Visualization is a key mental game skill used by many of the world’s elite players and most famously perhaps by the greatest player of them all – 18-times Major winner Jack Nicklaus, who visualized every single shot he made, including those he hit during practice sessions on the range. Most mental game coaches will teach their clients to visualize their shots in addition to psychological techniques (such as positive self-talk), but research shows that if you want to improve your ability to picture a good golf shot, then execute it, you will have more success if you clear your mind of other thoughts first.
- Go through your usual pre-shot routine, but while doing so, make sure to pay attention to your breathing as this will keep your mental interference to a minimum and also negate the effects of nervousness or anxiety. This may take some practice, as you have to divide your attention but the effort is well worth it. The deeper you breathe, the more relaxed your mind will be, which in turn increases your ability to produce a fluid swing.
- As you take a few practice swings, visualize the shot you want to make, starting with the outcome first (just as the Golden Bear did for all his Major wins) – see the ball sitting high up on the green or plum in the middle of the fairway. Next, see the arc of the ball as it flies through the air and then finally, get a clear picture of the swing you need to make, in order to get the results you’ve just imagined.
- Finally, when you are at setup, take a few moments to enjoy the quiet stillness before motion begins. When you’re ready, inhale deeply all the way to the top of your back-swing, then exhale (even if you have to ‘shoosh’ it out), as you hit down and through to impact, taking care to follow through completely at full extension. This simple focus will keep your mind free of excessive swing thoughts, helping you to hold a clear picture of your intended outcome and negating any anxiety about executing the shot.
A good tip for visualizing your ideal swing would be to choose a tour player with the same bio-mechanics as you (height, weight, build, etc.), and visualize him or her taking the shot and swinging the club with effortless power.
Practising before a game; it’s imperative.
Sit quietly for a few minutes, either before leaving the house for your tee time, in the car at the club car park, or better still, in the locker-room after some warm-up exercises and practice on the range.
Picture yourself in your mind’s-eye, walking out to the first tee, completely calm, breathing deeply and ready to play your best golf. You can also visualize yourself staying relaxed and free for every swing, chip and putt.
As your nervous-system cannot tell the difference between reality and imagination, this is a great way to train your mind for success on the course, as the more you can envisage yourself making some great shots, the more likely you are to recreate these experiences while actually playing. Also, by remembering to focus on your breathing while playing, you will be more relaxed and this will help you to swing with fluidity and ease.
Of course, if you’re really serious about improving as a golfer, you could set aside time each week to develop these crucial mental game skills that will take your game to another level.
Start with 15 minutes of seated meditation practice (contact me to find out how), allowing your mind to gently unwind before spending 5 minutes visualizing yourself playing some exceptional golf. Aim to repeat this process 3-4 days per week or, at the very least, before you go out on the course.
If you are consistent and make a determined effort, within a few short weeks you will have programmed your brain and nervous-system to stay relaxed under pressure and to visualize each shot before taking it.