Visualisation is not required to hit a good golf shot.
A bit controversial? I’m sure it is, but give me a minute to explain myself.
I have studied sports psychology, dabbled in meditation and even did some NLP for a little while. These disciplines (at least some of the time) require the participants to visualise. These pursuits have strong ties with the game of golf and a big part of their methodology revolves around visualisation. The most common scenario is to visualise the target and of oneself making a perfect golf swing.
Jack Nicklaus, the best golfer ever (maybe Tiger can put his hand up) has this to say about visualisation;
“I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head. First I see the ball 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 a sort of fade-out, and the next scene shows me making the kind of swing that will turn the previous images into reality.”
All this makes a lot of sense and going against this advice would seem kind of silly. I’m also not going to say Jack Nicklaus had it wrong, after all, winning eighteen majors shows you can play.
What I will say is that trying to visualise over the ball or when you’re trying to play a shot is the wrong thing to do.
Because visualising is not “staying in the present”. “Staying in the present” is what every sports psychologist will tell you to do. Visualising is attempting to predict the future. Predicting the future is no better than worrying about what happened on the last hole. I’m sure you’ll agree that concerning yourself about the double bogey, the three-putt or even the birdie on the previous hole is not going to help you. Neither is attempting to predict what is about to happen.
I’m positive that Nicklaus and every other great player is not visualising when they are hitting the ball. Their minds are clear and they’re playing on automatic pilot.
The more I’ve learned to play instinctively the less I’ve concerned myself with visualisation. Sometimes images pop into my mind when I’m about to play, but I don’t actively try and “see” the shot and picture the target in my mind.
I’m not against golfers trying to picture the shot or their swing in their mind’s eye. Some golfers feel lost without it. What I think is needed is better instruction on how and when to use visualisation. If you like visualising then do it behind the ball. Never when you’re over the ball.
For the most part golfers think too much – and visualising justs adds to mind garbage that holds golfers back. Clear your mind and hit the ball, you will hit better shots and these will be better than anything you could possibly dream up.