Golf Setup Lesson Pt 2 – Preshot Routine

This golf setup preshot routine golf lesson describes in detail how to move into position for a golf shot on the course and how to setup to a golf ball and aim the golf shot. Specific steps just for the setup itself are available by clicking: How to Setup for a Golf Swing.

Start by selecting your club and picking a specific target – don’t just aim at the green or the fairway – look for a tree in the distance or a spot in the fairway making the target as narrowly defined as possible. They say Ben Hogan would get so specific he wouldn’t just pick a tree; he would pick a knot on the tree to aim at.

We tend to hit where we look, so don’t look at the OB, the water, or all the glass on the side of the million-dollar home to the right of the fairway. Also the brain does not process the command “not” or “don’t” in executing a motor skill like swinging a golf club. It works by pictures – when you say to yourself, “don’t hit it into the lake,” your mind’s eye sees the lake and hits the ball in the lake.

OK, back to the preshot routine. You have already selected the golf club and a specific target. Go ahead and grip the club and take a couple of practice swings behind the ball maybe 10 feet behind the ball while standing on or near the target line. Now you are loose and it’s time to move into the ball.

You are directly behind the ball, gripping the club and holding it out in front of the chest as recommended in my setup article and video. It may help to pick an “intermediate target” like a leaf or discolored spot one or two feet in front of the ball directly along the target line.

Walk along the target line keeping the club out in front of your body as you gradually start lowering the club toward the ball. Do not walk past the ball – stay somewhat behind it relative to the target. You need to get the clubhead down early well before setting the feet in position. Go in with the clubhead first, then right foot and finally left foot. Clubface should point straight down the target line (through the intermediate target if you picked one) with the leading edge of the clubface perpendicular to the line, and the body should be oriented so it’s perpendicular to the face and the shaft. This is easy to do provided you don’t have a forward press which leans the shaft toward the target and ruins the “T-Square” alignment of shaft and body.

To really see this “T-Square” relationship at setup, try laying a 2”x4” or golf club shipping box along the target line. Now bring the leading edge of the clubface up squarely against the back of the board or box and orient the feet and body so they are perpendicular to the club shaft(the T-square), yet parallel to the board or box.

Now you are in perfect position – clubface is aimed squarely at target; butt of club is  aligned with belt buckle to ensure the body is at perfect right angles to the shaft and clubface; feet, knees, hips and shoulders are all parallel to target line as though aimed down the inner rail of a railroad track while the ball and clubface are along the outer rail. Now simply make a couple of waggles to stay loose and then fire the swing.

Lastly, if you can’t seem to take your game to the course, it’s usually because you didn’t really practice it at the range. You may have practiced your golf swing but not the golf game. So practice the setup and the preshot routine at the practice range. Get accustomed to stepping away from the practice station, selecting a club and then targeting and walking back into the golf ball. Hit one shot and repeat; you may be surprised by the results.  Don’t wait until you get to the golf course to try it.

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  1. Set-up routine video

    Excellent instruction. Well organized and detailed. The part about a “narrow” approach to the ball (i.e., walking right down the target line) is especially helpful. You are correct in saying that a “wide” approach to the ball can lead
    to all kinds of problems. Well done!!!

  2. Hi Herman,
    Thank You for the tips …playing golf for 20 hrs….it doesn t always show ….have problème with distance in driving 130….. I m 5 feet can You gives me a tip Please i would lime to gain yards….

    Thank You Again…keep up the good work
    Lynda from Canada

  3. Thank you your lesson on starting the down swing with a lateral shift has been the best lesson in had in 15 years playing golf. Instantly cut of 10 shorts from my round. Nobody has explained this concept so easily. Thank you again

  4. luv ur setup instruction
    but when i do it my club shaft points ti inside my thigh and not my beltbuckle
    what am i doing wrong

    • Larry, I think I got this answered for you by email, and you should be ok inside the thigh with hand position. But if you simply make sure your lead arm is well across your chest in the beginning while holding the club up off the ground, you should already be centered before attaching your trailing hand and lowering the club to the ground. With a neutral grip this should be easy to do. Note that your left wrist (lead wrist for a right-handed golfer) will be “cupped” at address to do this. The back of the hand and forearm are not “flat” at setup.

  5. Herman,
    Thanks for the tips. Took them to the driving range today and can see improvements in my game already. Will go to the range a couple more times before I head back to the fairways. But……….. I can’t wait to see the improvement in my game from practicing your grip/swing/approach tips.
    The game is going to be much more fun to play as I play/score better.

    Thanks again, Paul

  6. Great video Herman,

    I’ve seen many of the pro’s use a similar set-up routine. I know Greg Norman for certain used a very similar routine with great success.


  7. By the way what clubs should I use while learning my swing, I am currently practicing with 4 clubs. I start out with a PW, then a 7 iron, a 9 wood and then a 5 wood. Spend about 30 min with each club hitting practice balls. I use the setup routine for half the shots and the setup and approach routine for the other half. I also mix in some slowmo to try to evaluate myself. Like I said I am really impressed I hope I can translate this to the range and maybe in a week or so try to play a round. Thanks

    • You’re doing fine. the 9-wood and 5-wood may be a little bit of a challenge at this early stage, but if you’re comfortable with them go ahead. Hit lots of PW shots and lots of perfect slower, smaller reps. There’s plenty of time in your future for big, fast swings, but only one chance to start right. Good luck and thanks for commenting and following my work. – Herman

  8. I inherited a set of golf clubs and thought I would try to learn the game. I bought a few bags of practice balls and started swinging needless to say not to good. I watched your videos and started practicing your routine and in a few days I am hitting those same practice balls very consistently.The grip and preshot routine has me quite convinced. I will try to find a range this week and see what a real ball does. I am very impressed.

  9. Herman,

    Thanks for the follow-up tip. This is truly great and I can now see I was moving to far past the ball during my setup… That’s the reason I was always to the right of my target (or in the sand trap). I am looking forward to taking this to the course and put into action. Don’t stop with the tips; I need more to keep my “hermanized” status current (*__*)…