Visualization Tactics To Use on the Golf Course

Playing golf is not just about having the right technique and the correct feel for every shot; it also requires the ability to see the shot in your mind’s eye. Having a clear mental picture is imperative to being able to execute your desired shot consistently. If you’re not used to visualizing your shots on the golf course, that’s okay; with a little practice, and the right mindset, you can incorporate the tools of seeing your shot in no time. So, let’s take a look at some visualization tactics to use on the golf course!

What Do You See?

The easiest way to begin this visualization is by standing on the first tee and asking yourself, “What do you see?” This question should begin with seeing what the hole gives you. Is it a dogleg? Does the fairway tilt a certain direction? Is there any trouble i.e. hazards, bunkers, trees to avoid? What’s the wind doing, if anything? How far do you have to carry your tee shot to get it in the fairway?

Once you have the first level of the question answered, the next layer involves the shot you want to play. If you’re on a dogleg, do you want to curve your tee shot with it, or play it to the corner? Are you going to carry any hazards or lay up short to them? Do you want your ball to work with the wind or hold up against it? The more detailed you are, the more you can develop a keen sense of what the ball is going to do.

Visualizing: Commence

From this layer, we now get into the visualization of the shot. Can you see the flight your ball is going to take when it’s in the air? The trajectory? How far it flies before it lands in the fairway and how much it’s going to roll? This may seem a bit too detailed, notice what happens: As you begin to ask these questions, your focus starts from a broad picture, then quickly narrows into the shot you want to play. Once you know what you want to do with your shot, you immediately forget about the trouble, or the scary spots your ball can go, and you give all your attention to how your shot will turn out.

Once you’re in the fairway, the process starts over, and with a more defined target (the green, hole location, etc.), the questions become even more detailed. How far is it to the hole and how far must the ball carry to reach the green? If it’s a par-5, can I go for it, and if not, where’s the lay-up area that will give me the best angle for my third? Where’s the trouble? What kind of slopes are in the green, and can any of them be used to guide the ball closer to the hole? The same process of layering through questions and making decisions follows.

As you get more specific, the language shifts from questions to statements. As a player, your inner dialogue may read thusly:

One-forty-six to the hole, needs to fly about 140 to land on the green. No trouble to worry about. Wind slightly into and from the left. Will hit an 8-iron, with a low trajectory, holding up with the wind, landing near the slope that will pitch it to the right, and roll up to the hole.”

Once you make that statement to yourself, you’ll want to stand behind your shot, and see exactly what you want the ball to do, then start your routine and execute.

When the Ball Goes Awry

If you miss the green and have a pitch, chip, or bunker shot, the process becomes even more refined, albeit simpler. You want to be able to see where you want the ball to land, how it’s going to react when it lands, and how much it’s going to release. Since the target is much closer than the targets from off the tee and into the green will be, it’s much easier to be decisive before pulling off the golf shot.

(Note: Bunker shots have several questions to answer on their own, and they’ve been covered extensively in this article. Click here to check it out).

Using visualization on the putting green is where this tool becomes most useful. Having the ability to look at the hole and see how the ball rolls from the putter to the hole, and even tracing it from the hole back, is invaluable. Putting is an incredibly complex task, since there are numerous lines you can choose depending on the speed and the slope. However, it’s important to be able to match a line and speed that agrees with what you see. Commitment to your line and speed is more than half the battle and being able to create that vision in your mind will increase your chances to make more putts.

For a good example of someone who works hard to visualize every shot, check out the footage of Jason Day’s pre-shot routine. Below is a video from PGATour.com where he talks about why he chooses to visualize his shots by closing his eyes and seeing the shot before executing.

What about for those golfers who don’t hit the golf ball as well as Day? Perhaps your inner dialogue sounds more like this:

One-forty-six to the hole, 140 to carry the ball onto the green. Wind slightly into and from the left. Going to aim ten yards left of the green, with a 7-iron, and my usual banana-slice will carry the ball onto the slope in the middle of the green, and kick down to the hole.”

You don’t have to hit it like a Tour pro in order to visualize your shot. If you know your tendencies, can plan for them, and, most importantly, can see it happening, you have better chances of pulling off the shot you want.

Practice Your Decisiveness

Does visualizing your shot mean you’ll hit the exact kind of shot you want every single time? Of course not. Even pros don’t hit the type of shot they want every time. But being decisive with your shot selection will remove doubt and make it easier to commit, which will limit your misses.

If you’re not comfortable with trying to visualize your shots on the golf course to start, the driving range is a good place to start. With every shot, go through the same routine as outlined above, and create your own scenarios.

The Takeaway

Start your visualization on the range and if your range has greens with flagsticks, great. If you just have number signs or posts, that’s okay too. The key is to create a scenario, commit to a shot, and try to see it before you attempt it. Closing your eyes beforehand or leaving them open is completely up to you.

Start visualizing your shots on the golf course and play better golf today!

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Ryan S

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