What’s the difference between you and a great putter? It just might be the Quiet Eye. In putting as well as in other hand-eye-target skills, the Quiet Eye is emerging as a key indicator of optimal focus and concentration. It’s this focus and concentration, research shows, that sets the good putter apart from the poor one. Fortunately, achieving this focus and concentration is a skill that can be taught in golf lessons or learned on one’s own and can help drive down a player’s golf handicap.
Usually, we attribute the difference between a good putter and a poor putter to mechanics. Good mechanics produces good putting. Bad mechanics produces bad putting. Good mechanics are what most golf lessons and golf tips emphasize. And that’s fine. You can’t be a superior putter if your mechanics are wrong. But mechanics aside, what else makes one golfer a better putter than another? Research shows that focus and concentration is the difference, underscoring the importance of the Quiet Eye.
The Quiet Eye
Simply put, the Quiet Eye occurs when your gaze remains absolutely still on the ball just before and as the stroke is performed. Two key elements in the Quiet Eye are location and duration. Research shows that golfers who putt well focus on either the back or the top of the ball. Which is better? Both locations improve accuracy, but a weight of evidence now favors the back of the ball. As for duration, good putters have a Quiet Eye duration of two or three seconds on average. Less skilled player held their gaze steady for one or two seconds on average.
Why is the Quiet Eye so critical when you putt? Your hands are controlled by your brain, which gets valuable information from your eyes. As you putt, your brain must organize 100 billion neurons. Your gaze keeps these neural networks informed. They in turn control both your hands and body when putting. But these networks stay organized for only a short period, creating a window of opportunity that must be used when it’s at its most optimal: This is the Quiet Eye period.
Unfortunately, the Quiet Eye is the first thing to go when under stress. It moves with the stroke. When you choke, the billion cells in your brain lose their effectiveness in solving the putt’s slope, curvature, distance, and location problems. Even hours of golf instruction sessions and practice focused on mechanics may not be able to save you when the pressure is on. On the other hand, developing proper mechanics builds confidence—another key element in putting. But confidence may not be as critical to putting accuracy as the Quiet Eye.
Developing the Quiet Eye
Routine Research shows that an average golfer using a pre-shot routine based on the Quiet Eye sinks more putts than when not using the routine—whether the routine is learned in golf lessons or self-taught. Visualization is a key element of this routine.
Focus on the hole
Once your putterhead is set behind the ball, pick a specific location on the hole where you want the ball to go, like a blade of grass or a small feature on the cup’s front lip.
“See” the ball go in
Look at this location for about two seconds. Visualize the ball going into the hole.
Scan from the hole to the ball
Smoothly shift your gaze without interruption from the target to the back of the ball. Your gaze should move efficiently and calmly.
Eye on the ball
Fixate on the back of the ball. Imagine just the right contact of the putterhead on the ball. Picture a line through this contact point to your spot on the hole.
Maintain a Quiet Eye on the one spot on the back of the ball from the backstroke through contact. Don’t peek! Take a look at your ball going in the hole only after putting.
The Quiet Eye may be an objective measure of “being in the Zone,” according to some experts. This idea of being in the Zone, or in the “flow,” as some athletes say, has been around for a long time. But until now, there has been little scientific evidence that the Zone exists—let alone can be measured. Developing the Quite Eye technique might not only help you access the zone when putting, it might also help you achieve better putting accuracy, knocking strokes off your golf handicap.