How to sink those short putts with confidence

A little three foot putt isn’t really that difficult. In the big bad world of sport there may not be any skill that is easier – but why do so many of us struggle and better yet, how can we learn to make a short putt with confidence?

In a day gone by I would lose sleep and get nervous just thinking about putting. I ruined potentially good rounds by missing the “unmissable” and gifted victories to other players by three-putting when a one-putt was a possibility. All this led to a golf game that left me frustrated and angry.

When enough was enough (I put up with the putting woes for years) I went to work and fixed the problem. It wasn’t immediate but I now enjoy a better putting game and increased confidence – and I don’t lose any sleep!

Here’s the process that I followed (and still do) and hope will help you make more of those little knee knocking putts;

Stopped thinking

It sounds easy to do but it can be quite a task. The mind likes to spin and go a million miles per hour. It’s the internal chatter that makes putting hard. It disrupts your natural flow and causes you to play safe.

You need to focus on what you want to do – and then commit to the automatic process. I outline the process in more detail here.

Forgot about technique

Yep. This was a biggie. I realised that spending too much time on my technique was not helping the cause. How complicated is putting? It’s not that hard and I believe anyone that’s been playing for a while has technique good enough to be a good putter.

I stopped thinking about the grip, stance, alignment, and the stroke. I threw them in the bin and have never looked back. I put trust in my instinctive ability to roll the ball across the grass and into the hole.

Stopped practising

This might sound radical but I stopped practising putting and I improved. In my hey day I would spend hours on the green, honing my stroke and hoping to find the magic. All this really did for me was to increase the pressure and my expectations. When I didn’t putt well my frustration and confusion got worse. You may need to spend some time adjusting to this procedure (with your added flair) but if you want to make more of those short putts I believe you’ll do so by spending less time practising your technique and more time playing golf.

Get into my own bubble

I’m better now at blocking out distractions. These distractions can come from the outside world (noise, movement etc) but more often they come from the inside. Self-doubt, nervousness, fear and anxiety caused me to miss so many putts that I nearly quit the game. Learning to get into a bubble where I’m in my own little world has enabled to make the majority of short putts.

Here’s three steps that are crucial to getting into the zone so you’ll maximise the chances of sinking more little putts;

  • Give yourself a chance to get “centered” or set before making your way to the ball. Clear your head of “how to” or “what happens if I miss” and learn to go on auto pilot. Again, the full process is here.
  • Walk to the ball with your eyes focused on the BALL. Do not look at the hole or anywhere else. Keeping your gaze on the ball will help block out distractions that come from the target. Over time you’ll get into a rhythm and routine that will ensure you become “rock solid” with putting.
  • Get set before looking up. Set-up to the ball like you mean business. A big mistake is not trusting the line and then fidgeting about. With your eyes still on the ball you want to get into your set-up, and then (and only then) you can look up at the hole.
  • A bonus point is to pull the trigger quickly. There’s no need to fumble about and doubt yourself at this stage. Just hit (or putt) the ball!

Forgetfulness

To take your putting to a new level you need to learn to forget the misses. Harping on the misses doesn’t help and only makes you tight and nervous. You won’t make every short putt but I believe you’ll make more by following the above steps. Not remembering when you do miss will ensure you’ll approach the next putt with confidence. The choice is yours. We are free to choose what we think about.

Summary

The above steps will help you putt better. In fact it will help you play better golf. The process works for all shots and can take your game from good to great and to a master level of performance.

Learning to hole more of those short putts is about mental strength and keeping out of your own way than concerning yourself with mechanics. The intuitive thing to do is to look at your grip and stroke and make adjustments. Golf improvement doesn’t always make sense and I believe you need to take counter intuitive steps to see results. If you can make putts when there’s little or no pressure then you have the necessary skill to be a good putter. If you can learn to automate your putting game you can transform yourself into a great putter and there’s a huge difference between good and great!

Let me know how you get on.

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2 Comments

  • Derek

    Reply Reply September 7, 2008

    Cameron –
    Your point about mental strength being a key part of making more short putts is right on the money. And right now (well before he got “hurt”) the best at it is Tiger. When he goes on one of his rolls it’s all about making putts. He starts rolling in 10 to 20 footers and he never misses the shorter ones while those around him basically start missing anything that isn’t a tap in. This is not because Tiger has such superior putting mechanics … it because he has a better mental approach.

  • Cameron

    Reply Reply July 30, 2010

    Yep Derek I agree. Tiger is the best at playing automatically. If he can keep using this mindset he will always be hard to beat.

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