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10 Levels of golf visualization to perform with confidence

Recently, several athletes in golf, lawn ball, and bowling asked me if visualization is at all effective for sport performance. They think that golf visualization is more of a myth because they tried for a short time without success.

From personal experience, I notice myself that whenever I am procrastinating on doing some tasks, mostly it is because the goal is either not clear or not exciting enough to me. Deep down I know I need to practice certain skills such as imagery on a daily basis but I find excuses not to do it.

I see it happening many times with my athletes too. They claimed to know the effect of imagery but they did not do it, or do it halfheartedly. When I tested further, I realized that they only imagined very briefly instead of visualizing the full process with all the senses. For example, a golfer may want to reduce handicap from 15 to 10. Without a clear image with strong emotional connection to himself, he keeps finding excuses to delay his training both mentally and physically. Worst, some athletes believe in training physically is enough to cover for the weakness in their mentality. On the other hand, many successful golfers like Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Jason Day… never play a shot without first visualize their shot in full details.

Visualization in golf like Jack Nicklaus
Visualization in golf like Jack Nicklaus

To give athletes a workable scale to evaluate their imagery skill level, I develop these 10 levels of imagery. It is not based on research, rather it is a guide for my athletes based on my experience. Hopefully it could be useful for you to improve on a critical skill like imagery. I also include a recommended practice time so you know how much time you should spend to get better at this skill.

10 levels of sport visualization
10 levels of visualization for peak performance

1. During imagery session, keep your breathing deep and slow, while allowing your whole body to relax. Anxious golfers tend to tense their body and grip before shot or hold their breath. Learning to relax helps you to combat that issue.

2. Our 5 senses are: Visual (seeing), Audio (hearing), Tactile (touch), Olfactory (smell), and Gustatory (taste). The more senses you can involve in your imagery, the better.

3. Imagery should involve emotion, especially the sense of confidence and be in control. If you imagine your previous success event, you should ideally feel proud of your achievement, confident in your ability. The stronger the positive emotion, the better. Always avoid visualization with negative emotion (e.g. replay your bad performance in big comp) because it can damage your confidence.

4. Internal view means seeing things with your own eyes. External view (third person view) means seeing it as if you are an outside person looking at yourself doing the task. Each view has its own strength, so it is useful to be able to change view when needed.

5. The brain cannot tell the difference between a real and an imagined event. Therefore, the more accurate time you are doing a skill in imagery, the better. E.g. Golfers should visualize making a swing in the exact same time as if they do a real skill, not rush.

6. Create your own imagery script and self-record, or have your trainer record it for you. Athletes with imagery tape ready are more likely to use it and have better result. You can have multiple imagery tapes for different scenario. The advantage of having a script/ tape is that it guides your brain to think positively on what you want, not wandering around.

golf visualization Jason Day
How Jason Day applies visualization before shot

7. When you are having a habit of using visualization before every practice, every swing shot, you can easily access your mental memory of great past success, good performance, which means you can tap into your confidence level quicker and easier.

8. Most amateur athletes only start using visualization near a big competition/ tournament. They only use it to see their performance. That is too little too late. You need to master level 7 first, which addresses your own skill and performance. Level 8 is about dealing with external factors (opponent, golf course, coaches, referee…), things that are out of your control.

9. Visualization is not limited to imagining your best performance. There are many options to use imagery to improve your concentration, lower anxiety, build self-confident... Your script can be modified slightly to address those issues.

10. In NLP, submodalities are the building blocks of the representational systems by which we code, order and give meaning to the experiences we have. Submodalities are how we structure our experiences. For example, your image can be in black and white or color, video or still image, framed image or borderless, up down left or right of your body. By modifying these submodalities, you can control how you feel and intensify / minimize certain emotion at will.

If you are serious about bringing out the best in your golf game, let’s work on these 10 levels and let me know how you are doing in the comment.

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