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The 3 Steps to a good golf shot - Feel it, See it, Hit it!

The 3 Steps to a good golf shot – Feel it, See it, Hit it!

The 3 Steps to a good golf shot – Feel it, See it, Hit it!

Golf Chats is a website to encourage discussions on various subjects relating to the game of golf. I am Mel Sole, Director of Instruction of the Mel Sole Golf School and SAPGA Master Professional.  I invite you to enter into a discussion on this or any article on the website.  The input is for the entire subscriber base to learn something new each time!  Please post your comments below.  Keep it clean and tasteful.  We are here to learn from one another!

If you cannot see it, how can you hit it?  

This is a question I ask my students daily.  These days we constantly hear Tiger Woods talk about “The Process,”  and he’s right.  If you do not have a process or “Pre-Shot” routine, you have very little chance of hitting a good golf shot.  Your Pre-Shot routine should include practice swings to tell the body what you are trying to do, visualization, so your mind can clearly understand what you are about to ask your body to do, and finally, a way to completely “clear” the mind of all swing thoughts and just let the body produce what you have just visualized.  At the Mel Sole Golf School, we teach our students what we call a “clear key” to achieve that!

One of the leading sports performance trainers, David MacKenzie, gives us his experience on how important visualization really is!


The 3 Steps to a good golf shot – Feel it, See it, Hit it!

“Visualization is the most powerful thing we have.” Nick Faldo.

The Golf State of Mind coaching philosophy is about using everything you have to get the most out of every performance. Visualization is one of those things that doesn’t require any physical skill to learn, but as Nick Faldo says, it’s the most powerful thing you have.

Why visualize?

The world’s best athletes use the practice of visualizing a great performance before the action for a very good reason – it works!

Visualization has been proven to:

  • stimulate the muscles necessary to perform an action
  • program the mind and muscles prior to playing to increase confidence
  • control pre-round nerves and relax the body and mind
  • re-frame from negative to positive outcomes
  • Help with swing changes
  • Help recovery from injury
  • Improve concentration

The science of visualization for golf.

Movement is initiated by the brain. When you want to perform a physical action, the best way to do it is to first feed the brain a picture of that action and the desired outcome of that action.

The brain doesn’t know the difference between a real and imagined action (the sensory input into the brain is the same). So, when you visualize a physical action, you’re actually stimulating the same muscles that you would use to perform the real action.

Sports scientists call this “Functional Equivalence.”

A study was done by Sports psychologist, Richard Suinn, which involved skiers being monitored by an EMG machine (a machine that detects muscle activity) while imagining skiing down a slope. The results showed that even though the skiers weren’t moving, the exact same muscles they would have used during a downhill ski were activated.

The 3 Steps to a good golf shot – Feel it, See it, Hit it!

So when you simply think about a physical action you are essentially, getting those muscles you need, ready for action.

In golf, if you don’t have a clear picture of the shot you’re about to hit, you’re quite simply wasting a valuable opportunity to prepare the brain to activate the exact muscles required to execute it. To access those muscles, the brains uses specific “neural” pathways to send impulses to those specific muscles. When you’re visualizing, you’re telling the brain which pathways it needs to use.

Visualization before a golf shot.

I’m going to assume you have a good course strategy and you’ve picked the best target for your shot. But how will the ball get there? What does a good shot look like?

Here’s where your visualization comes in…

2 ways to visualize a golf shot.

To visualize a shot, you need to get a clear picture of the path the ball will travel to reach the target. Is it a fade or a draw? Low or high? How will it bounce when it lands? Make the picture as vivid as you can. If you’ve seen the Shot Tracker technology they use to show the shape of a shot on the PGA TOUR TV coverage, that’s what you’re looking for. This type of visualization is called “outcome visualization”.

The other way to visualize is to actually see yourself hitting the shot (with the flight of the ball too). This is the one I prefer as you actually get a look at the swing you need to make, which will help you repeat that movement. This type of visualization is called “Process Visualization”.

You might have heard Jack Nicklaus’ famous quote of imagining himself hitting the shot during his pre-shot routine. He describes having a very vivid image, like it was a color movie.

One way to do this is with a virtual “image reel.”

After Jordan Spieth’s win at Augusta this year, his coach talked about the image reel they’d been working on showing Jordan’s best shots, which he could recall during play. Imaging past successful shots is actually easier than imagining new shots as you already have them in your memory. This would not only help him move his body in the same way, but seeing that past success also helps evoke a positive mood. This is why it’s a good idea to keep a “mental game journal” of your best shots.

When your focus is on an image of your desired outcome, and you can keep that focus on that image (even when you’re over the ball), your focus is on something external. Golf is a hard game because you are not looking at the target when you hit the ball. When you throw a basketball you have the information of where the target is relation to you as you perform the action.

Your focus is on the target as you throw the ball, not on your body, making it a lot easier.

This is called “external focus”. When your focus in on what your body has to do to hit the target, it’s called “internal focus” and it makes the game a lot harder. Your movement is not as fluid and free-flowing and it leads to more inconsistencies in your swing. When you have your focus on the external surroundings, you’re a lot more committed and assertive with the action.

In golf, the best way to achieve this “external” focus and make sure you don’t have technical thoughts.  Use visualization and try to imprint an image of the target in your mind.  So you can see it when you’re not looking at it.

Tiger Woods used to say that he could still see the target when he is looking at the ball. Nick Price said he felt like he had a camera looking out of his left ear.  This allowed him to see the target in his mind as he looked at the ball.

Read more about how to improve your visualization skills on the course here!

Source: David Mackenzie   Golf State of Mind

Pictures: Golf State of Mind   Taylor Bartlow

Thanks for reading – The 3 Steps to a good golf shot – Feel it, See it, Hit it!

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