The ability to form a clear mental picture of what we want is one of the most powerful abilities that a human being has. This age-old “Zen” approach to life is now being taught by sports psychologists and enlightened golf instructors; who advocate the means of visualizing the result of the ball at the target and then executing the stroke. When putting, visualize the ball in the hole before stroking the ball. When approaching the green, visualize the ball on the green before making the shot. When driving from the tee, visualize the ball at a spot on the fairway before hitting the ball.
When we visualize the ball at the target, our body makes the adjustments for the swing to the target. This technique can be especially helpful in determining how hard to hit a putt. For instance, on uphill putts imagine, (visualize) the ball diving into the back of the cup. This image gives the body the message to stroke the ball firmly. This eliminates the uncertain and risky thought of “hit it hard.” On downhill putts, the image is of the ball just trickling over the front edge of the cup. This image gives the body the message to stroke gently or lightly. The speed of the ball for the putt will be determined by the visual image of the ball going into the cup, fast or slow.
In golf, distance is the main factor in putting. Distance is governed by the speed of the putt. The speed of the putt will determine direction on breaking putts as the slower the speed, the more the ball breaks. Most putting practice should be governed by distance or speed of the putt. Direction is much easier and falls into place with the speed of the putt.
My father Jack Grout developed Jack Nicklaus under this philosophy and learning aspect. At a young age, Nicklaus was taught to hit the ball far, achieve distance, especially off the tee. In his early maturation, direction was not a concern. As his proficiency in the long ball increased, his direction improved as well. Dad did not attempt to teach him two things at once. Nicklaus learned distance and then accuracy; much like the (recommended above) procedure for putting.