Imagery Techniques for Golf

By Lois Lawrence

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Golf coaches have long understood the importance of mental preparedness and positive attitude in golf. A Michigan State University study showed that golfers told to think about avoiding mistakes got worse while those who imagined acing the hole improved.

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery involves a form of meditation, allowing players to focus their mind and body on playing their best game. A guided imagery coach typically assists the player to relax deeply using a variety of techniques, including deep breathing and calming suggestion. Then he instructs the player to imagine himself perfectly executing the golf strokes that he wants to perfect.

Independent Imagery

While a professional coach may be an option for your favorite PGA Tour member, most golfers are not prepared to hire a mental coach. Luckily, using imagery to improve your golf game is a skill that can be taught so the participation of a coach is no longer needed. It takes some practice to be able to trigger a relaxation response and to focus on a task, but practice pays off. Shut out all distractions and imagine what you want to achieve as you slip into deep relaxation.

Positive vs. Suppressive Thoughts

Professor of psychology Sian Beilock and others at Michigan State University compared the effects of "suppressive" thoughts, such as "don't hit the trap," with the effects of positive imagery--imagining oneself successfully making the shot--and found that suppressive thoughts harmed performance while positive imagery enhanced it. Simply put, focus on what you want to happen rather than on what you are afraid will happen.

Brain Changes

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology, scientists can see what areas of the brain change when a golfer is imagining herself hitting a shot well. By spending at least a little time relaxing and visualizing shots, golfers can increase consistency while lowering their scores.

About the Author

Lois Lawrence is an attorney and freelance writer living and working in Stonington, Conn. She has written on many subjects including travel, food, consumerism, relationships, insurance and law. Lawrence earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1976, and a Juris Doctor degree from Boston University School of Law in 1979.