Good golf is about developing strong mental habits. When we are on the golf course, we naturally feel more pressure than when we are practicing, so our practice time needs to be spent ingraining positive mental habits, so they become part of our subconscious thinking on the golf course. If we can continually perform a routine of analysis, visualization, feel and commitment during our practice, we will reduce the number of careless shots we play on the golf course and play better golf.
Jack Nicklaus once said:
“I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head. It’s like a color movie. First I “see” where I want it to finish, nice and white and sitting high on the bright green grass. Then the scene quickly changes, and I “see” the ball going there: its path, trajectory, and shape, even its behaviour on landing. Then there’s a sort of fade out, and the next scene shows me making the kind of swing that will turn the previous images into reality.”
Johnny Miller said that he even saw how many bounces the ball would take on the green before it stopped and which direction it would bounce. This level of positive visualization is what we are aiming to achieve, so it is important we take every opportunity to practice it. Of course we are not going to start hitting every shot as we visualize, but being able to see a clear picture of the shot will make us commit to it, which reduces doubt and produces a better execution.
Putting Golf Pro Advice to Use
Every time you practice, develop the habit of meticulous visualization of what you want the ball to do for EVERY shot. This will help us do it subconsciously on the golf course. As Golf Psychologist Bob Rotella tells us, every shot should have a purpose. Before every shot, ask yourself what you want to achieve with it. Most golfers have a tendency to start trying to correct technical faults in their swings on the golf course, which takes focus away from the purpose of the shot. Try not to have technical swing thoughts. Focusing on a positive visualization will also work towards reducing other negative interference such as how you look in front of other players or focusing on hazards.
On the range, try to hit as many different shots as you can, instead of thinking about technical drills and hitting to the same target. This will develop synchronization between your mind and body. Your body will start to learn the feelings associated with shot shapes and you will improve your visualization skills. Hit high shots, low shots, draws and fades. This will encourage you to get into the habit of picturing the shot in your head before swinging. Then you can feel that shot with your practice swings.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t practice the physical game. Pick a fundamental to work on during every session. Whether it be grip, alignment or posture, this is where your technical focus should be. The rest is about visualization and feel. The more we can learn these valuable skills, the more shots we will have in our repertoire for the course, which is the key to scoring well.
*Photo by bjhernandez