When I ask students if visualization is important the answer is always a resounding “YES!” Yet, when we discuss what is most often left out of their pre-shot routine, especially in putting, visualization is mentioned all too often. So, why is this valuable skill of visualization often omitted? First and maybe foremost, it’s one of the highest visual-mental processes. It does take discipline, patience and energy, for sure.
Visualization is described in the dictionary as “a regeneration of a previously seen object.” No imagination isn't a visualization, per se, but it is two visualizations put together that are commonly not seen, such as a cow in a tree!
For the sake of awareness, let's start with a fun drill. Please time your response in seconds or minutes. It’s a simple drill.
Grab a #2 pencil or a golf pencil. Lay it in front of you along with a stopwatch or watch with a second hand. Get ready. Now, note the exact time! Immediately, and out loud, describe the pencil as if you were talking to someone who had never see a pencil. (If you don't have one, describe a pencil as if one is in front of you.)
Go ahead, please. It's a fun drill. Talk out loud and record it if you want. When you have finished describing the pencil, note how much time has elapsed.
How long did it take you to describe the pencil. Was it 20, 30 or 40 seconds, or more?
I gave this exact test, as part of a battery of tests, to the U.S. Olympic Shooting Team a few years ago. The lesser ranked shooters completed the task in 20-40 seconds. The top shooters (on site at the time) took one an average of 70 seconds to describe it.
How did you rank with the task, compared to the shooting team?
Now, when I was asked by Ivan Lendl’s golf instructor to work on Ivan's putting skills, I jumped at the chance, noting he was a former world #1 ranked tennis player. So, he had to have some basic skills, such as good eye-hand coordination.
One evening, as we all were chatting after Ivan went through some of my visually related tests and subsequent putting drills, he recalled an event when he was the top ranked player in the world.
He described a trip back to the Czech Republic, as the sports performance people wanted to discover what “skills he had that made him tops in the game.” After all, he wasn't, comparatively, a big physical specimen. Nor was he the fastest on his feet. And, he didn't appear to have other traits of the tennis greats of the past.
Ivan then mentioned the pencil test they performed. It was similar to a test that I used to perform and should start doing again! He described the same like pencil you were just asked to do.
Now, get this! Ivan took 10 minutes to describe the pencil.
What this told me and them, was that Ivan was a master of detail, to say the least. What gave Ivan a huge oneupmanship, was his observing the other players weaknesses in a warmup session; where his contact with the ball wasn't perfectly centered in their racquet in certain areas of his backhand or forehand. Ivan, of course, attacked those areas the best he could.
So, to transcend some physical decencies, how about becoming a better observer!
After all, the biggest key to being a good-to-great visualizer is the ability to observe detail, so you can regenerate it when asked. In other words, look at items and other areas of interest in more detail!
One drill that should assist you in being a more accurate visualizer so you can depend upon it, especially in “crunch time,” is called the Paint Brush Drill. It's a simple drill that needs to be implemented every day!
Simply, when observing a painting on your wall, pretend your eyes are a paint brush, with the ability to dip into different colors that match those in the painting. Now, pretend to paint over all the detail with your eyes. In other words, you are repainting or duplicating everything in the painting.
Note the size, the detail, the proximity of the objects, for instance, so you can be more accurate when recalling the detail. And, when finished, close your eyes and recite the detail of the painting you just did as if talking to someone on the phone.
Repeat this drill as often as you can with a person as the object, or a car, a scene or another painting. Attempt to start looking at the world around you with detail, especially as if you had never laid eyes on the subject matter before but were asked to describe the object or objects to another person.
Pretty soon, you will amaze yourself in how well you can visualize and better apply it to golf, let alone your life!
After all, visualization is basic to Peak Performance!!