Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Mindset You Need on the Green

The last blog was about the four skills needed to be a great putter.  The recap is green reading, aim, starting the ball on line and controlling your pace.  Perhaps the most important skill needed wasn't included in that inventory and that skill is the right mindset.  You don't have to be a pro to have the right mindset and if you are a pro, that doesn't mean you have the right mindset.  As with the physical skills outlined above, there is an inventory of skills that make up a mindset of a great putter.

First, you have to believe!  When I say believe, I mean that you have to have the faith in your abilities to make every putt you line up no matter what the length or break.  Be careful though, because faith isn't the same as expectations.  Faith is a subtle and calming state of mind that you carry deep within your heart.  Expectation is a nervous state of mind that applies pressure and causes apprehension.  Faith is what comes from hours of practice.  Faith is what comes from enjoying a challenge.  Faith replaces fear.  Faith is what comes when you believe in yourself regardless of circumstances or past performance.

If you believe you can make any putt on the green, that means any putt.  Your speed control should be great whether it is a 50 footer or a 15 footer.  That means you must spend a lot of time rolling all lengths of putts when you practice.  Three putts should be a very rare occurrence, not an accepted fate of long lag putts. On the PGA, there are at least 40 players with a single digit stat in three putts after 30 odd rounds.  That means they average .3 three putts per round.  That signals that they are great putters. 

Having been in a lot of galleries on the LPGA over the years, I am amazed at the putting skills of some of the foreign players.  I am also somewhat amazed at the time they put in on the putting green on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday the week of the event.  There is an obvious correlation between putting skill and putting practice.  If you could spend an hour a day on your putting, you will improve, you will build your faith and you will make a few 30-40 footers in each round you play.

Aiming for a circle around the cup has never made sense to me.  If you are a great putter, you are great at controlling your speed.  With that skill, your chore becomes making a good read on long putts.  When you read putts, you read them to finish in the bottom of the cup.  I am not even sure how you would read a putt to be close.  I was lucky enough to listen to Kathy Whitworth talking about picking a target and she credited much of her success to picking the smallest possible target on every shot she hit.  Forget the idea of a 3 foot circle and aim for the center of the bottom of the cup!

Your target should be one of these blades of grass.

What is the mindset over a breaking five footer?  The same, one of faith.  Now you need faith not only in your skills, but in your routine.  When you have a 30 footer, it is a bit easier to see the entire length of the putt and commit to a break point.  On a five footer, the hole is in your consciousness a bit more.  Your routine will allow you to see the putt, commit to the aim point needed and set up to that point.  Great putters are reliant upon a strong routine that allows them the opportunity to visualize, commit and execute without extraneous thoughts, doubts or fears.  This routine should be practiced, natural and rhythmic.  Even though you need to practice your routine, you should never feel as though you are going through the motions.  There should always be a mental alertness that drives you.

This mental alertness needs to be focused on the process of rolling a good putt, not on the outcome. Of course, you want to make the putt!  That is a given and should be your intention.  However, your goal when you putt is to aim well, start the ball out on your line and put the proper pace on it.  If you do those things and read the putt correctly, you will make a lot of putts.  Your routine enables you to commit to your read, aim the putter face and execute.  At no time in your routine are you working on making the putt.  Instead you are working on what it takes to make it. 

Adam Scott watches his putt roll to the hole.

Another trait that is seen in great putters is a good post-shot routine.  Great putters watch the roll of the ball on every putt they make, whether it is a good putt or a poor putt.  They learn from what they see.  Poor putters are quick to react and you often see them snapping their fingers, talking to the ball more and more insistently or walking before the stroke is even finished.  A great post-shot routine is a tool that prevents three putts.  Great putters make mistakes.  However, they don't react to those mistakes, they act on their faith and simply begin the process of making the next putt, no matter how poorly they hit the first putt.

Every putt is worth one shot.  This is the final piece of the pie for your putting mindset.  Geoff Mangum proved that there is an optimal speed for every putt to be rolling to go in the hole.  You can check out his video on youtube.   With that in mind, your "want" should never be the basis of speed.  After years of playing fund raising scrambles and watching my playing partners jam putts 6 feet past the hole, I can attest that putts rarely fall when they go to the hole at that speed.  If every putt is worth one and you are focused on process, your "want" or "try" should be similar on each putt you face.  We all know that some putts seem more important, whether for momentum, winning the hole or for your score.  If the importance of the putt gets in the way of the process, your focus will switch to outcome and you will lose track of what is needed to make the putt.  Approach each and every putt with the same focus level, routine and "want" and you will soon find that consistency leads to greatness.

Do you have this inventory of skills or traits to be a great putter?  You need belief, practice time, focus on a small target, a tested and true routine, commitment to the process, action - not reaction, and control over how much you want the putt.  Pick one of these that you need improvement on and spend time focusing on it the next time you practice.  I bet you will see an immediate difference in your putting!


  1. If I don't drop strokes this summer I'm gonna want my money back. he he he great blog!!

  2. Thanks Reid! I will check in this summer and see if you are making strides.


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