Mental Game Tips from LPGA Great Kate Hughes (Part 1)
Kates Hughes has had a very successful LPGA career and now she is devoting her time to helping golfers just like you, become better! Her mental game strategies have helped golfers around the world reach their full potential. OnCore is thrilled to have Kate provide our readers with content living up to our tagline "You Just Became A Better Golfer," enjoy Kate's phenomenal insights!
Visualization: What it is and Why is it important to Your Golf Game
There has been a lot of talk lately about upping your game and working on the Mental Side of golf. You wonder why. You have heard top golfers are looking to bring experts onto their 'Team' to assist in the mental aspect of the game of golf. In reality, most top athletes in all sport disciplines are working to 'up' their mental game in order to gain an edge on the competition. But what is it they are reaching for that sets them apart from the rest? And is it something golfers of all levels can do?
The answer to the second question is YES, you can do it! And what is it you can do - Visualize!
Visualization- this is the 'tool' golfers (and athletes from all sports) are reaching in their bag for so that they can take down their most important competitor: Old Man Par! We can spend all day working on our physical game, but without a solid mental game, it is difficult to reach those goals we have set.
What is Visualization?
Simply put, visualization involves creating or re-creating an experience in your mind. It is also known as creating a mental image or movie in your mind's eye accomplishing something you aspire to with a positive outcome. Bottom line: it is a picture you create in your head of the shot, swing, and outcome you want.
Visualization can change the way you think. Utilizing this positive mental approach to your game will give you the edge you seek. You will be able to see yourself successful even if you haven't been in the past.
Jack Nicklaus said, "I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head"
Why is Visualization Important?
Technically speaking, visualization facilitates the learning of motor skills because imagined events innervate the muscles just as physical practice does but to a slightly lesser extent. In other words, just using this mental imagery will help your muscles recreate the shots you are thinking. It works like a coding system to assist in acquiring movement patterns in your swing you are working on. Think of it if like programming your mind.
Visualizing is also important in order to improve concentration, enhance motivation and confidence (seeing positive outcomes), control emotions and prepare for competition.
How to Visualize
First of all, visualization is most effective when it is vivid and controllable. Having vivid visualization is using all your senses (visual, auditory, olfactory, emotion and kinesthetic) and being as specific as possible. For example, '<em>picture</em>' in your mind's eye the ball leave the clubhead, hear the impact of the ball and clubface, smell the fresh cut grass on the course, feel the excitement of being on the course playing Old Man Par, and feel the transfer of weight from back leg to forward leg as you make contact with the ball and follow-through.
Having visualization controllable means being able to take the image/picture/movie in your head and make it exactly the way you want it. 'See' yourself hitting the best shot of your life on the hardest hole you can think of. For example, you can imagine yourself making birdie on the toughest hole on the course you are about to play. You are in control! It is your movie, your imagery and your visualization. Make it the best you can imagine.
One key factor in accomplishing successful visualization is to practice it when you are calm. Being calm allows your mind to go exactly where you want it to go vividly and with control. I advise to practice in a very quiet setting first and as you gain confidence in your mental imagery abilities, you will find you can do it anywhere at any time an always before the shot at hand.
Now that I have shared the background of visualization, its importance and the why's behind it, allow me to share a step by step way to get yourself utilizing visualization to up your game.
Breaking Down How to Begin Visualizing
- Find a quiet place to just be with yourself…nothing to distract you
- Sit comfortably in a chair or lay down…whatever puts you in your most restful and relaxed position
- To help relax your body, take several long, slow breaths…in 6 hold 6 out 6 seconds
- Close your eyes and create a vivid and convincing image on the course. This image can be one you've previously experienced, or one you simply desire.
- If you become distracted or find you are thinking about something else, simply acknowledge it and let it go….and breathe deeply again…in 6 hold 6 out 6 seconds.
- Focus you mind on only how you are breathing if you lose the image
- Continue and maintain a positive attitude
- Imagine in detail the sights, sounds, tastes, feelings, and even smells of the experience…the impact, rotation of ball, the balls flight ,how it lands (bounces), the smell of the grass, the feel of the sun (wind…)…see yourself confident and executing the shot in your mind, just as you want the result to be
- Take note of as much detail of the scene as possible. What are you wearing, who is there, what are you hearing, and how do you feel?
- If your imagery is not going the way you would like it to, simply open your eyes and start over with focus on breathing
- Always end an imagery session with a positive image
Sometimes we can't help but 'see-feel' a not so good shot. It is ok to see that bad shot in your 'mind's eye'…simply go to the next shot and visualize an outstanding recovery that you find yourself feeling the adrenaline, the excitement and the rush of success. This too will improve your overall Mental Imagery. We are only human…so there are times we just have to 'be' with what we have a difficult time changing.
Remember, the more vivid you can be with your visualization (ball rotation, ball spin, leaves blowing, smells, sounds…) the better your imagery will be and the more control you will have on what you think.
Bottom line, what you think is what you will get. I do believe that Jack Nicklaus was onto something decades ago when he wouldn't hit a shot until he had an image precisely of how he wanted o execute it.
As with all things you try, in order to become good at something, you must practice it to hone the skills. Visualization mastery will not come overnight, so be patient and continue practicing.
Visualization and physical practice together will help you reach new levels in your game.
'keep smiling and always believe' Kate Hughes
Please visit Kate's website and learn more about how she can help you!