In recent weeks, I have been working hard on visualizing my shots around the green. Too often in the past, I realized, I had been content to simply chip or pitch the ball in the general direction of the hole.
I long ago incorporated visualization into my full swing routine. On those shots, I stand behind the ball and do what Sam Snead called “painting a picture in the sky.” Next, I select my aiming point a couple of inches ahead of the ball. Then it’s set up and go.
What I’ve come to recognize in recent weeks is that visualization becomes exponentially more important as play gets closer the green. If I can hit a green in regulation, I have no doubt that I will get down in two—regardless of position. Miss the green and the chip, pitch or wedge needs to be close enough for a reasonable shot at a one putt for par.
When I take the time to picture the ball landing and rolling toward the hole, I usually get solid results. Indeed, I am often surprised at how often and how closely the ball follows the imagined line. I have lost track of the number of times I’ve come close to holing out in recent weeks.
The hardest part has been turning the visualization procedure into routine. Studies have shown that it takes 16 to 21 times to turn something into a habit. In golf, I think that it likely takes somewhat more. Even after a month’s worth of rounds, I occasionally miss badly on a chip, and then think “darn it, you forgot to pick a landing target.”
I’m getting better, though, and my scores reflect it.