Whatever part of the game, putting, chipping, sand, approach irons, or long game, when you hit your best shots I would venture to say you have your target in your minds eye. It doesn’t really matter what mechanics you are keying on, good golf shots require you to have your target in mind. I am more and more of the belief that keeping your target in mind is something that can be practiced, encouraged, and additionally supported through routine.
Other activities that practice “visualization”. Visualization, or keeping the target in mind is an exercise in itself. I would encourage other activities that involve visualization to help develop this skill. Playing basketball and shooting baskets, playing darts, pool, ping pong, tennis, or playing catch with a baseball or football are all activities that sharpen the minds visualization skills and the bodies skills in working with the mind. Remember Kareem Abdul Jabbar before shooting a sky hook? He was usually looking away from the target before the shot but his minds eye knew where that basket was.
Get the wedge out. Another way to practice visualization is to get the wedge out and play chipping games. Chip to the same hole from the same location with three balls. Hit the first ball with a low trajectory that runs just landing it on the green. Hit the second with a medium trajectory that flies a little farther on the green and runs a little less. Hit the third shot with a high trajectory that floats in farthest and stops quickly by the hole. Switch to another hole and do the same thing. Then go to the putting green and putt to the same hole from the same spot hitting the first putt firm and fast with little break, the second medium speed with a little more break, and the third lagging just right with the greatest amount of break. Just the mere way in which you are now practicing, hitting every shot differently with a different target or line, is getting you to practice your visualization. Ultimately, that is what you are doing when you play on the course hitting one shot at a time, each shot being different. It makes a lot of sense to practice that way if you want to improve your game. \
With routine, develop a process to help encourage and support visualization. Follow these steps in your pre-shot routine and I bet it will help:
- Look at the lie of the golf ball. It will tell you what you can or can’t do. If the ball is sitting down in a hard pan lie, trying a flop shot where you slide the club under the ball is ruled out. So start with your lie and the options is allows.
- Stand behind the ball and look at the target and determine the specific spot you are going to aim. Make a decision and commit to it! Remember to pick the spot that gives you a good percentage of success; so essentially play to the fat of the green or fairway.
- As you walk forward and approach the ball, be sure to use your eyes and look back and forth from the ball to that decided upon target repeatedly. Your eyes will help program the “athelete” and see the shot you are trying to make as well as tell the body what it has to do. If you lose sight of the image at anytime, back off and start again, if you don’t a poor shot will happen.
- As you set up to the ball, stay with your routine that you are familiar with and keep the target in mind. Some people take longer then others over the ball, but just be familiair with how long you take and try and stay consistent with it. There is comfort for you as a player in taking the same amount of time over a shot and that helps you feel confident and keep the target in mind. Feel yourself taking too long? Red flag! Doubt and uncertainty are creeping in and I bet the target is not in your mind’s eye. Back off and start again. Be fully committed to that target and stick to your routine.
- Pull the trigger and keep the target in mind as you swing.
I can talk about it all day in this article but to get good at this you are going to have to go out and practice and understand what it is to visualize the shot and keep it in your minds eye. If you become proficient, this is the best way to play golf and I promise you your scores will only improve! Good luck!
Thank you for all you do for Golf and for Lone Tree Golf Course and Event Center. I hope 2013 was a great year and may 2014 find you golfing often and happily (and while you are out there, bring a buddy to the game, golf needs that).
Ron Parish, PGA
If you are interested in reviewing other articles from Coach Ron go to www.lonetreegolfcourse.com under “The Course” tab.