What are you thinking about when you step up to a putt? If your answer is anything other than “nothing”, that probably means you’re thinking too much. Just like the rest of your game, a lot of times it’s best to trust your skills and your instincts. Make your read, pick a spot, step up and hit the ball.
For the novice to average golfer, the thinking game really takes an effect when a putt is for a par, or worse yet, a birdie. You have to feel for those golfers. They don’t get too many opportunities for a really nice score on a hole. Then it all falls into place. They hit a perfect drive. Then the approach shot rolls to about six feet away from the cup. For guys that shoot in the 70s all the time, they’re excited to go nail that birdie. For guys that shoot in the 90s or 100s, they are afraid of that putt as soon as their ball stops rolling. “Don’t choke” is the first thing they think, which brings us back full circle to thinking too much. I can’t get inside your head to turn your brain off when you’re putting, but here are some helpful tips that can bring more confidence and less thinking to your putting:
1. When you’re on the practice green, forget about the really long putts. Focus on the mid-to-short range putts in order to maximize your putting efforts on the course.
2. Feel comfortable in your stance. Despite what all of the putting gurus say about how far apart your feet should be, the angle of your back and the strength of your grip, make it feel good for you. Once you feel good with your stance, stick with it.
3. Eye the putt, then stick with it. Picture the way you think the ball will roll, taking into account the slope and speed of the green. Don’t second-guess yourself. Just like taking a test in school, your first instinct is probably right.
4. When you’re eyeing that putt, determine where you’re aiming by using the cup as a guide. Left-center of the hole. One hole to the outside. This is a solid way to judge the putt.
5. Don’t look at the ball for too long. You will psyche yourself out. Pick a spot in front of the ball. As you’re preparing to hit, stare at that spot. You should never miss that spot.
6. For the long putts, just work on your distance. That’s where the pros make their money and that’s the way you can stop three putts.
7. No one likes to leave a birdie putt short. Give the ball a chance. You’ll feel better if you miss past the hole.
The list could go on, but this is enough to “think” about for now. A little confidence will work wonders for your putting game. So head to the putting green with these tips, and that will be a start. Then once you hit the course, relax, and have a little swagger about your putting stroke.