Make the Target Loom on Your Mental Map
By Dr. T. J. Tomasi, Keiser University College of Golf Senior Faculty and Director of Research
Try this experiment: Check your image in the mirror each morning and then ask your partner what you look like. You’ll often find major discrepancies.
On an important day when you must look your best, you may see a you in the mirror who looks too fat or too thin, with saggy skin and dry, lifeless hair, while your partner thinks you look powerful and in control. You don’t look noticeably different to your partner, but you look different to yourself — and then you act out and make real the insufficiencies you see.
I’ve found that the same dynamic happens with my students, who often make bad mental pictures of their targets under stress, and this causes bad shots – then they go to the range and work on their physical swing. The real answer is to form better mental pictures of the target — better, as in more realistic.
During playing lessons, I always carry a pencil and paper on a clipboard, and when I suspect that my student is not making accurate images of the target, I have him or her draw pictures of the scene. The picture includes the target (the flag, hazards, and landing areas) drawn to scale as s/he sees them.
An actual example of a mini-tour player who was a student of mine: It was a medium-length par 4, dogleg right with out-of-bounds about 40 yards from the fairway down the left side. My student was three strokes under par through 10 holes and playing beautifully. Then, off the 11th tee, he pulled two identical tee shots OB.
I asked him to diagram the image he saw setting up to those tee shots, and he drew a narrow landing area off the tee (it was actually very generous), with the OB pressing in, so it practically lined the fairway. He also drew a huge pond protecting the right side of the dogleg. Actually, the pond was small and not really in play for a good player; in fact, I knew the course very well, and I didn’t remember the pond until I looked at his diagram.
Question: Was his round ruined by a swing error?
Answer: No, it was the result of an inaccurate mental image where he allowed the trouble to loom large.
Intervention: Take a pad and pencil with you for a few rounds and diagram some of your bad shots. Find out how you make the trouble loom and then do the opposite, i.e., make sure the last image on your mental screen makes the target loom large.
If you’d like to study with Dr. Tomasi and other PGA Master Professionals, contact The College of Golf today.