Who doesn’t like a gift that keeps on giving? That’s exactly what I got when my husband gave me golf lessons for my last birthday. I initially thought the lessons would be a quick fix, helping me get a handle on my game and finally get out of my slump. Instead, these lessons gave me many quick doses of inspiration, helpful tips, and countless things to think about when it comes to my game and, quite frankly, my life.

For example, when working on my chip shots, my instructor told me about how she had fine-tuned her own short game thanks to a principle called “Practice to Play”.

What is Practice to Play?

The philosophy behind Practice to Play is that in addition to training your body to move a certain way to perfect a good swing, you’re also asking your brain to join the party too. It’s a fancy way of remembering to keep your head in the game.

How does it work?

My instructor explained that her college coach introduced her and her team to the concept by asking each of them to hit hundreds of balls while focusing on a particular shot they needed to refine. While each chipped, drove, or putted in a practice environment, they were able to focus on the pure physical feeling of each shot until they started to master it.

The real magic happened when they combined the now practiced physical motion with a visualization of the ball landing on the green or rolling into the hole. By visualizing as they practiced the motion, they were able to create a positive memory and bring it into a real world situation to see the results happen on the green the same way it did in their minds.

What did that mean for me?

I saw a multi-step purpose in front of me:

  • First, practice the skills my instructor taught me at my lessons—a lot.
  • Second, make this practice worthwhile, meaning, focus not only on what I was doing by how I was feeling when practicing. How did hitting a good shot feel? What did it look like?
  • Third, I needed to put everything together and visualize repeating the good shots again and again.

How does this work off the course?

The more I thought about Practice to Play, the more I realized it might be a key factor in getting out of my slump as my confidence has been in need of some overhauling just as much as my swing.

Because I really do feel like nothing is ever just about one thing, I thought about applying the concept of Practice to Play to real life situations. We prepare for so many moments: job interviews, presentations, work conversations, and daily interactions with others.

What if we used Practice to Play in these instances too? Instead of facing these challenges with fear, we can face them head-on and prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally. Then, since we’ve rehearsed and visualized success so many times, doing the same when it is game time doesn’t seem like such a hard thing.

Now go out there and play, friends, and while you’re visualizing successful shots, also visualize having a great time doing it.