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Mental imagery for the golfer!



I'm fine, everything is fine," "I feel better and better..." Stop! This has nothing to do with mental imagery, also known as positive visualization. This method, widely used in sports including golf, is the mental ability to picture a situation and feel the emotions and sensations associated with it. In other words, we are experiencing a situation that we have only imagined. Personally, I have this magical moment where I had to hit my ball over an oak tree to just land on the putting green. This shot was made 20 years ago but it is still in my memory and serves as a reference during difficult times.

Depending on its intensity, this mental representation can trigger the same physiological effects as reality would. Therefore, in the context of personal development, through training, we can achieve results whether it's the will to achieve a specific mental state (relaxation, alertness, pain sensitivity...) or to develp skills.

In my practice near Geneva, I use it for athletes, musicians, and executives to cope with significant events.


You are going to close your eyes and imagine a slice of lemon. Here we go! You visualize this slice of lemon, it is in front of you.

You discover each of its shapes, its segments, its seeds, lingering on these different parts. Then, you focus on its different colors and textures.

Still in your imagination, you take this slice with your hand, feel its weight between your fingers, and bring it close to your lips. This slice of lemon is close to your lips, but does not touch them. Stay like this for a few moments. Its taste will soon flow into your mouth.

Stop! Let's return to reality. What happened?

Did your body react to the thought of the imaginary lemon on your tongue by producing saliva?

Thanks to mental imagery, we can modify our physical state and elicit reactions in our body. Our brain doesn't know the difference. And, we're going to take advantage of that.


The Blaslotto study is the reference on the subject.

Dr. Blaslotto from the University of Chicago conducted a study on a basketball team that was divided into three groups to test their free-throw ability:

  • The first group practiced free throws for one hour daily.

  • The second group simply visualized themselves making free throws.

  • The third group did nothing at all.

After a 30-day period, the groups were able to make free throws:

  • The third group obviously did not improve.

  • The first group improved by 24%.

  • Finally, the second group progressed by 23% through visualization alone.

Mental imagery had as significant an effect on performance as physical training.

Thanks to the repetition of this visualization (here for 30 consecutive days), new neural connections were established, which is known as neural plasticity.


What can this be useful for a golfer?

To quickly get into a specific mental state (calm, serene, confident...):



I can personally testify: I'm naturally lively and tense rather than relaxed... I've implemented a positive visualization, tailored to me, allowing me to reach my optimal state of relaxation in less than 90 seconds. I reach such a level that I feel completely relaxed in my body and calm in my mind no matter the external situation. To achieve this, it was necessary to develop the right script and repeat, modify, adjust, and practice to reach this state.

There are a large number of visualizations to assist you in your process depending on your situation and goal; I can offer you the best program for you... Ruminating after work, setting aside negative thoughts, or staying focused in a noisy environment... There are visualizations on numerous subjects



II Preparing for a stressful event:

We can encounter stressful events such as an exam, an audition, or a competition. Through certain visualizations, we can better prepare ourselves for these events.


III Positive visualization to develop a particular skill, both physical and mental.

Thanks to the principle of neural plasticity, a person reacts and acts in less than a second to a stimulus with a combination of movements: we see this in tennis, football, fencing, boxing, as well as with musicians, military personnel, and others.




Each neuron in our brain can establish up to 10,000 connections with other neurons, and these connections change as you train for a particular task. This task can be physical, but also purely cognitive. Neural plasticity modifies neural circuits. Initially, a temporary connection is established through chemical substances around the neurons. With training, these temporary connections become more structural, and over time, neurons change shape and position. So, the more we train, the more we develop a neural structure that makes us better in that domain. If you're interested in the subject, I recommend watching the documentary "Human: The World Within," which explains it very well.

Thus, through mental training, we develop skills to perform better, faster, and in any circumstance.


How it works and its limitations.

Positive visualization works effectively because we do it in a particular state: alpha brainwaves!


With an electroencephalograph, we can transcribe brain activity into electrical frequencies. At certain wave frequencies, we observe specific brain activities.

Delta waves, ranging from 0.5 Hz to 4 Hz, define deep sleep; theta waves, from 4 to 8 Hz, are associated with dreaming sleep, deep relaxation, meditation, and hypnotic states. As for our topic, alpha waves, ranging from 8 to 13 Hz, are associated with light relaxation and positive visualization.

There are other waves, but let's focus on our subject. At the alpha level, the hemispheres of our brain are connected. This connectivity allows us to better focus and manage our emotions.

For positive visualization to be effective, it must begin and occur in this alpha wave state.


It's like anything else, it's by visualizing that we... visualize effectively.

Indeed, it's through training, repetition, thanks to neural plasticity, that you become more and more effective in your visualization. As I mentioned previously from a personal standpoint, I worked on a visualization tailored to me, and after three weeks, I can achieve a very calm mental state very quickly. We have fantastic tools within us, and we don't always need external solutions. But obviously, there is a journey to get there.

In addition to repetitions, it's important to work on a personalized script. Indeed, a positive visualization can be made more effective by listening to a specific text. If it's tailor-made, it will be more effective for you. That's where you need a competent person to start with.



the limitation…

There are limitations: firstly, mental imagery can be helpful, but it's by no means a substitute for medical treatment. Additionally, we cannot engage in just any visualization, considering one's phobias or past traumas. Supervision is necessary at the beginning to ensure that it's done safely and effectively. Then, a step-by-step process is established so that eventually, the person becomes fully autonomous. Starting with a professional in the field will guide you on the right path efficiently.



Marco PAONESSA

Performing coach

Therapist relaxologist






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