See and Feel the Inside Move the Outside
Your Mind’s Eye
I have always believed that if golfers could see a sound golf swing clearly in
their mind’s eye before they tried to take a swing, this would be useful for
improving that golfer’s own game.
Ben Hogan told us, “The average golfer’s problem is not so much the lack of
ability, as it is a lack of knowledge about what he should be doing.” When you
can mentally picture what you are trying to do, or are being asked to do, the
task is more than half done. With an understanding of your swing in your mind’
s eye, future lessons can be more helpful. In fact, the improvement can be
dramatic! This is not only true in golf but in any endeavor. I hope the
information that this book gives you a clear understanding of what you would
like to do with when making your swing.
Bobby Jones talked in depth about the mind. “The one influence most likely to
assure the satisfactory progression of the swing is clear visualization in the
player’s mind of movements. This can do more for a player than anything else
he can possibly do, and I stress this point.”
Jack Nicklaus felt that “Many golfers probably do not understand cause-and-
Alex Morrison, the most respected teacher of his time, wrote, “The excellence
of your game will depend upon the extent to which your mind takes charge,
and the way your body responds to its commands.” Alex’s book, Better Golf
Without Practice, was devoted to the use of “the mind’s eye.” The book was a
top seller and considered a masterpiece. While reflexes and anticipation are
the tools needed in other sports, the main tools of playing successful golf are
visualization and conceptions. They are the two most important aids for
playing successful golf.
It is the ability to use our reflexes and anticipation skills that makes our
performances better in most sports—for example, to anticipate correctly
where an opponent will hit the tennis ball, to anticipate where the ball is about
to be passed in basketball, to anticipate the kind of pitch about to be
delivered, to anticipate the next play the quarterback will call…I could go
on…but this does not always hold true for golf. In golf, our ability to make a
sound swing is based on visualization and conceptions: It is how you “see” the
movements you would like to make with your golf club—before you step up to
the ball—that can make the difference in your game, whether it involves a
putt, a greenside chip, or a tee shot.
Good golfers have a clearer visualization of what they want to do with their
club before they swing. They also remember the feel of the swing, good or
bad. Our bodies do not move on their own. Movement comes from one of
three reasons: reflexes, anticipation, or the muscles receiving a mental
It is a mental message sent through the nervous system that is responsible for
the actions and movements that make up the golf swing. The basketball foul
shot and the bowling motion work the same way: As these two athletic
movements start, the mind tells the body what to do. In golf, there is no
opponent causing movement. Instead, we create the swing based on the
conditions for the current shot. The opponent’s actions do not cause the
movements. The movements are a self-imposed creation, not a reaction or
movement of anticipation.
Keep in mind that the message sent is based on the information stored in our
mind. If you have poor concepts and visualizations, your swing is performing
under that handicap. When looking at the swings many golfers make, it seems
fair to assume that those golfers do not have the kind of worthwhile concepts
and visualizations that they should have.
I made some notes while having breakfast with the well-known golf coach
Chuck Hogan, the author of Five Days to Golfing Excellence (a book every
serious golfer should own). Chuck was familiar with my work, and I knew of his
success in working on the mental side of the game of tour players, including
Peter Jacobsen, Johnny Miller, Mary Beth Zimmerman, and Barbara Mizrahie.
Our breakfast turned into a wonderful three-hour exchange of ideas. Here are
a few of my notes from that time spent with Chuck:
Golf Is a Creative Process …
Your understanding of the swing is what makes the proper swing. The proper
swing does not create understanding.
You can create only after gathering information about a situation, reflecting
on it, and then reacting to it.
You can respond efficiently only when you remain receptive to information
being provided by the target. If you shift your attention to yourself, you
remove your attention from the target.
Example: You should address the putt, look at the target, and then make your
swing. Telling yourself you have not made a putt all day as you stand over
your next putt is not the correct approach.
Golf is both mental and physical. The body only does what the brain
commands. The eyes do not see; the ears do not hear; the mouth does not
taste; the fingers do not feel; the nose does not smell. These body parts are
merely receptors for brain information. It’s the brain that deciphers all the
information provided by the sensory organs.
Humans are biocomputers of sorts—the brain is the computer processor, the
body is the print-out, and images are the software program. Your body—and
subsequently your golf club—will do what the software (images) commands it
to do. Body movements are always efficient. The body will only do what it has
been told to do by the brain. When your swing produces a shot you are not
happy with, please realize your brain produced that swing! The swing did not
just happen, your body efficiently responded to the message your brain sent
“It is not the golf swing that is responsible for a poor shot; it is the state of
mind that created that particular golf swing!” (Susan Berdoy Meyers)
In my view, the most important keys in golf are the useful concepts and
visualizations of the swing that are stored in the mind’s eye. After you have
useful concepts and visualizations, they must be put to use from a stance or
posture that is useful and does not lose its balance during the swing. A sound
swing is being influenced by the laws of motion; a cha nge in the balance of a
golfer’s posture during a swing would interrupt that influence. A change in
balance during the swing may cause the angle of the spine to move, the
center of gravity to change, or the base of support to be altered (to mention
only a few possibilities). Any of these changes will destroy an otherwise sound
swing by altering the plane or path of the club head. A useful setup that is not
altered during the swing should be the goal of every golfer: spine is tilted over
to the ball, head or chin is up off the chest, the knees are flexed, and the
buttocks are out.
