Sunday, October 2, 2011

Thinking the Right Way on the Putting Green

Over the past few weeks, we have worked hard on our putting at SMU.  The physical practice has shown up in a few player's results, but not all.  After watching great practice and players who know how to putt, it became clear that sometimes a great stroke can be wasted if the player's thoughts are bad. The problem with putting isn't always physical, but is sometimes mental.  Here are some ways poor thinking will effect your putting and good thoughts that will change your approach and make you a better putter.

Put ball here ^.

Does your speed vary based on how you judge the putt?   This is a prevalent problem and you can find support for it from T.V. announcers, scramble partners and even some golf professionals.  Your speed should always match the putt you face and the situation surrounding the putt should never, ever be part of the equation.  There is no such thing as an aggressive putter.  An aggressive putter is simply a putter who is hitting the ball too hard and in effect making the hole a smaller target.  A putt for birdie is not worth more or less than a putt for par.  Both putts are worth one and while all of us would love to make birdie, facing a 4 footer coming back for par isn't what we want after a missed attempt.

When you face a putt, you need to set aside your judgment of the putt itself and of the situation you face.  All putts are makeable if you hit it on the correct line with the correct speed.  There are putts that are very challenging and can get away from you if you don't pay attention.  However, it still holds true that if you do a great job of controlling the speed and hitting the ball on the correct line, you can make challenging putts, too.  If you approach every putt the same and have the two goals of rolling it at the correct speed and starting it on the correct line instead of how easy or tough the putt is, you will make a lot more putts.

This is one time that judgment might be an appropriate response.

Judgment of the situation can also be a problem.  "Needing" to make a putt often leads to forgetting about speed and running the ball past the hole.  If you truly need a putt, give yourself a chance to make it by rolling it at the right speed.  Some players feel a lot of pressure over birdie putts while others feel it over par putts.  Others want to cover mistakes on the hole with made putts.  Whatever your poison, the sooner you can get the idea planted in your mind that every putt is important and should be approached the same way every time, the better you will be on the greens.

Another thing that gets players in trouble on the putting green is analyzing each and every stroke during a round.  Don't worry about being perfect on the greens.  Greens aren't perfect and neither are you.  A good stroke coupled with good focus and preparation will allow you to make a lot of putts.  If your focus is on the wrong thing or if you fail to see slopes or grain, a perfect putting stroke won't help you a bit.  Don't allow yourself to think about putting mechanics during a round.

Don't venture down this lane!

The last way of thinking that often separates great putters from poor putters is the importance of results.  If you have practiced and prepared for a round, you have done all you can to be a great putter that day.  You might miss a few putts, but those putts don't mean a thing, unless you allow them to get in your head.  The missed putts could easily be followed by many made putts if you continue to rely upon your preparation and trust yourself.  However, if you focus on the misses and allow it to change your approach, you will have a rough day ahead of you.  Consistent effort and focus are keys to great putting.  Never let one shot or putt effect any other shot or putt.

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