Most golfers who are serious about improving their golf games have developed a pre-shot routine. A pre-shot routine helps you relax and prepares your mind and body to play a shot. However, many of those same golfers do not give much thought to what they do after the shot. They should.
It is relatively easy to maintain a consistent pre-shot routine. It is just as easy and important to build a good post-shot routine.
Golf is a difficult game. It is common for one bad shot to lead to another. Everybody knows how crucial it is to control your emotions. That is easy when you are playing well. Think about it. When you hit good shots, odds are you give yourself a mental pat on the back and head on off down the fairway like there is nothing to it. A bad shot causes fear, which leads to tension. You scold yourself, rack your brain trying to figure out “what you did wrong,” and generally hold on to the negative thoughts until the next shot. By then you have altered your state of mind to the point where it is difficult to approach the next shot with any sense of confidence.
There are many good post-shot routines. None of them start with the negative question “What did I do wrong?”
As you work on your post-shot routine, keep a clear view of your goals. The only real goal is to maintain a set of positive images in your mind so that you expect good things to happen on the course. By getting upset and uptight over the bad shots and replaying them over and over in your mind, you are really rehearsing for more troubles.
I tell my students to use their successes as building blocks, and that is what the post-shot routine is all about. You should congratulate yourself after a good shot. Replay the feel of the previous swing, including the contact with the ball and flight path of the shot. Give yourself a verbal or physical cue to end the visualization–say to yourself, “Good shot,” or make a warm-down practice swing. Then take time to repair your divot and move ahead. The idea is to reward your efforts so that your mind strives to reproduce that feeling on each subsequent shot.
Conversely, when you play a bad shot, give yourself a mental mulligan. Mentally rehearse the shot again as if you have not yet played it. Then make a practice swing, complete with a visual image of the result you desired. This will link your mind to a success and downplay the substandard effort. Do not walk away until you have created a positive mental image.
It sounds simple, and it is. It is these subtle aspects of golf that will help you drop a stroke or two off your handicap and make you a more competitive player. The goal of any good golfer is to get into “the zone.” Make sure your post-shot routine leads you toward that goal and not away from it.