Something Controversial

Visualisation is not required to hit a good golf shot.

A bit controversial? I’m sure it is, but give me a minute to explain myself.

I have studied sports psychology, dabbled in meditation and even did some NLP for a little while. These disciplines (at least some of the time) require the participants to visualise. These pursuits have strong ties with the game of golf and a big part of their methodology revolves around visualisation. The most common scenario is to visualise the target and of oneself making a perfect golf swing.

Jack Nicklaus, the best golfer ever (maybe Tiger can put his hand up) has this to say about visualisation;

“I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head. First I see the ball where I want it to finish, nice and white and sitting up 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 behavior on landing. Then there is a sort of fade-out, and the next scene shows me making the kind of swing that will turn the previous images into reality.”

All this makes a lot of sense and going against this advice would seem kind of silly. I’m also not going to say Jack Nicklaus had it wrong, after all, winning eighteen majors shows you can play.

What I will say is that trying to visualise over the ball or when you’re trying to play a shot is the wrong thing to do.

Why?

Because visualising is not “staying in the present”. “Staying in the present” is what every sports psychologist will tell you to do. Visualising is attempting to predict the future. Predicting the future is no better than worrying about what happened on the last hole. I’m sure you’ll agree that concerning yourself about the double bogey, the three-putt or even the birdie on the previous hole is not going to help you. Neither is attempting to predict what is about to happen.

I’m positive that Nicklaus and every other great player is not visualising when they are hitting the ball. Their minds are clear and they’re playing on automatic pilot.

The more I’ve learned to play instinctively the less I’ve concerned myself with visualisation. Sometimes images pop into my mind when I’m about to play, but I don’t actively try and “see” the shot and picture the target in my mind.

I’m not against golfers trying to picture the shot or their swing in their mind’s eye. Some golfers feel lost without it. What I think is needed is better instruction on how and when to use visualisation. If you like visualising then do it behind the ball. Never when you’re over the ball.

For the most part golfers think too much – and visualising justs adds to mind garbage that holds golfers back. Clear your mind and hit the ball, you will hit better shots and these will be better than anything you could possibly dream up.

Good golfing,

Cameron

Comment using Facebook

4 Comments

  • Artful Golfer

    Reply Reply July 19, 2008

    Visualization is not about “attempting to predict the future”, it’s about communicating your “intention” in the present moment for what you are asking your body to do next, and in that future “present moment”, your body carries out that intent. Some present moments are about preparation for the next present moment.

  • Andrew

    Reply Reply July 20, 2008

    Yes I agree, I think Jack was making clear his intent.

    DO we visualize momemts before tying our shoelace or brushing ou teeth? The intent is certainly there.

    Maybe Jack strengths was making clear his intent then clearing his mind and having the confidence to perform and stick to the intent.

    I think after visualizing some people myself included then walk to the ball set up are about to hit then get distracted by a thought, self doubt have i chosen the right club, do i need to hit a bit harder etc even during the takeaway I have noticed a thought such as was i on plane with my takeaway or some swing thought like that creep in and it definetly effects the outcome.
    I think the skill is in being aware of these thoughts and how they effect your swing. Sticking to your intent and ignoring any other thought how is this done?playing automatically?

  • Cameron Strachan

    Reply Reply July 20, 2008

    Artful Golfer said: Visualization is not about “attempting to predict the future”, it’s about communicating your “intention” in the present moment for what you are asking your body to do next, and in that future “present moment”, your body carries out that intent. Some present moments are about preparation for the next present moment.

    CS: That may be so. My point is that you shouldn’t be attempting to visualise while you’re are trying to play a shot. Do it before hand or afterwards – but never during.

  • Cameron Strachan

    Reply Reply July 20, 2008

    Andrew said:

    Yes I agree, I think Jack was making clear his intent.

    DO we visualize moments before tying our shoelace or brushing our teeth? The intent is certainly there.

    Maybe Jack strengths was making clear his intent then clearing his mind and having the confidence to perform and stick to the intent.

    I think after visualizing some people myself included then walk to the ball set up are about to hit then get distracted by a thought, self doubt have i chosen the right club, do i need to hit a bit harder etc even during the takeaway I have noticed a thought such as was i on plane with my takeaway or some swing thought like that creep in and it definetly effects the outcome.
    I think the skill is in being aware of these thoughts and how they effect your swing. Sticking to your intent and ignoring any other thought how is this done?playing automatically?

    CS: I agree. JN was a master at working out what he wanted to do and then sticking to it no matter what. This approach, I believe, allowed him to win when others doubted themselves and changed their style under pressure. JN kept doing the same thing over and over, no matter what the situation. Tiger has the same mental discipline today and makes him virtually unbeatable.

    I hope Greg Norman can stick to his guns tonight and keep playing in the same aggressive manner. He has a habit of getting defensive and “playing safe”. 1996 US Masters comes to mind!

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field