In today’s teleconference, my friend Ron Ellis mentioned Jack Nicklaus, which led us straight to the scientific foundation of the practice of visualization. The psychological and sports training roots date back at least to the 1960′s and the Apollo Moon Project. Of course the practice of visualization itself has ancient roots we didn’t discuss, but that we will work on here in future posts. Jack Nicklaus’ leadership though, was that he was the first professional athlete to discuss the practice in detail, and in fact documented this in his 1974 classic, Golf My Way. (the revised and updated edition released in 2005 can be found here) Nicklaus’ format, as you’ll read in the quote below, is one of the direct sources of our list 1. Pre-Play, 2. Perform, 3. Replay. Here’s the passage, it’s from page 79 of the 1974 edition:
Going to the Movies
I never hit a shot, even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head. It’s like a color movie. 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’s a sort of fade-out, and the next scene shows me making the kind of swing that will turn the previous images into reality. Only at the end of this short, private, Hollywood spectacular do I select a club and step up to the ball.
It may be that handicap golfers also “go to the movies” like this before most of their shots, but somehow I doubt it. Frequently those I play with in pro-ams seem to have the club at the ball and their feet planted before they start “seeing” pictures of the shot in their mind’s eye. Maybe even then they see only pictures of the swing, rather than of what it’s supposed to achieve. Maybe even then they see only pictures of the swing, rather than what it’s supposed to achieve. If that’s true in your case, then I believe a few moments of movie-making might work some small miracles in your game. Just make sure your movies show a perfect shot. We don’t want any horror films of shots flying into sand or water or out of bounds.
“Going to the movies” before selecting a club from the bag would make golf a less frustrating game for many weekend players. In my case, visualizing the ball’s ultimate resting place forms the opening scene. This is followed by a travelogue in which I imagine how it got there. The finale in my mind’s eye features the setup and swing I’ll need to effect a happy ending.