Legendary teacher, Harvey Pennick is remembered for his famous quote, Take Dead Aim. Jack Nicklaus, in Golf My Way, described his pre-swing routine which included visualizing ball flight from start to finish before each swing, whether in practice or on the course. He then looked to his distant target twice before each swing, staring it down for several seconds each time before he swung. This routine imprinted a vivid image in his mind’s eye, keeping him focused on his target throughout the swing even though his eyes were fixated on the ball throughout the swing until just past impact. Every successful golfer has developed the ability to deliberately separate their mental focus from their visual fixation. I refer to this skill as “Visual Separation”. In golf, it is known as a Target Orientation.
Without this skill golfers eyes may inadvertently search for the ball prior to impact causing all sorts of ball flight problems or create a condition known as “being ball bound” in which the golf swing looks more like a series of slashes, lashes, and lunges than one continuous, smooth, flowing swing. Focusing both mentally and visually on the ball is why so many golfers have good practice swings but transform from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde time they have to hit a ball. Lack (or loss) of a Target Orientation creates many on-course ball flight problems. For example, if you fear hitting the ball into the water on a hole with a lateral water hazard, your fear directs your attention away from your target and onto the water hazard. This directs your eyes to move towards the water hazard. Your swing follows the movement of your eyes and so does the ball. Splash! I go into greater detail into Visual Separation and target Orientation in my upcoming book, Training the Eyes, Mind, and Body for Golf. It is also discussed more completely in my other book, Kingdom of the Tiger: A Golfer’s Guide to Playing in The Zone. For now, here is a simple practice strategy to develop Visual Separation and improve your Target Orientation. I refer to it as the “Focused Practice Swing.”
- Place a tee in the ground.
- From behind the ball select a distant target (if you were hitting a ball) and an intermediate target within two feet of the front of the tee.
- Keep your eyes on the intermediate target as you assume your address position, square (parallel) to the line created by the tee and your intermediate target.
- Move your head to view your distant target to create a mental image of your target.
- Bring your eyes back to the tee.
- While maintaining visual contact with the ball, take your mind back to your distant target.
- When you eyes are completely still and your mind is one with (focused on) your target, swing.
You will know you were successful when:
- The first thing you see after the swing is your distant target. That is, you don’t have to search for it visually.
- Your swing is smooth, fluid, and results in your ideal finish position.
- The club hits the tee.
Practice this technique for fifteen to thirty minutes daily with all your clubs for thirty days. When your Target Orientation strengthens and happens naturally begin using the technique to hit balls. Start with clubs you have more confidence with. If you have a fundamentally sound swing, your Target orientation will help you hit the ball straight and long. Have you professional video tape your practice swing, Focused Swing, and hitting swing to determine any discrepancies and if you lack a Target Orientation.
phot credit: ogimogi