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 teaching them other 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 the sensation of inhalation and exhalation (even if initially exaggerated until it becomes naturally comfortable), as this will keep your mental interference to a minimum and also negate the effects of nervousness or anxiety. This may take some practice, but the effort is well worth it, as the deeper you breathe, the more relaxed your mind will be, which in turn increases your ability to produce a fluid, powerful and effortless 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) - seeing 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.
A good tip for visualizing your ideal swing would be to choose a tour player with the same biomechanics as yours (height, weight, build, etc.), and visualize him or her taking the shot and swinging the club with effortless power.
- Finally, when you are at the address position, 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 keep a clear picture of your intended outcome in mind, negating any doubts and anxiety about executing the desired shot.