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What’s the No. 1 key to good putting? Confidence. And what inspires confidence on the greens? Seeing the ball go in the hole.

Then why would you spend your precious pre-round practice time missing putts?

The scene is continually repeated on practice greens everywhere. With a few minutes to kill before his tee time, a golfer drops a handful of balls and raps them carelessly toward a distant cup. Maybe one falls from time to time, but most don’t. Next thing you know, his name is called and off to No. 1 he goes.

It may not seem like a big deal, but our man’s head is now filled with images of putts racing past or coming up short of the cup. He may not have lost confidence with his lackadaisical warmup approach, but he sure didn’t gain any.

If you’re guilty of such malpractice, there’s a better way to prepare. This routine will provide a last-minute confidence boost and give you a feel for the greens’ pace:

  • Pick an area, not a hole, toward which to putt. For example, a 3’x3’ space at the green’s edge.
  • Drop a few balls 10 feet away and try to stroke each one into the area.
  • Move out a few feet and repeat. Your last series should be from about 20 feet away – far enough to help you get the pace of longer putts, close enough to easily hit your target.
  • Next, place some balls within two feet of a cup and knock them in. Don’t rush – the idea is to make each putt to get the audio-visual feedback of putts falling. That’s the sensation you want to ingrain before hitting the course.
  • Final question: What breeds confidence? Success. Even if the triumph is as trivial as holing a tap-in, it’s better than missing from 15 feet.