meticulous checklist only takes him a matter of seconds to get through, 15 things is still a bit much for your average friendly golf fanatic to take on before every single shot. Still, though you may not want to copy every single step Day completes, the idea of going through a pre-shot ritual does seem to be linked to better outcomes. Take our advice and develop your own personal routine. We recommend doing these six things before every shot:
The first step is analysis — think about your line, where you want your ball to go, and decide on your strategy. Is there any wind? What’s the slope like? Figure out the conditions of the hole, and where your best-bet target is. Golf coach David MacKenzie calls this step “the thinking phase.” The idea is that you do your necessary strategizing and thinking up front, so then you can get out of your head before you actually take your swing.
Golf legend and old guard Jack Nicklaus very famously talked about his practice of visualizing his ideal shots. He once told reporters, “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head… First I see the ball where I want it to finish… then I see the ball going there — its path, trajectory and shape, even its behavior on landing… And the next scene shows me making the kind of swing that will turn the previous images into reality.”
It’s hard to put the practice of visualization in golf into better words than this advice from one of the greats. But it is important to add that research in modern sports psychology does, in fact, back up the claim that positive visualization leads to improved performance.
3. Feel it out
It’s one thing to visualize your perfect swing — how about seeing how it feels? Not only does taking a few practice swings loosen up your posture, it also allows you to let yourself experience the shape of the swing you visualized, make any necessary adjustments and start to feel confident in it. This is where you can also start to draw yourself out of your “thinking stage” and toward trusting your body to do the work.
4. Set it up
Besides getting yourself into the right frame of mind, checking for proper alignment is probably the most important thing to do before you take your real swing. Always double check that your stance and your club-face are both correctly aligned. You can effortlessly cut out a good portion of easy misses this way.
5. Clear your mind
Easier said than done, right? Sometimes the frantic desire to “clear your mind” actually makes your mood much more cerebral and tense. Instead, take a few slow, deep breaths, focusing on letting everything out through your breathing. If you have a sports mantra repeat it to yourself (slow and strong, or easy does it, etc.). Let your body relax where you feel tension.
6. Let it rip
Once you’ve done your strategizing, your visualizing, drawn yourself into your body instead of your mind, and all the rest of it — let yourself feel confident in your set-up and complete the swing. Remember, unless you’re in the middle of a tournament or a game with your father-in-law, the result of your shot is way less important than what you learn from it. And what’s the last step? Repeat.
— C. Pedroja