Golf Tips - Is That an Ocean I See? - Visualize a Large Target

By Joe Sullivan

I have read various golf books in my life. Some have been good, some not so good. One in particular that I have enjoyed more than the rest was Bob Rotella's "Golf is Not a Game of Perfect". It is not your quote-unquote golf instruction book with picture illustrations and such. It was more about the mental approach to the game with examples and stories about pro golfers.

However, there is one thing that is talked about in this book that I would like to object to. Actually, it's not that I want to object to it as much as I want to just give the other side.

Bob talks about the pre-shot routine. Within that discussion, he describes picking out the smallest possible target to aim at. For instance, instead of aiming at a tree, he would say to aim at a single leaf on the tree. Or instead of aiming down the middle of the fairway, pick out a particular mower strip and aim at that.

Now I am not saying that this isn't a good idea for some people. Besides, it has worked for guys like Nick Price and Greg Norman, so how much can I really object to it?

But my experience with this technique has led me to change my opinion on it. It seems as though when I would concentrate on such a small object, I got confused and practically paralyzed myself. I would stand on the tee and look down the fairway for that tiny patch of dirt, or blade of grass, or whatever it might be. Then I would look back at the ball, do a waggle or some other part of my routine, then look back down the fairway. But when I would look back, I misplaced that tiny spec of "whatever it was" I was aiming for in the first place. Thus, I would get tense, and sometimes even dizzy. Needless to say, I had little chance to make a good aggressive swing.

Instead of taking this approach, I decided to try the exact opposite, and this is what I would like to share with you.

Instead of picking out the smallest object to aim at, imagine that you are hitting your shot into the Atlantic Ocean. Picture yourself in the setting. You are near the edge of the water, and all you see is this vast, humongous, massive body of water. It is your objective to hit your ball in that water. And guess what will happen? YOU CAN'T MISS! IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO MISS! THERE IS NO WAY IN THE WORLD YOU CAN MISS YOUR TARGET!

The reason I like this approach is because it frees you up more. At least it does for me. Instead of struggling to find that super tiny target, then having all of the pressure put on me to hit that target, I would be free to just rip the ball because there is no way in the world I was going to miss hitting that ocean. So the basic idea with this thought is that it breeds confidence. If you don't have confidence when you are hitting a shot, you are not going to hit it good.

Certainly personal preference is a big part of this entire visualization aspect, and I am not trying to say that this will work for every player. Some people like to pick out a bird's nest way off in the distance and shoot for that. Some like to imagine the sides of the fairway as being large walls, and hitting the shot between those. I, on the other hand, like to stand on the tee and see nothing but salt-water!

I use this thought mainly on drives and longer clubs. It is not for every situation. When I am 120 yards away, I am thinking of nothing other than the pin, but when I am trying to bomb a drive 280, the last thing I want to do is strain myself to find a tiny object way off in the distance to try to hit.

Some of you may question me mentioning this after I put out a tip a few weeks back in opposition of influencing pre-shot routines. However, what I am suggesting here is nothing more than a simple visualization technique for you to try that may bring with it some comfort, freedom, and confidence for you on the tee box.

I will never tell you how many waggles you need to take, or how many times you need to look at the target, or what part of your body you need to line up first. You can do whatever you want to do with your routine as far as setting up to the ball, as long as you can do it over and over again. If you want to do a bunch of cartwheels before you hit, go ahead and do it. I have no problem with that, and neither should anyone else.

More important than "dotting every 'i' and crossing every 't'" with regard to your routine, is having confidence when you are about to hit the ball. Thinking of tiny specs in the distance may bring tension, but thinking of hitting into an ocean will bring freedom because there is no way possible you can miss. (unless you whiff, of course!)*

Columns ©1999 Joseph K. Sullivan and GolfLink Inc. All rights reserved.


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