Visualisation or mental imagery means creating or recreating images in your mind’s eye. Research studies show that mental imagery sometimes produces similar effects in skill learning as if the behaviour were being practiced physically.
The best golfers in the world use this visualisation technique to generate better performances when they need them most. 18-time major champion, Jack Nicklaus, used mental imagery before every shot in practice and competition. In fact, he claimed that he never took a shot in practice or competition without a clear, sharp image of the shot he wished to make.
Lean the Skill
1 To master any skill, we first need to familiarise ourselves with the skill. Because you can remember your best and worst shots in golf means that you can already recall images of what happened.
2 You can practise imagery anywhere you like; however, most people enjoy practising imagery where they will not be disturbed for 10-15 minutes.
3 Try to create images that blend all the sensations you have such as the feel of the club in your hand and the sound of the club hitting the ball.
Practise the Skill
1 Skills that are practised in your practice sessions have the best chance of being transferred to competition. You can practise imagery at home but it will be more beneficial to you if you practise your imagery at the practice range. Although Jack Nicklaus never took a shot without a clear, sharp image of what he wanted to achieve, we can begin by practising imagery within our routine.
2 Before you take a shot at the practice range, aim to see the shot you wish to play. For example, it might be a high cut. Some people, like Jason Day, close their eyes to see the shot in their mind’s eye. Other like to see the shot trajectory like they see the shot tracer on television.
3 Record and reward yourself for including visualisation in your pre-shot routine. You can record your progress in a notebook and keep it in your golf bag. Reward yourself for every 25 routines you complete with visualisation.
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Play with the Skill
1 The transition from practice to competition is often the most challenging for golfers. I suggest you begin one step at a time. You can begin by seeing your tee shot in your mind’s eye while you are walking to the tee box or waiting for your fellow competitors to take their shots.
2 Place a tick on your scorecard each time you visualised the shot you wished to take. After a while, this new behaviour will be part of your routine when you practice and play golf
3 Make a commitment with yourself that you will always try to create an image in your mind’s eye before your address the ball. Your discipline in this preparation will pay off as you progress through the round.
Ben Craggs teaches at Laurel Oak Country Club, Sarasota’s premier private country club. You can follow Ben on Twitter @bencraggsgolf