Golf Psychology - Pre-Shot Routine - O & S of OSVEA

Iain Highfield
  • Author: Iain Highfield
  • GLT Director of Education
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  • Author 2: Joseph Culverhouse
  • Manager - GLT Content and Communications


Today in GLT's golf psychology series, Iain Highfield is with us again to discuss the O&S of his OSVEA pre-shot routine process, and their importance in the mental game of golf.  

Options – assessing conditions, identifying impacts

The goal of the Options phase for a player is to asses the external variables of the shot, calculating the actual playing yardages in relation to differing landing zones. Only once all this information is collected – wind, lie, stance, roll-out areas – can the player then begin to asses which shot would be appropriate. Other considerations include a self-assessment of their own overall and current capabilities, how they have performed this shot in practice and any statistical date they have compiled from previous competition.

Anika Sorenstam is widely regarded as a master of this king of game analysis. Often stating that she would not take a shot into competition that she could not complete a certain percent of the time successfully in practice.

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At this stage, we should remind ourselves of the roles and goals for a coach, namely to educate a student on what will impact the flight of the ball and why. In my experience, this can and should only be taught through active discovery, rather than merely telling our students the information they require.

For example, as coaches, we understand that a ball that lies above a player’s feet is likely to send the ball left, but simply sharing this information with a student should not be considered coaching. Counter intuitive as it appears to some, our role is to allow the student to make the mistake, ask them why they think it happened, and allow them to actively arrive at their own solution. This pacing of our student’s development allows them to realize essential principles of their game with minimal direct impact from the coach.

The old saying ‘There is no success like failure’ is not only true, but should be the very cornerstone of effective coaching. That fluffed shot is an open door for learning – a door that great coaches and hungry students will step through together.

More importantly, we are creating a platform for students to develop a growth mindset, quite probably the most influential factor in the pursuit of greatness.

The book ‘Mindset’ by Dr. Carol Dweck offers extraordinary support for this approach. She clearly demonstrated that students with a fixed mindset regard mistakes as purely negative and, therefore, miss the window of learning that is intrinsically linked to any failure. Surely then, as coaches, our responsibility is firstly to teach and not tell, encouraging an environment of active discovery and empowering players with their most valuable tool - the growth mindset.

GLT's free PDF Quickstart of Golf's Mental Game is available here.

A student who is educated through being allowed to make strategic errors and embark on active discovery will create habits that are driven by this very process. A fascinating book called ‘The Power of Habit’ describes the creation of this habit as the Que-Action-Value process. The que being the mistake, the Action being the desire to learn and Value being the output, in this case, the player’s strategic improvement. I think it is a perfect summary of what we are trying to achieve in our Options stage.

Whether we are taking on the early steps of a player’s strategic development or advancing the capabilities of more experienced golfers, the process of ‘thinking aloud’ has a role to play. Scientists have demonstrated the effectiveness of verbalizing your thoughts as an aid to the effective completion of complex tasks. Not only accelerating the learning process, thinking aloud effectively appoints your own internal cognition as the most dependable caddy you could possibly have. This outward projection of the thought process also provides us, as coaches, with the opportunity to more accurately diagnose if and where breakdowns occur in the Options phase of OSVEA.

Throughout the OSVEA process, success in any one phase is dependent on proficiency in the previous one. At this stage, the player’s aptitude at considering his or her Options equips the golfer with the skill most needed for Selection – chunking data. By absorbing data in manageable chunks, the player can make an informed choice about the shot that he or she faces.

Part of this requires a golfer to identify a series of specific targets, including interim targets, peak flight, landing zones and finishing position.

Here, we are teaching from the principal of aim small, miss small. The paradox is that students, more often than not, will aim for the fairway. The fairway is big and, therefore, there is a sense of security in aiming for such an ample target. Essentially, this choice is to protect the golfer from failure. But, as coaches, we have to break this restrictive reasoning. Simply put, choosing such a large target at this phase of the pre-shot process starves the brain of the detail and information it needs to trigger a successful execution.

Coaching this is no different to coaching the Options phase. We allow failure, enable active discovery, use open questioning to pace and lead the student to a solution, use thinking aloud protocol to accelerate learning and asses future processes. Essentially, we are creating a desired habit loop that combines our mantra of ‘aim small, miss small’ with the positive self-talk we first introduced during Options, bringing them together on the golf course to create strategic awareness.

Gio Valiante, in his book ‘Fearless Golf,’ encourages all his players to ask themselves two questions: What is your strategy? And What is your target? This is the foundation for the selection phase of OSVEA with strategy translating to the flight and shape of the ball and our target being our series of specific targets, from interim to finishing position.

Using self-talk to find the answer to each of Valiante’s questions is a vital process goal that students may then use as a tool to keep them process focused. This ultimately helps to prevent players from falling into the negative spiral.

It is also worth us considering how the brain’s remarkable analytics can be enabled and supported through students creating their own personal yardage books for courses they will be playing- “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

The combination of verbal protocols and players creating individual resources like a yardage book are effective strategies for learning the importance of the O and S of OSVEA.

Next in our golf psychology series, we'll continue to discuss the O&S of OSVEA by examining Phil Mickelson's pre-shot routine and mental game of golf.  


osvea preshot