High Performance Golf 6: Visualization 2 – See Shots In Advance

High Performance Golf 6:

Visualization and the Benefit of

Seeing Shots In Advance

How, exactly, does visualization help with your golf shot? Perhaps the following story of the slalom skier experiment will help you “picture” what happens when you visualize your shot in advance.


In the first stage of the experiment scientists wired up a skier with electrodes attached to all his muscles then sent him through a slalom course. The electrodes tracked and measured which muscles fired and when. After the run they sat the skier in front of a TV – still wired up – and had him watch himself as he skied.

What they recorded was fascinating, and it provides a valuable insight into why visualization works as well as a compelling argument to use visualization when you play.


As the skier watched himself go through the course, the electrodes started to pick up muscle activity. What makes it so intriguing is that the same muscles the skier used on the real run fired in exactly the same sequence and at the same time – even though he was sitting calmly watching from his chair. The muscle movements were very small in comparison to the real ski run, but detectible nonetheless.

What that means is as soon as you start “seeing” a shot before you hit your body begins to actually practice or rehearse the movement. Your brain starts sending tiny electrical impulses to the muscles that will be used to coordinate the movement to recreate what you are imagining. The clearer you imagine the shot, the more the Athletic Brain involves exactly the muscles needed to create it.

How can you use this to your advantage when you play?

Think about the second serve in Tennis: it’s always easier to get the second one in. Seeing something in your mind helps your body “practice” the move before you make it (by henry). So imagine if the shot you are about to hit is actually the 2nd time you do it – like a second serve. Wouldn’t you be more consistent on the second try?

To demonstrate the concept in action I had the golfers in my seminar participate in a hands-on visualization experiment. Almost everybody was astonished at the results.


In Part 1 on Visualization in the last newsletter we discussed the different functions of our brain and how they communicate with each other. Specifically, how the Thinking Brain analyzes the situation, develops a strategy, and then creates a mental picture of the shot. How the Emotional Brain puts its stamp of approval on the strategy. Then how the Athletic Brain – which doesn’t understand language – turns the picture into motion.

My goal in covering visualization is provide a clearer and more detailed picture of what is happening when you use a tool like visualization. If you understand some of the theory and background of what is supposed to happen, you can become a more active participant in getting the results, which means you learn the skill faster and you play better.


Your goal should be to create a pre-shot routine that has a well-defined process for seeing the shot in advance, before you make your swing. Let your body begin to create the movement. Then follow that up with a rehearsal swing that is as close to the real shot as possible. Once you feel the sync between what your Thinking mind is imagining and what your Athletic mind is creating, you are ready to hit a great golf shot.

Visualization Part 1: The Key to Consistency
How to Simplify Your Golf Game
Antidote to the Mechanics Trap
The Performance Pyramid
Journey to the Worlds 2012 (see the whole process)

2 Responses

  1. Andrew says:

    Great article it is great to see more and more instructors talking about this stuff rather than technical positions etc.
    You mentioned that the Athletic brain only understands images, I seem to get the best results with my visualisation if I describe (verbally like a commentary) the shot in my mind as I visualise it. for example I say to myself I am going to hit a high lob it will hit the green (visualise a spot) then roll to the hole. Do you have any thoughts on this.


    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Thanks Andrew. I believe what you are doing when you describe the shot to yourself is clarifying the image. The more detailed you can make the description, the more vividly you will imagine the shot, and the more clearly your Athletic Mind will understand the task (and usually be able to carry it out). I hope you will continue the practice, and even keep getting better at it. Cheers!