Ritual Practice Part 3

This week we’re going to look at developing a pre-shot ritual. I have been doing some reading about golf and learned that the pre-shot ritual is crucial in developing the mental side of the game. Think about it, golf is the only sport that is played with a ball, where the ball isn’t moving and no one is trying to prevent you from achieving your goal. I get to take my time, watch the ball, and plan where to hit it. So what do I do? I stand over it, knowing I’d like it to hit it towards the green, and then hack at it without truly creating a plan for what happens after.

My pre-shot ritual will begin with CENTERING! Why? When centered, the body is in a state of perfect posture and balance. Movements initiated from center are perfect in form and function until the centered position is lost. The longer the centered position is maintained the better the next shot will be.

Standing behind the ball centered, I think about where I want to hit my next shot from. I plan where I’m going to hit the ball, so that can I leave myself with a comfortable distance for the next shot. With this in mind, I pick my target and my aiming point. My aiming point is something 3-4 feet in front of me along the path of my ball in alignment with my target. When I’m comfortable with my aim point and target, I move to address the ball. Over the ball, I begin by re-centering myself.

As Ben mentioned in his piece on Friday, we have been playing with videoing parts of our practice. After watching myself go through parts of this process, I learned that after centering, I tend to lift my club straight up into the air waist-high 2 or 3 times prior to hitting the ball. After discussing this with Ben, who assumed it was just part of my pre-shot ritual, I decided to try to remove it and stay as still as possible when addressing the ball. So at a subsequent practice session I tried to remove that part of the ritual and remain as still as possible. This was a complete disaster. For some reason, I couldn’t hit a ball to save my life. I was clearly thinking about not doing it, which of course caused me to fight my body. My mind was saying don’t lift your club and all my body could hear was ‘lift the club’. After about 20 minutes of complete frustration, I decided that Ben was right, it was actually a part of the ritual and I would have to find a way to incorporate it into the process.

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about using the breath to ground myself prior to hitting the ball. I decided to incorporate the club movement with that breath, inhaling when raising the club and exhaling and grounding myself as I lowered it. It is here at this point at address, standing over the ball, centered, that the pre-shot ritual stops. Now, it’s time to quit thinking and perform. Simply commit myself to the process and allow myself to execute the shot.

As you can see, I have spent a lot of time thinking about my pre-shot ritual. Using the video that Ben and I shot was critical to the process. It was critical, because my pre-shot ritual didn’t look like I thought it did. A disharmony between perception and reality can negatively affect the outcome. With practice, I should be able to make it feel and look exactly the same every time, thus, maximizing the results.

So the assignment this week is to think about your pre-shot ritual. What is it? Does it change when your change clubs? If possible, get a friend to video you using your cell phone. See if it looks like you thought it did. Were you centered? How repeatable is it? Now, practice your pre-shot ritual. I recommend doing exactly what Ben talked in his piece on Friday; go through your ritual all the way into the back swing. Pause at the top and check your center and balance. Then step away and begin again. Practicing in this manner helps grove the process and makes it repeatable on the course.

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