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Routine or Ritual?

Routine or Ritual?
By Dr. T. J. Tomasi
Keiser University College of Golf Senior Faculty and Director of Research

All good players have a routine that doesn’t vary. Actually, the step-by-step process they go through is a much higher grade routine called a ritual. A ritual is more powerful than a routine because it peaks your attention, giving you the focus of a snake charmer for the thirty seconds or so it takes to hit a golf shot.

In a ritual, the whole is more powerful than the sum of its parts. A ritual, by the exactness of its inexorable repetition, has the ability to turn a playing field filled with chaotic events into a safe haven. Your shot ritual is thus a golfing amulet that protects you at every turn.

Because the sequence and composition of the parts of the ritual never vary there is a sameness that gives your brain solace no matter how stressful the situation. Hazards, wind, the pressure of a downhill three-footer for the match, a simple chip or a drive to a wide open fairway – it doesn’t matter because all shots are run through the process as equals, with no one shot given more importance. If you control the process by which you play, you control the play itself.

Thus, the golfer’s ritual is a tool for tempering the stress generated from bad outcomes. No matter how bad the outcome, the grieving period is brought to heal by the start of the next shot ritual. In practical terms, this means that you play one shot at a time and stay in the present – the past is gone and the future hasn’t arrived, so all you have to work with is the here-and-now.

Done correctly, a ritual projects you outside yourself, because it connects you directly with the target, forming a tight player/target bond so powerful that all of your bodily systems (balance, visual, etc.) are on the same page, dedicated to bringing the ball to the target.   

If you are surprised at the importance of adding a golfing ritual to your golf game, then you are in dire need of same. In this regard, the nuts and bolts of such a ritual will be outlined.

Overview of the Shot Ritual

The shot ritual was developed by expert players to cope with the uncertainties of the game. The logic behind the ritual is that because the universe is an orderly place, it can be controlled by adhering to certain principles in a particular order – and you gain access to these principles by dialing up the ritual.  If your golf is in harmony with the laws of physics and biomechanics, and you stay faithful to the correct order, you will succeed – if you’re not in harmony, you will fail.

Golf, of course, is not the only sport that demands a ritual: witness an NBA  free throw sequence, a tennis pre-serve ritual, or a pitcher or batter in baseball who performs the ritual the same way every time. The sameness before every shot allows you to stay focused and comfortable under stress, and it is in this way that you gain access to the swing mechanics you have taken the trouble to learn.

To create your own ritual, strive for what I call the 30-second bubble, where for each shot it’s just you and the target. In your bubble, you can get down to the business of planning and executing your shot.

Check your lie, choose a club, factor in the wind and other conditions then visualize the shot you are going to hit.  Next, take a deep breath to relax, then pick a target and take a practice swing as a dress rehearsal for the real swing. Once you feel ready, approach the ball, aim your clubface first, then align your body.

Now all you have to do is zero in on the target in your minds-eye and let it go!

Watch the pro’s on TV to find a ritual you like, and/or read my book “The 30 Second Swing” to design your own shot ritual.

If you’d like to study with Dr. Tomasi and other PGA Master Professionals, contact The College of Golf today.