One of the most difficult parts of golf is the ability to be consistent in your shots - hitting them with the same contact and in the same direction every single time.
This is even more difficult to achieve under pressure, especially on the greens when you are over a must make putt. Dealing with pressure on the greens and performing the putting stroke consistently begins way before you ever hit any shot. It begins with a consistent pre-putt routine.
What is a pre putt routine?
This is a set of movements and thoughts that is performed before every putt.
Why do you need a pre putt routine?
A pre putt routine is important for two reasons.
1. To enable the highest chance of success for every putt. It allows focus, mentally and physically, on the shot at hand. Once the routine has begun, whatever happened previously is gone, any thoughts about the environment surrounding the golfer disappear and concentration for the putt ahead is maximized.
2. To aim in the correct direction. Imagine training a darts player to throw a dart perfectly but not showing them how to aim at the bulls-eye. A pre-putt routine gets the golfer in the correct aim position.
What is a good pre-shot routine?
A good pre-shot routine consists of three phases.
3. Pulling the trigger
As you walk up to the green, take a look at it from a distance. Look at the bigger picture and get a feel for the general slopes of the area as a whole.
Walk up and mark your golf ball, then walk to a point behind the hole and read your putt from there. Once you have decided on whether the ball will break from one side to the other, walk down the low side of the putt. Doing so will confirm that you have made the correct decision as you will get a sense of the slope falling towards you.
Now read the putt from behind the ball. At this point you need to pick a target spot on the green to aim at. This could be the side of the hole, a blade of grass or some other mark on the green.
Replace your ball and aim any markings on your ball at your target spot.
You have now committed to the line of your putt.
Stand next to the ball and take some practice swings.
Looking at the hole or target spot, not your putter, swing the putter backwards and forwards without stopping. Get a feel for how far the ball will travel with your practice swings and lengthen or shorten them accordingly.
When you are happy and you feel that you have the right length of stroke to suit the length of putt, set up to the golf ball.
3. Pulling the trigger
It's go time!
If you stand over the ball for too long technical thoughts or anxiety will begin to manifest.
Be fairly quick to step into the ball, line the putter head markings up with the markings on the ball and set your feet and shoulders in parallel lines to them. When lined up, take one look at the target, imagine the ball disappearing into the hole and hear it hitting the bottom of the cup, then look back at the ball and let it go. Pull the trigger and trust your putting motion.
If you perform this kind of routine for every putt, you will feel less pressure, more confidence and many putting issues which you may have will disappear. Get a routine and get better!