I was inspired to write this post after watching Jordan Spieth win the US Open and claim his second Major Championship of 2015. While I was watching the coverage, I started to notice that before every shot Jordan’s caddie would say something along the lines of “take the picture.” This interchange intrigued me and as coverage continued he continued to leave Jordan with this parting thought, time after time. You may have wondered, WHY DOES HE KEEP SAYING THAT???
When I heard this exchange, I was immediately reminded of a story I first heard when reading the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. The story is about Olympic Gold Medal winner Michael Phelps and his coach Bob Bowman. The story goes that Bob, who worked with Michael since he was young, would send Michael home and tell him to “watch the videotape.” This wasn’t an actual tape, but Michael was told to imagine EVERY SINGLE ASPECT of the perfect race before going to sleep and when he woke up in the morning. The duo took this visualization one step further, and during practice Bob would yell out put in the videotape when asking Michael to swim at race speed. The ultimate use of this practice occurred before a big race when Bob would whisper to Michael to “get the video tape ready.” This single statement would bring an ultimate calm over Phelps and he would proceed to dominate the competition.
Why does this work?
Both Spieth and Phelps are using visualization to build a habit that calms them down before critical shots. This technique is developed during their practice, and then employed when the pressure is at its highest. For example, the back nine on Sunday of a US Open. To better understand how this works, I want you to think about the first time you did something that you were nervous about that you now do on a regular basis. For me I think back to my first golf lesson, and how nervous I was about the whole process. Someone was actually going to pay me to help them with their golf game! The thoughts crept in:
What happens if they get worse?
What happens if they don’t like me?
Will they ask for their money back?
This seems almost ridiculous now, but at the time the fear was very real. Does the same hold true for your story? Do you do this activity without even thinking about being nervous now? I was able to overcome my fear by teaching 1000’s of golf lessons. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to simulate the pressure of the back nine of the US Open or the last 3 holes of your club championship.
This is where this visualization technique can be very valuable. You can literally program your brain to be calm in those pressure situations, because in your mind you’ve been there so many times. In the book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, the author Charles Duhigg refers to these habits as KEYSTONE HABITS. These type of habits start a chain reaction that effect how we deal with situations. Instead of being nervous, and having a hundreds of thoughts going through your brain when under pressure, you can start a habit that makes you calm before the shot.
If you are someone, who struggles with first tee jitters, late round collapses, or way too many swing thoughts I highly recommend this technique. Start out by applying it in your practice sessions by visualizing the perfect shot before you hit each range ball. What does it look like? How high does it go? Which way does it curve? This type of thought is always done best behind the golf ball. Once decided, commit to hitting the shot by following the procedure I recommend in Episode 5 of Q&A with Josh. This routine will help you develop a mental picture of what it feels like to hit good shots. You can then take that picture and put it to work just like Jordan Spieth has done during the 2015 season.
*In an effort to be completely transparent, the book links through Amazon are affiliate links. I do get a small advertising commission if you buy them, but you are not charged anything extra.