We naturally expect the words we read to be the words that are written on the paper or screen we're looking at. We expect the same when we try to read a green when we’re playing golf. However, we're much more likely to be deceived by the green than by the written word, however difficult either is to read.
So let’s have a look at an example. Quickly read the next sentence and see what you think it says.
Now raed tihs snectene aagin slwoly to see waht it auctlay syas hree in balck and wihte. I ssucept taht it may be vrey dfreneift.
If that one’s a bit too easy for you, have a go at this next one. It’s one of my favourite quotes from my golfing idol.
“I neevr hit a soht, not eevn in paccirte, whiotut hainvg a sahrp, in-fcous pcirtue of it in my haed. First I see the blal wehre I wnat it to fiinsh, ncie and wihte and siinttg up hgih on the birght geern garss. Tehn the secne qcikluy caeghns and I see the blal ginog tehre –. It’s ptah, tacejorrty and sahpe, eevn its baehiouvr on ladinng. Tehn tehre is a srot of fdae-out and the nxet snece shwos me maikng the knid of sinwg taht will trun the peioruvs pctruies itno raeilty.”
So what’s happening here and what’s does all this have to do with golf? Well, firstly it suggests that you don’t need to have the spelling absolutely correct for our message to be understood. However, we do have to have the right letters in each word and the first and last letters of each word have to be correct. Secondly, it says that we're unconsciously very good at making a well informed guess about what we're seeing. So why shouldn’t the same skill apply to reading a shot or putt on the golf course?
Well, of course it does. When you throw a ball to someone, you look at your target and, without you thinking consciously about any precise measurements, your mind makes the necessary assessment of what you’re asking your body to do and simply does it. If on the other hand, you were executing a similar “throw”. With a cannon, you’d be wanting to know the exact distance, the wind strength and direction, the temperature and all the other factors you’d need to assess the trajectory, direction and amount of gunpowder you’d need to send the cannon ball to the target. It can be the same when you hit a putt, if you trust your unconscious mind to do all the necessary calculations for you without you consciously analyzing things too much.
But what about a full shot, don’t you've to calculate the distance precisely before you hit the shot? Well yes you do, especially if the distance can be deceptive. example with a blind shot. Knowing the distance also helps with choosing the best club to use. However, note that I said the best club. The better golfers can hit the same distance with a wide range of clubs. I remember playing years ago with a group of people who'd always look in my bag to see what club I'd just hit. I remember totally confusing them one day by hitting every shot I could, from 100 to 220 yards distance, with my 2-Iron. That sure confused them! I also remember that the scores in club competitions where you’re only allowed to take 3 clubs and a putter always seem to be just as good, if not better, than when people have the full 14 clubs.
So remember that you've an amazing computing resource in your head that bases it’s assessment of what you see, feel and hear not on precise measurements.. Trust your unconscious for better golf.
Just in case you found the scrambled quotation difficult to read, here’s what Jack had to say about visualisation.
“I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head. First I see the ball where I want it to finish, nice and white and sitting up high on the bright green grass. Then the scene quickly changes and I see the ball going there –. It’s path, trajectory and shape, even its behavior on landing. Then there is a sort of fade-out and the next scene shows me making the kind of swing that'll turn the previous images into reality.”