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See the shot. Feel the shot. Hit the shot.

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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 colour movie. First I ‘see’ 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 this sort of fadeout, and the next scene shows me making the kind of swing that will turn the previous images to reality. – Jack Nicklaus

How many times do you step up to a shot with a vague idea of what you want to happen, before duffing your shot, whether it be a top, chunk, slice or hook, it just doesn’t go to plan…? If you’re anything like me, too often!

But what can you implement into your game, before hitting your shot to both slow down the pre-routine and have more confidence in the shot you’re about to play?

One thing utilised by the best players in the world is imagery. Now this comes down to the individual but it has been shown to aid players with both performance and their confidence going into a shot.

What is imagery?

Imagery is the visualisation or mental rehearsal of the skill you’re about to perform, players utilise all of their senses to picture both the execution and the outcome of the shot. For example, visualising the line your ball must go on when putting, feeling the swing tempo, hearing the ball hit the bottom of the cup. In doing this you will approach the shot with more confidence, and be more likely to execute the skill.

Imagery is a skill which isn’t a quick fix. It must be learned and tailored to your personal game. You cannot just be put into your game and expect it to work. Golfers like Tiger Woods have been using imagery from a young age. He’s been visualising every shot taken and the exact position he wants the ball to go. He’s not had a bad career so who are we to argue with him?

Implementing Imagery

The best time to start using imagery is in practice, as aforementioned you can’t expect it to just work. Utilise these key tips to try and best implement it into your game.

  • Remember: Whenever you visualise shot execution, picture yourself full of confidence, executing the shot to the best of your ability.
  • Initially start with short images of the skill execution and the goal in mind, trying to be as situation specific as possible at the driving range. This may be hitting a certain flag/target on the range, or sinking a certain length putt on the putting green.
  • Stay as relaxed as possible, with steady breathing talking yourself through the ideal shot, for a more vivid image.
    • What can you see?
      • The flag you’re aiming for, the ball flight as it heads on the target line
    • What can you feel?
      • Feel a smooth, powerful swing, the ball hits the centre of the face
    • What can you hear?
      • A good ball, club face connection
    • Don’t be worried if it takes a long time to pick up. Don’t rush between shots. On the course you’d never hit a shot, and then immediately hit another, so don’t rush when you’re visualising. Give yourself the best chance for it to work and take your time.

Closing comments

Imagery can be used by every level of golfer, from the elite PGA tour pros to novices, however, it isn’t for everyone. Don’t be afraid if it doesn’t work, not everyone can vividly imagine themselves. You may be better using different psychological techniques that work for you specifically, but it shouldn’t be overlooked, and if you want it to work it must be given the required time to embed itself successfully into your game.

To find out more

For more psychology resources visit psych-chek.

About the Author

Luke Vidler

An amateur golfer and recent graduate of Chichester University. I have both a BSc and MSc in Sport and Exercise Psychology and am keen to utilise my knowledge in practical situations, even if I can’t help myself!

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