Every player misses putts. However, when the way you miss putts begin to look like a pattern it’s enough to make every player’s heart flutter when getting ready to take the putter back.
A famous story I use to illustrate the importance of working towards something instead of away is about Warren Span pitching for the 1957 Milwaukee Braves. It was game 4 versus the Yankees, the score tied, two outs and a full count. Spahn’s manager calls time and runs out to the mound to tell him that the batter, Elston Howard, will “hit it out of the park if you throw it high and outside.” “ So don’t throw it high and outside,” he said. Spahn was on the mound debating why the manager instructed him by using the word “don’t.” Spahn apparently said all he could think about was not throwing it high and outside, and of course he did and Howard knocked it out of the park. Moral of the story, “don’t” usually precludes the very words you shouldn’t be focusing on.
The phrases “Don’t leave this short” or “Don’t leave it above the hole” are phrases that can actually encourage you to do just that. Instead of using negatives, try using positive reinforcement.
Here are some putting stroke tips that will help you focus on achieving success rather than avoiding failure.
1. Take your practice stroke next to ball looking at hole. Let your eyes tell your body how far the putter should go back and through. Keep taking practice strokes until you find the speed you like and then repeat that feeling when putting the ball.
2. Set up to your putter. Always place your putter behind the ball and keep it there until you have completed your set up. You can then move the club. Setting the club down first will promote consistency and confidence.
3. Break your putt into two parts. (For putts that break)
a. Work backwards from the hole to read the putt.
b. Figure out where the ball will go into the hole and then imagine where the ball will start breaking on the putt to reach that point.
c. Take a practice stroke next to the point where the ball starts to fall towards the hole. That gives you a read on the speed you need to have on the second leg of your putt.
d. Go back to the ball and take a practice putt to the breaking point, adding the amount of speed you need for the ball to advance to the hole from there.
4. Take time on the putts you need to take time on. In other words, if you have a 3 footer with no break then your energy should not be wasted reading the putt. Go through your pre-shot routine and drill it. Use your time and energy to read the 10 foot left to right breaker.
5. Use putting drills that instill confidence. If you need to work on 10-foot putts then set a reasonable goal and work on achieving it. For instance, an average player may have long spells between 10-footers made in a round of golf. Try to make 2 out of 10 ten footers on the practice green. Maybe then try to make two in a row. It’s great practice and will give you a lot more confidence over your putts.
6. Learn to trust your eyes. Hit putts with your eyes closed. Go through your entire routine. Just before you are ready to putt close your eyes. Your world will change because you cut off one of your senses; sight. You will have to depend on imagination, sound and feel.
Try hitting putts while looking at the hole. It can help you learn to picture the hole while you are putting normally. It should assist you in speed control and in having a confident stroke.
Try practice drills, change your pre-shot routine or even just think more positive thoughts to help build your confidence on the putting green. One of the best ways to avoid focusing on the don’ts and thinking about the do’s is to make a change. Even if it’s a small one.