Don’t talk too much, say scientists

Don’t just stand there thinking or talking about your putt … just go ahead and play it!

That’s the advice of a group of scientists after they completed a study on golfers who stand there pondering what they are going to do compared with those who prefer to simply step up and tap the ball.

The study by experts from St Andrews University and the University of Michigan in the US suggested that over-analysing may not necessarily be good for putters looking for the nirvana of line and weight.

In the experiment, 80 golfers of skilled and novice standards were given putts to perform repeatedly until they holed the ball. It was discovered that those who talked to each other about their putts between attempts were 50 per cent worse than those who simply got on with it.

And, apparently, the time factor was not the only reason. The very act of discussing the putts was deemed to be the thing that affected performance.

They found that even those who didn’t discuss putts but spent time doing other unrelated things between putts fared better than the ones who chatted about their attempts.

The strangest result was that spending time discussing putts affected skilled golfers more than novices, who were unchanged or even tended to do better if they talked about what they did.

Hence, the scientists concluded that too much analysing, which is a habit of skilled golfers more than the lesser players, is to blame. Professor Michael Anderson of St Andrews University said in a BBC article:

“This effect was especially dramatic in skilled golfers who were reduced to the level of performance of novices after just five minutes of describing what they did. It’s a fairly common wisdom in sport that thinking too much hurts performance; during a game it can be an obvious distraction. However, what we found surprising is that simply describing one’s putting skill after it has been executed can be incredibly disruptive to future putting performance.”

They called the culprit “verbal overshadowing”, which has something to do with disrupting the brain’s focus.

So, if you are ever in the gallery when Tiger Woods is thinking too much about his putt … tell him to get on with it. For his own good.

7 Responses to “Don’t talk too much, say scientists”

  1. Anthony Fox says:

    The principle is clearly correct BUT you must not rush your natural pace of play either. Before you start the stroke, you must get settled (viz. comfortable) and have a consistent routine in terms of time. Maybe count “1 2 3” with the stoke on “3”.

  2. Mike Black says:

    It was once said of me that I stand up to putt, look at the hole then the ball and just hit it; I enjoy success doing this, but accept that if I had no confidence in my putting the it would never work in a millon years. The key to confidence around the green is is gained in making up your mind and sticking to it – first instincts are most likely to be the best ones to follow.

    Delay a stroke and doubt creeps in!

  3. Colin Devroe says:

    Crap, because I like to read while I putt. Oh wait, no, nevermind. I like to read while I….

  4. Barry Oakland says:

    If anyone is interested then I recommend Bob Rotella’s ‘Putting out of your mind’. Be clear, find the line, visualise the ball going in the hole, address the ball one look at where you are aiming and let go. Don’t be afraid, it’s meant to be fun & if one is afraid, then learn not to be; self hypnosis is a good place to start, ask Andy. If you don’t believe it, try putting with your eyes closed, one will be pleasantly amazed.

    After all, the ball goes in the hole, or it doesn’t. If your worried, the ball feels that transmitted through the club head via your tense stroke.

    Enjoy, Barry

  5. I totally agree with this and think it is absolutely fundamental to putting. I first got this concept properly from Karl Morris and the day that I fully learnt to think less and trust more was a huuuge epiphany (and helped me to my first eagle)

  6. Bob Kemper says:

    Indeed!! My best putts are the ones that I tap in with out ceremony. The longer I hover, the worse the putt.

  7. Lyall Davidson says:

    Dear Andy
    Is your lead-in to this item accurate? I don’t think the research is saying ‘just walk up and hit it’. Surely what it is saying is ‘don’t chat about how you are going to hit the ball before you hit it’. You should still presumably examine the line and the slope, look for breaks and the cut of the grass and figure out what weight of shot you are going to hit. It’s just the verbals you have to drop.

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