It’s no secret to many golfers that the ability to visualize their golf shot in advance of actually hitting the ball is a necessary asset to playing the game to their full potential. The great Jack Nicklaus once said, and I quote “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without Golf Driver having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head”.
But the ability to visualize does not come easy to everyone and for a good percentage of golfers, it is a skill that will take some time and effort to develop. And as the golf swing is a relatively complex physical movement, for those who find visualization challenging, the golf swing may not be the best place to start when it comes to developing this important skill. A better starting point for many is to pick a more simple movement and then work their way up to the golf swing once they’ve improved on their visualization skills.
One of the best movements I’ve found for golfers as a starting point for developing their visualization skills involves a rather obscure sport; the hammer throw. While some of you may not know this sport by name, if you’ve ever watched the Summer Olympics, you’ve likely seen the hammer throw. It’s a rather simple sport, the object of which is to throw a heavy metal ball attached to a wire and handle. The competitor stands in a circle and then spins around several times before releasing the handle and launching the ball in a particular direction. The one who launches the ball the farthest is the winner.
There are a couple reasons why the hammer throw is often a good initial visualization exercise for golfers. First, it’s a rather simple movement and more easy to visualize than a golf swing. Second, it involves holding something in your hands, swinging it in a circular motion and then releasing it; all movements that have some rather basic but still useful similarities to the golf swing. And third, while the hammer throw is a rather simple movement, it is complex enough to allow you to manipulate the movement in your imagination as a way of further developing your visualization skills.
So, let’s take a moment now and give the hammer throw a try.
I want you to close your eyes and imagine yourself performing the spinning movement of the hammer throw. See yourself spinning around in a circle holding on to a handle with both hands that has a wire with a heavy metal ball attached to it; just as the hammer throwers do in the Olympics. The heavy metal ball should be in the air going around in a circle with you as you spin. Don’t release the hammer for now, just see yourself spin around in a circle with it.
And, by the way, don’t take the term “see yourself” too literally. The key here is to see, in your “minds eye”, a person doing this movement. You don’t have to visualize it in such detail that this person looks like you, though it is best to associate the person you see as “being you”.
Alright, so give it a try now.
Okay, were you able to see yourself doing this?
What did it look like?
Are you spinning fast or slow?
Is the speed constant or is it changing?
Is the heavy metal ball spinning parallel to the ground or is the plane of the ball different or constantly changing?
Now, once you find yourself able to visualize this movement, see if you can make yourself spin slower… or faster.
And once you get this down, see if you can get yourself to spin in the opposite direction.
And then you may want to try the full hammer throw. Try to see yourself releasing the hammer at a point so that it flies in a particular direction.
Can you do this?
Can you get it to fly in the direction you want it to go?
If you’ve never tried anything like this before, you may be surprised at what you see. Some people may find it difficult to visualize much of anything at first, and will need to work a while on just seeing themselves spinning with the hammer.
Others will find they can see themselves spinning, but have a difficult time controlling the movement. They may find their imagination running wild with the image and see themselves spinning wildly out of control or in an odd manner or direction.
But if you’re willing to take some time and play with this exercise, it can be a very useful tool in developing the skill necessary to utilize your mental energy to manipulate what you visualize and ultimately to be able to picture and execute your perfect golf swing in your “mind’s eye”.
Have fun with it. Take a few minutes each day while you’re sitting at your desk at work or lying in bed and just play with it. See your self spinning with the hammer. Then try to slow down or speed up the rate of your spin. Or to change the direction of your spin or to throw the hammer in a particular direction. Or try to control the height and/or swing plane of the heavy metal ball as you spin.
And keep in mind that improving your abilities with your mental workouts is a lot like physical workouts. You don’t just go into the gym on day one and start benching serious weight. You work yourself up to it. Same goes with mental workouts. Many of you will need to give this exercise some time before you are able to develop the mental control necessary to manipulate what you are seeing.
But I guarantee that if you can learn to manipulate this image of you throwing the hammer in your “mind’s eye”, you can use the same “mental energy” to learn to visualize a golf swing that is a replica of the swing you want to execute in physical reality.
And if you don’t think that’s important, just ask Jack Nicklaus.
Bruce VanAllen, Clinical Hypnotherapist