When I practice by myself, I put nine green targets on the court and I aim at a target for each stroke I practice. When I switch to a different target, I look at the new target, close my eyes and point my finger where I think it is. I then open my eyes and see how close I came to pointing directly at it. Not very close much of the time it turns out.
Two friends on an adjacent court saw me doing this today and wandered over. They were able to repeatedly point directly at the target with their eyes closed. How did they do that? They are photographers is how they do that. What can you expect? They are visually framing images every day of their working lives. That’s their job.
One of the photographers turned to me afterwards and said, “But you don’t hit the ball with your eyes closed!” Very true grasshopper, but you also don’t look at the target as you are hitting the ball, you look at the ball. As you hit the ball, you have an image in your mind of the target area. The more accurate that image is, the more successful you will be.
Our bodies are incredibly talented organisms. If we give ourselves an image of hitting a ball to a particular target in a particular place, our body can figure out how to do that repeatedly and accurately.
I got this exercise from Robert Parent’s book, Zen Golf. An excellent book for all parts of the mental game in sports, by the way. I know there are lots of “Zen and the Art of” books out there but this guy has actually sat down and meditated. He expresses great wisdom and is very good at simply communicating that wisdom.
Parent describes a client who was very accurate in an inaccurate kind of way. If the line of a putt called for the golf ball to go into the hole from the right, he’d call the putt a “right lip putt.” Because his image was the right lip of the hole instead of the center of the hole, he repeatedly left the ball at the right lip instead of getting it into the hole. Think about this. You have to be very skilled to pull that off. It’s harder than getting the ball into the hole.
Our bodies are incredibly talented organisms. If we give ourselves an image of hitting a ball to a particular target in a particular place, our body can figure out how to do that repeatedly and accurately. Imagine what must be going through Roger Federer’s mind as he threads the ball through openings that very few other players see. His accuracy is phenomenal. His images are probably phenomenal too.