You hear the term 'pre-shot routine in golf so often. So what does it really mean, and how can it help you play better golf?

A pre-shot routine is a precise set of movements or actions before you hit the golf ball. As an example, you almost always see a top player start from behind his golf ball keeping the target line in sight. If you watch that player you may notice that he always tugs on his left shirt sleeve -- or he may always adjust his glove in the same way.

It’s important to understand that these movements or actions are what help a player stay focused on the shot at hand. Pre-shot routines are crucial; especially when the pressure is on. The first tee jitters is a good example of a situation when a pre-shot routine can really help.

Next time you watch golf on TV look to see how many waggles a player takes or how many times his eyes look toward the target before he actually begins his backswing. The amount of time the great players take to perform this routine is extremely consistent.

Jack Nicklaus was great example of a player who never hit a shot until he was absolutely ready. He may have taken longer over the ball than most players but that was his routine, he never varied from it. Depending on your personality you may need to start your backswing sooner than Nicklaus did....but what you can learn from one of the greatest players ever is he always visualized his shot before he attempted to hit it.

Nicklaus had a very clear image in his mind before each shot, even on the practice tee.

Next time you play golf try these tips to improve you routine:
1. Stand approximately six feet behind your ball keeping the golf ball and target in one line. Take a deep, slow breath. Visualize the trajectory of the shot at hand.
2. Start with your left foot first. You'll find it takes about three steps to get in position.
3. Set the clubface down first and align it to the intended target (before your feet or body) Take a first look at the target.
4. Set your feet, hips and shoulders parallel to the target line.
5. Take a second look at the target as you waggle the clubhead.
6. As you look back down at the ball begin your swing.

Always remember that golf is an art form -- not a science!

Graham Sampson PGA of America Professional