Sep
18

Visualise your target for better unconscious golf

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As a golf psychologist, I’m regularly asked by clients about what they should be thinking about in their golf mind when they’re actually swinging the club or stroking a putt. Many of them will have some sort of pre-shot routine that prepares them to some degree for the shot they’re about to make. A smaller number will also include some sort of visualisation of the shot they want to hit. However, very few will be thinking about that visualisation when they actually hit the ball.

So what are they thinking about when they hit the shot? Well, a lot of them are consciously thinking about some aspect of their swing mechanics and that doesn’t work at all well, because your conscious mind doesn’t work fast enough to control your golf swing.

Have you noticed how when you hit a really good shot, you can’t remember what you were consciously thinking about in your golf mind. You just trusted your unconscious mind and the shot just seemed to happen. If you were throwing a ball to someone for them to catch, I doubt if you’d start thinking about how you move your arm to throw the ball, you’d just throw it to them – unconsciously. You wouldn’t consciously do anything different if the receiver were nearer or further away or if they held their hand high or low. You’d just throw it towards their hand and that’s the target you’d be consciously thinking about.

Many more will be thinking about what they don’t want to happen, like don’t go in the bunker or don’t hit a bad shot. That doesn’t work at all well either, because your mind doesn’t know how to not think of something. If I say to you, "don’t think of a green snowman", you will automatically build an image in your head of a green snowman, whether you like it or not. As a result, you end up consciously thinking about going in the bunker or hitting a bad shot. Now if you remember that your unconscious mind is designed to deliver whatever you’re consciously thinking, then guess what happens. Yes, you got it, the ball probably goes into the bunker or you hit a bad shot.

A smaller number of golfers will be thinking consciously about a specific target when they hit the ball and if they pick the right sort of target, then they are the ones most likely to hit the shot they planned to. Some very well known golf psychologists, like Bob Rotella, will suggest that you pick out a directional target, such as a spot on the ground a few feet, yards or metres along your line or a specific point in the distance to aim at – maybe a building or tree behind your target. Some will even say that you should focus on a specific leaf on the tree or brick in the building.

Now I don’t agree with that approach any more than I would agree that someone throwing a ball should target a spot on the ground on the line to the person they’re throwing to. It would also seem rather odd to target a tree, a house or something on the wall behind them, now wouldn’t it. Once again, you’d target the hand of the person you’re throwing to.

So why not simply target the place you want the ball to finish and let your unconscious mind work out how to hit the ball there. Even better why not think about the route that the ball will take to get there including the way you expect the ball to fly, bounce and roll. If you’re doing the visualisation part of your pre-shot routine correctly, then you’ve already got the picture you should be thinking about when you hit the ball.

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