Imagining the Benefits of Visualization

The term visualization is often used in the world of sports performance to describe how an athlete creates a mental picture, or image, of themselves successfully completing a behavior they are about to perform. The practice of visualization in sport is well studied and has been shown to be an effective strategy to improve performance. 

In a mental game classroom session the other day with our Academy athletes, we were discussing all of the potential benefits visualization could have on your golf game. Here were their answers:

  • Visualization allows for “virtual practice”; the opportunity to rehearse and perform a behavior in their mind before they have to do it for real.
  • Visualization reinforces the same neural networks you use when actually performing the behavior. In other words, your brain doesn’t know the difference between imagining a behavior and actually performing it.
  • Visualization gives you the opportunity to make corrections before hitting a shot. By imagining what you are going to do, you give yourself the opportunity to change or modify your behavior if necessary. After the visualization, you might decide to change clubs, adjust your thinking, or choose to hit a different shot. 
  • Visualization can reduce stress. Imagining yourself being successful can put your mind at ease as you watch yourself performing at your best.
  • Visualization can help you focus on the present moment. When we play our best golf, we are in the present not thinking about what happened in the past or what might happen in the future and visualization, when done correctly, forces us to think about what’s happening right now
  • Most importantly, visualization builds confidence. As the old adage goes, “practice makes perfect”, and knowing that confidence is critical to playing our best golf, the more opportunity we have to see ourselves being successful the better.

All of their responses were spot on, and I was particularly struck by their recognition that visualization can lead to greater confidence. Imagining yourself being successful can have a powerful effect on your belief that you can accomplish a task. The average golfer spends way too much time beating themselves up during a round that it’s no wonder it is referred to as a “good walk spoiled”. Imagine how different our experience could be if before every shot we took the time to visualize ourselves performing the way we optimally wanted to. I have no doubt our overall experience would improve, but I am even more confident that we would shoot lower scores as well.

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