Mental GameAugust 31, 2016

This Is What You Should Think Right Before You Hit

A sports psychologist weighs in on how to get your mind in the right space to hit a good shot.
Dr. Gio Valiante
Dr. Gio Valiante

What’s the last thing you think before you hit the ball? I asked a few people I play golf with, and I got responses like, Don’t slice it. And, Please go straight. Then the long-winded, Head down- left arm firm- pause at the top- come through fast. And understandably, Help. Everyone thinks something different, but is there something specific that we should think right before the swing? Is there a secret thought that’ll help us hit it well every time?

Sports psychologist Dr. Gio Valiante says that in those last moments before you hit the ball, “It's not really about thought as much as it is about awareness. When someone is in a flow state, which is the peak state for golfers, they aren't really 'thinking' much at all. They are playing some version of caveman golf. See ball, hit ball.”

While playing in the ‘flow state’ (think of it as 'being in the zone') is awesome, it only really happens once in awhile (if ever). We can’t help ourselves: We think -- sometimes a lot.

So, if you have to think, Dr. Valiante says, “The best thought is always somehow related to either 1. A specific target, or 2. A visual about the shape of a specific shot. This of course depends on the particular type of brain the individual has. Some people see targets, some people see shapes.”

Figure out which is more natural to you. Do you hone in on a target, or are you more naturally drawn to seeing the shot happen in your head? Once you’ve answered that question, join your target or visualization with a swing thought. It can be something you’re working on, like tempo or rotating your left shoulder under the ball. Get that swing thought, and stop there.

“Generally speaking anything more than two or three thoughts is too much,” says Valiante.