By WISP Ediquete Ambassador Kendra Vallone
If you’ve ever played pretty much any sport (other than track, that is), you’ve probably heard the directive, “Keep your eye on the ball.” In fact, at some point or another, you’ve probably yelled the same thing at your kid’s Little League game or out on the field with your buddies.
But golf, as a sport, seems to be lumped into a different category. The ball is stationary for most of the game so we’re not necessarily reacting to it—which is difficult enough as it is. Therefore, it’s rare that you’ll hear that same phrase on the golf course unless the ball is headed out of bounds and you’re hoping it hits something that could knock it back into play.
It’s kind of ironic, but the fact that it’s up to us to make the ball move can be scary. I mean, let’s think about it. Look at a baseball player or a tennis player: that ball is coming at them with incredible speed but they have no hesitation—they go after it (which they sort of have to do or they’ll be in serious trouble). With golf, on the other hand, all that down time gives us a chance to talk ourselves out of the shot. We have time to think about what could go wrong – and all too often, that kind of thinking takes its toll on our performance.
So what if we visualize exactly what we want to see happen to the ball, rather than imagining all the mistakes we could possibly make? As it turns out, this can make a huge difference to your game. One of the techniques I learned with all of my mental coaches was motion visualization, which can be done with your long shots, as well as on the putting green (that’s where my best results have always been).
For example, let’s pretend you’re standing on the tee box with the ball teed up and ready to go. You’ve grabbed your driver out the bag and are ready to hit. Typically, you’d take a quick glance at the hole just to make sure there’s no death-defying hazards lurking, take a practice swing or two, step up, and whack at it.
I like to call this philosophy “the hit and hope”.
But let’s try motion visualization. After you grab that driver, stand behind the ball about 8 feet. Stay stationary, but visualize yourself walking to the ball very confident (almost cocky) and address it. Watch yourself take the club back perfectly, and come down with the perfect impact. Imagine the sound it makes and how fast that ball shoots off the club face and into the air. From there, now picture the trajectory and how it wobbles in the air. You must specifically visualize how the ball falls—if it’s fading slightly to the right, drawing beautifully past a tree, or if you’re trying to hook it around something. Lastly, you want to see where it hits and watch it roll out. Congratulate yourself on a good shot.
At this point, I draw back and watch myself walk away from the shot, confident and smiling (because that’s how it’s going to go). Once you get it down, this routine takes less than 10 seconds—and it’s totally worth it.
The confidence of a good shot under your belt will create that actual shot. It’s strange, but it works. Perfecting this practice takes a while, but trust me – it can change your game for the better.
To transition to the putting green, the routine is very similar but it’s most important to do that last visualization while you’re over the ball. See the ball actually in motion, falling over the edge of the cup. Often you hear putting coaches say to pick out a specific blade of grass by the cup; my recommendation is to see the ball in motion, falling over that blade of grass.
At the end of the day, practicing seeing the ball in motion is the pro’s biggest secret. It forces you to focus on the moment and gives you the confidence you need to make it happen.
Like I said, though, it’s a secret of the pros. So make it your own, share it wisley and of course, have fun!