“I can’t take it to the course”….”I have been stuck at a 15 handicap for 15 years”….”I got nervous in the tournament and didn’t perform well”….These are all comments I have heard too many times to count over the years from new students who come to our Academy. There is never a quick answer because it depends on the person’s personality, skill level, practice habits, goals, attitudes, etc. My job is to help identify the best roadmap for improvement.
One area of importance is the mind and body connection. Many people do not improve because they simply neglect the power of their thoughts. This tends to change as the skill level of the golfer goes up. The elite golfer is much more aware of the mind’s influence over their swing and short game performance, which is also why you see elite golfers working on their mental game more than recreational golfers.
“All golfer’s think in pictures” – Dr. David Wright. Consider times when a golfer stands on a certain tee box – no matter how poorly they’ve been playing – and rips the tee shot down the middle of the fairway. Conversely, when a golfer is playing great but finds there are certain tee boxes that create timidity and fear. This occurs because of the pictures in the golfer’s mind and the effect of those pictures on how the body performs. What we visualize during performance plays a major role in how we execute a shot.
According to the Brain Imagining Center in San Antonio, Texas, visualization creates eighty percent of the neural pathways needed to perform a task. So, when you maintain images of a positive outcome and visualize your success, you are eighty percent on the way to achieving the goal. However, when you hold on to negative pictures and visualize a poor performance, you are also eighty percent of the way to achieving a negative result.
Jack Nicklaus has said he never hits a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture in his head: “First, I focus on where I want the ball to finish and imagine a white ball sitting up high on bright green grass. Then the scene quickly changes, and I see the ball going there: it’s 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 a reality.”
Start your road to better golf today by Visualizing Positive Outcomes!! Next time you play, stand six to eight feet behind every shot during your pre-shot routine. Visualize yourself performing the shot successfully and then imagine the flight or roll of the ball towards your target. You can even close your eyes to visualize, like PGA player Jason Day.
I also recommend players practice visualization at home as well. Spend a few minutes of quite time going through the shots you want to play on the course. This is a valuable mental exercise that can improve performance. You will be more prepared and confident during the round with a game plan. You have “already” hit the great shot! Jack Nicklaus said he mentally visualized and played each important round of golf in his mind before the tournament. We can all learn something from an 18 time Major Champion! It’s time to start playing your best golf ever! Good luck!
By Brech Spradley, PGA
Director of Instruction Barton Creek Golf Academy