On a recent family holiday to a beautiful golf estate in the Limpopo Province my wife and I were enjoying sundowners at the clubhouse deck over-looking the putting green. As we were enjoying the gorgeous sunset a golfer walked onto the practice green.
Knowing how poorly most players manage these types of sessions I boastfully told my wife: “I bet you he drops three balls, putts all three to different holes and misses all three.” My wife, being more interested in her gin and tonic than some random golfers’ putting session, semi-agreed to take the bet. Putt-putt-putt….miss-miss-miss.
Psychologist 1, Wife 0.
As it happened a lady joined the late afternoon “short-game” session. “I bet you she does the same”. I could tell I had caught my wife’s attention. “Ok double or nothing” she said taking my bait. Putt-putt-putt…miss-miss-miss.
Psychologist 2 Wife 0.
True as faith a third golfer walked onto the green and did EXACTLY the same as the others. Putt-putt-putt….miss-miss-miss. At this stage I couldn’t tell if my wife was impressed by my foretelling or mildly irritated by owing me three drinks when she exclaimed: “How did you know what they were going to do before they even started?”.
You’d think that I was happy being the winner of these bets against my wife (not to mention the three drinks she STILL owes me) however I was quite sad for all three of these golfers. The reason? Unknowingly they were doing their games, and in particular their putting, a great deal of damage.
Unfortunately, I had seen these types of putting “warm-ups” too many times before. It is a ritual that so many golfers follow that is completely opposite to how you should actually start any putting session. The basis of my argument against what most golfers do in these circumstances is simple maths but also addresses the more complex challenge of positively influencing the sub-conscious.
To illustrate. Let’s say player A plays twice a month and practices twice a week. Every time she plays she goes onto the putting green and follows the above mentioned method and she misses her first three putts. The missed putts per month then total 30 putts. Not such a high number? However when you multiply this by 12 months you are looking at 300 putts. Over a ten year span? Three-thousand missed putts! Not the type of negative feedback I want to have flooding to my sub-conscious mind when it comes to one of the most important skills in golf.
So how then do you avoid the putt-putt-putt….miss-miss-miss conundrum?
Here are three exercises that can help your confidence as well as your sub-conscious when it comes to putting:
1. Manipulate the distance
I never want any of my players to miss their first putt of the day. Thus, we manipulate the distance of the first few putts. I’m not advocating a 10cm putt to start, although a client of mine did play Web.com qualifiers with a player who made his first practice putt at every event from 15cm and exclaimed “Great putt!”.
Rather work from a distance that your conscious mind will scoff at as “too easy”. Three to four foot works well and preferably without any break. All you need to do now is sink 10-15 of these putts before you do anything. Do not be alarmed if nothing changes over night. Remember it is the long-term mental impact we are after.
2. Focus on something else
A second exercise that not only helps with confidence but also with imagery is to close your eyes when you putt. You will use the same spot you used in exercise one but vary the process slightly. Once you have lined the putter up you look at the ball, then look properly at the hole then track your eyes back slowly, focus on the ball and close your eyes. Once your eyes are closed you make your stroke and simply listen for the sound of the ball falling in the cup.
The point of this exercise is to improve the quality of your auditory imagery so that you are creating a positive expectation before you start your round. The short distance of the putt should not deter you because this is not as significant as the impact of repeatedly hearing that beautiful sound of a ball falling into the cup. This you can also do for 10-15 putts.
3. See it, roll it, hole
Lastly it’s your eyes turn. Every element is repeated as above ito distance and spot however this time instead of tracking your eyes back to the ball before you putt or closing your eyes you fixate on the hole and watch the putt fall after you have made a “no-look” stroke.
Why is this helpful? Together with the positive affirmation of the first 10-15 putts of the day falling, then hearing the next 10-15 falling, seeing them fall adds another layer of imagery as well as confidence. As an added bonus you have just sunk between 30-60 putts. Maybe not a lot of putts in a month but I’ll let you do the math ito the amount of putts made over the course of a year, let alone a decade.
The mental impact of making your first 30-60 putts every time?