How Learning with the Mind’s Eye Works
You should think of your brain as a split brain. It is made up of a left
hemisphere and a right hemisphere, each with separate responsibilities when
the brain is working correctly. The California Institute of Technology is a
leader in providing facts and information on the endless workings of the brain,
and some of their research follows.
The left hemisphere works with verbal information, while the right hemisphere
works with visual information.
They are two separate forms of information—they are not alike. I suggest that
we must learn to see the sound golf swing without being misled by what we
are looking at. You have heard some good players say that they do not think
(left side: verbal) about their swing when playing. Also, some fine instructors
will state that it is possible to think (left side: verbal) too much when playing. I
strongly agree with both statements.
But no one has ever suggested not to picture (right side: visual), feel, or
visualize beforehand what you would like to do when playing golf. What I
suggest to my students is to stop playing golf using words—up, down, fast, in,
out (left side: verbal)—and start to rely on concepts, pictures, feels, and
visualizations, which are all right-side (visual) functions. This approach has
been very successful with students at all levels.
Learning to improve your golf game involves more than learning the physical
skill. Learning to use the brain’s right hemisphere will lead to lasting
improvements—to see and to feel a sound golf swing.
In the realm of artists and painters, it is said that the great ones can see more
than average artists. They learn how to really see. “The painter draws with his
eyes, not with his hands. Whatever he sees, if he sees it clear, he can put
down.” (Maurice Grosser)
“Learning to draw is really a matter of learning to see, to see correctly—and
that means a good deal more than merely looking with the eyes.” (Kimon
Betty Edwards tells us, “Artists say that they feel alert and aware yet are
relaxed and free of anxiety, experiencing a pleasurable, almost mystical,
activation of the mind.” I think most golfers would like to be in this state of
mind when playing.
In my approach to helping individuals learn golf, I tell my students that a round
of golf is not one game but 70, 80, or 90 separate times the mind is
subconsciously telling the body what to do; 70, 80, or 90 separate
performances; 70, 80, or 90 separate pictures to be mentally drawn. The
game of golf is played by creating golf swings, and the better or more clearly
you can see that swing before you try to perform it, the better your chances
are for success. Most of the education we have been exposed to over the
years has been geared to words and the left hemisphere—the analytical. In
fact, it has been discovered that the left hemisphere will take over the thinking
process in most circumstances. I hope this book will help you use and learn to
trust your right hemisphere more often than the naturally dominant left
hemisphere. Keep in mind that the thinking process happens in two modes—
words and pictures. I suggest you learn to play golf by using mental pictures
and not verbal suggestions that cannot be turned into a visualization.
You should not concentrate, if it is taken to mean such a pulling of oneself
together, such a fixing of the mind on the task at hand, such a tight-lipped
determination to do one’s best, that golf becomes a trial of nervous strength
rather than a game. I say that a golfer can only produce his true quality when
he can play without concentrating (in a sense), when he can make his shots
without clenching his teeth.… The good golfer feels his swing as all one piece.
It is produced by a psychophysical unison and its control is outside the mind
of the player. Any control that is within the mind is subject to the state of the
mind and is therefore unreliable. … Good golf, consistent golf, depends upon
being able to shut out our mental machinery (with its knowledge of the
difficulties of the shot, the state of the game, etc.) from those parts of us that
play golf shots.
For me to be of any help as a teacher, I must know what a student is trying to
do when making his or her swing. When I meet with someone for the first time,
this is a must-ask question for me to ask, because it is the starting point for a
coach and student.
We have all heard “What you believe isn’t always what you get.” Contemplate
this: A golfer may describe a swing that in execution becomes a very different
swing from the one he just described. The way they actually swing is not what
they perceive their swing to be (i.e., saying one thing and doing something
else). Then, too, after hearing students tell me what they think the swing
“should” be or what they are “trying” to do, I often find they are misinformed
about the golf swing, and therefore they do not have a worthwhile approach. If
you were to write about your swing, I believe it would help you more than you
may think! Someone suggested that I write about my own swing very early in
my professional career, and it proved to be most helpful.
So let’s take a break here. Before you go on with this book, write down how
you swing, what you think about before you start, and what you think about
during the swing.
Keep it short. Take the approach that you are giving someone instructions.
I further suggest that you refer back to your description as you read this book.
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