Was it the pressure that caused Sergio to miss that 8-footer on the 18th at Carnoustie in the final round of The British Open? Or, was it bad mechanics? We’ll never know for sure. But one thing’s certain: The mental side of putting is as important as the mechanical, as I’ve written in my golf tips. If you’re going to be a great putter, you must work on the mental aspect of putting as hard as you work on the mechanical. Together, they’ll reduce your golf handicap significantly.
Obviously, you must have a good stroke to be a great putter. And you must be able to repeat that stroke time after time after time. If you don’t have a good stroke, you’ll never be a great putter. But once you’ve developed a good stroke, you must focus on the mental side of putting to continue to improve. Remember golf is a game of scoring, not of strokes. And putting is the best way of scoring. Focusing on the mental side of putting propels you to the next level in putting, and dramatically cuts your golf handicap.
Below are six mental keys to putting.
Great putting begins with attitude. A positive attitude on the greens helps you address each putt with full intention and focus. A positive attitude means seeing yourself as a great putter, but knowing you can improve as well. It means filling yourself with positive attitudes and emotions, and trusting in your judgment on the greens. And it means programming yourself to believe that you can putt the ball to an exact spot, without doubt. Developing a positive attitude is your first priority in becoming a great putter.
Another key to great putting is self-confidence. Learn to build and preserve your confidence. Having confidence means believing you can make every putt no matter how long or how tricky. It means developing confidence in your skills on the green through practice and hard work. And it means not letting a bad putting day ruin your attitude. If you critical, self-judgmental, or self-de-grading, you’ll erode your confidence. Monitor yourself closely. Eliminate negative self-talk. Replace it with positive thoughts.
Every putter has touch. Touch is the ability to gauge your distance from a target and hit your ball at the right speed. But to be a great putter, you must have a great touch, as I tell students who take my golf lessons. Touch comes from experience and practice. If you’ve never hit a 20-foot putt, you have no idea what it’s like to do so. Work hard on the practice green at developing your touch. Ingrain what it feels like to make breaking putts, short putts, and long lag putts. Developing a better touch also improves your self-confidence and helps build a positive attitude. Practice drills that improve your touch and practice them. My golf tips feature some but there are others. Invent your own.
Imagination and Vision
Your mind and body follow your eyes. And putting is a highly visual task. That’s why vision and imagination are crucial to great putting. You line up your putt with your eyes. You determine your line with your eyes. And you gauge the break in a putt with your eyes. Use your mind’s eye to sink your putt. What should you focus on when putting? Most players focus on the ball, not the putter head. Focusing on the putter head causes you to try and control it. Other players retain the ball-target orientation and/or sight their line with peripheral vision. Choose what you’re comfortable with.
Trusting Your Stroke
Trusting your stroke isn’t the same as relying on mechanics to stroke the ball. Work on ingraining a reliable stroke, but don’t do it when playing a round. Instead, focus on the feel of solid contact, the tempo of your stroke, or the rhythm of the shot. This is the time to let you creative mind do its thing. Practice putting with your eyes closed to develop trust in your stroke. If you can hit the ball solidly with your eyes closed, you can trust your stroke. As one sports psychologist says, trust is the mental glue that binds the components of great putting together.
Watch a professional golfer putt sometime. He or she is totally focused on the task. Great putters focus completely on the putt. Two important keys to total focus are (1) staying the present and thinking one shot at a time, and (2) focus on the elements of your routine. Most errors in concentration on the greens result from thinking about the putts you missed on the last hole or about the next shot. If you play one shot at a time, you’ll eliminate these errors. Also, when you focus on the steps in your routine, you’re focused on the present moment and the immediate task ahead.
Having a mechanically sound putting stroke is a must if you want to be come a great putter. But so is having the right mental approach. The six mental keys we discuss above, attitude, confidence, touch, imagination and vision, trust, and total focus serve as the foundation for that mental approach. And since great putting cuts strokes off your scores, it will slash your golf handicap as well.