The secret to putting well is confidence.
Putting is the most important part of the game and you can only excel with confidence.
The good news is that putting isn’t difficult, you know you can make a short putt. The bad news is you know how difficult it is to consistently make short putts. Once you start to miss the short putts, your confidence wanes. To start holing them again you need a boost to your confidence, and there in lies the problem. How do you regain your confidence? How do you conquer the game of confidence as putting is often referred to?
Repeatedly missing short putts is no fun and destroys the enjoyment you should have playing this wonderful game. Do you feel humiliated at missing another short putts, it’s simply embarrassing. No wonder it can feel like you are on a slippery slope as your game slips into an exercise of hitting and hoping. Putting with doubt and without confidence is a card wrecker, but I bet it hasn’t always been that way!
Your current putting is probably totally alien to how you played as a kid when there was no fear or tension. Can you remember the competitions you used to play with your mates, there was no room for thinking you would miss. You were all absolutely confident of taking the money. I have fond memories of playing 36 holes as a junior, having something to eat and drink in the spike bar, and then out for evening contests on the practice putting green. There simply wasn’t time for dwelling on the prospect of a three putt, instead thoughts were of how to hole yet another monster putt.
If you analyse what has happened over the decades, you may now find that the second you take your putter out of the bag, you are immediately in a love or hate relationship with the club. Quite simply, are you relishing the challenge ahead of you, or are you fearful of what might happen next? Are you fuelled with positive or negative emotions? Even before you start to read the line are you tentative rather than enthusiastic?
You definitely need the solid belief that stops you from being tentative, one that comes from having real confidence. The kind built on proper foundations because this is the part of the game where you mentally have to be at your toughest. The truth is you need a strong mental game to putt well. The pressure builds up as you get nearer the hole because there is no longer any more room to recover. You can recover from a sliced drive with a good recovery shot to the centre of the fairway. You can even recover from a poor approach shot with well played chip shot. But when it comes to putting there is no where to recover except from duly holing the putt in front of you!
Missing Putts Isn’t Your Fault
If you fail to hole the putt, you may be surprised to hear that for a large part it isn’t your fault. Yes you heard that right. If you are like most golfers, you have been you have sadly been spoon fed three myths that need to be dispelled now before you can start to rebuild your confidence today.
Putting Myth 1 – Exposing The Lie About Putting Confidence
Too many golfers believe that all they need to do is start their round putting well and from there their confidence will grow. This is a myth because you should actually start your round with confidence so as you immediately start to hole short putts on the first green. You should already be confident so as the putts you hole on the first only go to make you even more positive.
You can ill afford to let how you putt on the first few holes determine your confidence for the rest of your round. It’s imperative you are confident from the beginning and absolutely certain you won’t miss a short putt. Otherwise allowing a build up of disappointment and frustration from the outset can lead to a loss of concentration and poor play.
Have you ever played a round and suddenly found yourself holing everything under the sun and before you know it you feel like you just can’t miss? You have an inner belief that you will sink every putt. You hole a good putt early on and this builds momentum. The hole seems like a bucket and you just can’t miss. Your confidence is sky high.
Isn’t it a fantastic state of mind to be in, far from concentrating on your technique you are naturally putting in a similar way to throwing a ball. The truth is, this is the state of mind you should be in all the time. Imagine for one second the number of putts that you would sink if this was the case.
Unfortunately this putting success is often short lived and is only lasts for one round. That’s great for that round but how do you go about recreating that putting streak and confidence?
It’s a misconception to believe you will stumble across a golden nugget of confidence on the practice green. You need to work on your confidence well before this. Spending a few minutes putting before you tee it up on the first, is an ineffective way to create a reliable confident mindset that works in pressurised situations. If you miss a short putt on the first green, what of real substance do you have to fall back on? Only by seriously working on your confidence away from the course can you possibly hope to have strong deterrent to any doubt that may creep into your game.
