He was instructed to lie still without moving. That seemed appropriate as he had a number of wires attached to the muscles around his pelvic area. The next instruction was to imagine climbing a rock wall, but without actually moving his arms or legs. The EMG machine sprang to life; the muscles that would be used to actually climb a wall showing signs of activity and get the client was lying on the bed and just imagining the skill.
The power of imagery has always been acknowledged with quotes such as “what you see is what you get”. Maybe a more appropriate quote could be “what you get is what you see”.
The benefits of positive imagery have also been shown in a study where a number of golfers were divided into three groups for a putting test. The first group was to practice positive imagery: picturing the ball being holed after the putt. The second group was to practice negative imagery: where the ball narrowly missed the hole after being putted. The third group was a control group and had no instruction. After six days of training the groups showed remarkably different progress. The group that use positive imagery was by far the most successful of the three groups at the end of the trial period. The control group was the next most successful.
There are lots of well-documented cases of the health benefits of positive imagery, with of people recovering from a variety of illnesses and injuries faster and more completely when they incorporated imagery training.
We tend to think of imagery training is using just our visual sense. It’s better to think of visualisation as creating a mental blueprint and using all of your senses: visual, auditory, proprioceptive and tactile feel, and even using your sense of smell and taste, where it’s appropriate.
The joking statement “don’t hit the ball into the water on the right” is not really very funny when the person who is about to hit the ball creates a mental blueprint of the golf ball flying into the water. Most golfers have been in that situation and then they either hit the ball into the water or hit a long way in the opposite direction to avoid the water. Either way they’ve been strongly influenced by their imagination.
You can use the power of imagery to benefit your golf on the course and in practice. On the course, as part of your shot routine, imagine the ball travelling where you want it to as well as having the feel of the swing which will create that shot. If you find it beneficial to have a practice swing, then do so. Just make sure your practice swing is a complete rehearsal of the swing you want to make when you are playing the shot.
When you are practicing, picture the shots you want to play on the practice fairway as well as imagining the swing you need to make to create that shot. If you are practicing something your coach has suggested, then imagine yourself swinging the club as you have been instructed.
We coaches use video a lot. That is to ensure the student can match the physical feel with what they’re swing actually looks like. Once a player sees their swing (even if they don’t like what they see) and then understands how to improve their swing, they are much more likely to be able to do so when they understand what it should look and feel like.
Have you ever noticed that you complete your best golf after having watched golf on television or been a spectator at a live tournament? It’s not just the inspiration, but watching great players and imagining your swing being similar to theirs actually has a real influence.