Routine is the backbone of success. Consistently performing specific tasks that form into habits is something that most golfers want to achieve. It helps the succeed when the pressure mounts because it frees up mental capacity to focus on more complex issues. The best example is the pre-shot routine where your actions prepare your body and mind to hit a golf ball. This is always a good thing. However, when does any routine stop working and it is transformed into a rut?
A rut is defined as “a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change.” In golf, a rut is something to be avoided because it prevents any player from achieving their maximum potential.
Regardless of how strong a player we are, a rut is something that needs to be eliminated; this is noticeable at the professional level when suddenly a top player fires their long time coach or caddie. They are making a change to break their routine and get out of a perceived rut that is causing their poor play.
Over the years, I have identified three common factors that help identify a rut. Some I notice in others game that apply to my mine and yet, some ruts are uniquely my own.
First, the famous saying “this is the way I have always played this shot; it is what I was taught!” This rut is not unique to me, but I can tell you I clung to this mental thought for years. I figured that since I developed my routine of setting up down the left side of the fairway with great success that this was the way it had to be all the time. However, as my game evolved, the automatic routine of aiming left started to hurt my game so I had to convince my brain that this routine was a rut and it needed to change. Now I aim center or right-center with great success. It took some doing, but I finally hopped out of that aiming rut.
Second, my pre-shot putting routine was failing. I would go through the same motion during all non-competitive rounds. It was at a point where I would not even do my pre-shot routine. I would just look and putt. Then one day I was in a tournament when my ah-ha moment occurred. My competitive pre-shot routine was not even close to my non-competitive actions. I mean, not even close. I realize then that something had to change and I adopted a new pre-shot routine for all circumstances. This change helped propel my short game to a new level and lower golf scores was the result.
Lastly, I played my home course exactly the same all the time. The routine of picking a specific club before even arriving at the tee box and looking at the conditions resulted in me shooting the same score (within 2 strokes either way) most of the time. I would should between 76 and 80 around 3/4 of the time. I realize these are pretty solid scores, but the routine of playing the course exactly the same way started to get very boring. So, one day I changed by leaving my driver and 3 wood in the bag. I hit my 5 wood and lower for the entire round. Well, after shooting 74 I realize that my course management routine was actually a rut and started to change things up. As a result I lowered my handicap and continue to be aware of how a routine of playing the course can change into a rut.
The above three examples are not exhaustive. There are many times when we think our routine is helping and actually it is a rut holding us back. It is challenging to identify a rut, but maybe that is where your local professional can help. If they are worth their salt, they will try to delve into the root of your issues and help identify constructive ways to improve your game.
Has your game plateaued and you cannot seem to improve your scores? Are you bored while playing? Well, maybe you are in a rut and it might be time to shake up your routine.
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!