It’s foolhardy to simply think having positive thoughts will turn you into a confident player. It isn’t enough to simply hole a few putts on the practice green before you go out to play. You need to earn that confidence, so as it is ingrained into your mind and body. Leaving you in no doubt that you can hole a putt wherever you are playing, whoever you playing with and with whatever is at stake. There are reasons for spending time on the practice green minutes prior to teeing off, but they shouldn’t be confused with trying to instill a sense of confidence in you before your round. Valid reasons include helping you judge the pace of the greens, particularly useful it you haven’t played the course before.
Thus whilst it might be a hard pill to swallow, there really are no shortcuts to building the confidence you need to putt successfully. Fortunately by following the lessons, drills and tips below you will discover proven ways to improve your putting confidence for long term success.
However having dispelled the first myth about putting and confidence, it’s important to discuss the second and third ones before detailing your road to success on the greens.
Putting Myth 2 – Exposing The Lie About The Putting Stroke
The second putting myth we are all taught is that if we improve our putting stroke our putting will naturally improve. The golf industry is built on trying to sell us the latest putting gadget, where the golfer is sold the idea that they will hole more putts with an improved putting stroke.
This is completely false. Focusing on your putting stroke is not the answer.
Falling for this myth means the golfer misses the point that putting is a target orientated activity. Like throwing a ball, putting is a reaction to a target not a mechanical action.
Consider for one moment throwing a ball to someone. Wouldn’t it be weird if you concentrated on how you contracted your arm as you made the throw. I’m sure you would agree this would result in a shambolic throw. Of course you don’t concern yourself with the mechanics of how far you pull your arm back, you simply let your subconscious take care of this. Equally putting is exactly the same.
The bottom line is you have to focus on your target. Too many golfers get caught up in analysis paralysis whereby they concentrate on too many mechanical details and miss the big picture. Focus on your target and not your stroke.
Therefore if you ever catch yourself thinking too much about your putting stroke as you putt, pick up your ball and throw it. But as you’re throwing it, focus entirely on your elbow and see how that works out for you. And seriously that is why you shouldn’t get confused with the technicalities of your putting stroke, such as watching the putter head as you make your stroke. Perhaps you are analytical by nature but on the golf course it’s time to switch off the left side of your brain. The putting stroke is about feel.
Putting Myth 3 – Exposing The Lie About New Putters
The final myth relates to the industry’s obsessive quest to get you to invest in a new putter. Whilst it is recommended you get your putter fitted to your height and stroke you shouldn’t jump from one purchase to the next as soon as you start to miss a few putts.
The simple fact is you can’t buy confidence. Have you ever wondered why you nearly always putt well with a new putter and then you are back to bad old ways a few rounds later? Having a new putter in your hands simply distracts you from your putting stroke because you are comparing it to your old putter. You are mentally saying this putter is lighter, heavier, shorter, longer, shiner and many more other thoughts. You are simply not thinking about technique, because you are distracted for a short time by the new putter. Hence during this honeymoon period you execute your putts with a clear mind allowing your subconscious to control the mechanics.
Now that all three putting myths have been dispelled it’s time to reveal 7 proven ways to improve your putting.
7 Drills & Tips To Improve Your Putting Confidence
These 7 putting tips will put you on the road to holing almost all of your putts under 6 feet. They will eliminate any ounce of doubt you may have and help you build a solid base of confidence, one you can rely on in any pressurised situation.
These drills will give you the confidence to spring back after a poor putt because you have diligently taken all of these lessons on broad.
1. Develop a putting pre-shot routine for consistency on the greens
Having a putting pre-shot routine simplifies the game. By having a consistent proven routine you can rely under pressure, you have a massive advantage over your golf buddies and opponents. Most golfers vary their approach from one putt to the next, thus introducing a large degree of error into their putting stroke.
Through trial and error you need to develop a pre-shot routine you can consistently repeat for every putt you make. By developing a routine you will have a proven way to help you focus on each and every putt. You will be able to repeat each putt, continually hitting one solid putt after another. Once you are mastering these skills your confidence will naturally increase.
Through regular practice of your pre-shot routine it will gradually become automatic and your best ally on the course. Ultimately your best putting will happen when you focus totally on the routine rather than the result.
Never think about the end result. Don’t think this is for birdie, par, bogey or worse, it will only distract you. If you begin to project your thoughts in the future, stop what you are doing and start again. Go back to thoughts of the process and successfully execute your pre-shot routine.
Only in a dedicated practice session can you specifically work out a routine that works for you and then be able to fine tune it. Remember you should be able to replicate what you do on the practice green on the golf course. Once your own personal putting pre-shot routine becomes a natural part of your game you will automatically hole more putts from one round to the next and see your confidence soar.
2. Build your confidence from regular practice
It’s crucial you practise your pre-shot routine, as this reinforces your belief and self confidence. By doing this you are not only developing your feel but strengthening your confidence on the greens.
Learn to focus for short periods of time. It’s recommended you practise in 2 blocks of 15 minutes for a total of half an hour, 3 to 5 times a week. During the 15 minutes you need to commit yourself mentally and physically to the task of performing your routine many times over. In between the two sessions allow yourself to relax, talk to friends, try some one handed putts, play around and then once the time out is over return to practising your pre-shot routine.
Refer to the drills below for specifics on what to practise.
3. Increase your confidence by commitment
Your confidence naturally increases when you stick to the line you decide on, commit to a putt, and hole it. There is no room for indecision on the golf course. It’s paramount you commit yourself to every shot.
You can ill afford to be indecisive on the putting green. Without the commitment, it’s so easy to change your mind on the line of a putt halfway through your setup. In fact without commitment you can easily panic as you address the putt. If you’re in two minds, start by reading the putt again so as you give yourself every chance to be committed to it. It’s often when you are indecisive that you get a rush of blood to the head and hit the ball well past the hole.
It’s key to be relaxed on the greens. Often you will tense up when you are scared of a putt. By forcing yourself to commit and have the right mindset you can immediately see the tension disappear and your confidence increase.
4. Gain confidence from the right preparation on the practice putting green
By following the advice above you will have the confidence to hole every putt before even before you reach the first tee or practice putting green. Your confidence will already be sky high and it’s best to spend your time on the practice green determining the pace of the green. This will ultimately give you even more confidence as you allow your subconscious to acknowledge any change in speed, compared to what you are used to putting on.
Furthermore instead of wasting time trying to find a hole on a flat part of the practice green and even getting distracted by other golfers putting to the same hole, it’s recommended you putt instead to a tee peg. Desperately trying to hole a few putts on the practice green before you go out for your round is really only for those that haven’t put in the hard work to build a solid foundation of confidence. Simply putting to a tee will enable you to concentrate more on repeating your pre-shot routine and testing the pace of the greens. Don’t even risk getting sidetracked by counting how many putts you have holed on the practice green. Why risk seeing yourself miss a putt before you go out to play. Remember to focus on executing the process rather than the final result.
5. Build your confidence by creating a selective memory bank
Confidence is built on a succession of success stories and experiences, these begin to form your very own private image and video memory bank. When it comes to golf you need to carefully select what you put into this memory bank. If you miss a short putt you need to be selective and delete it so as you are only storing positive mental images.
You don’t necessarily need to store all the putts that you hole. Sometimes you can build up confidence from a good miss. This would be where you have successfully read and executed a long putt that breaks a few times, leaving you with a tap in.
If you mentally have a whole catalogue of missed putts in your mind, it is time to go back to the drawing board. You need to start building a positive memory bank on the practice green. In principle this means repeatedly holing short 2 and 3 feet putts in blocks of 50 or 100. It may seem like a repetitive and at times boring exercise but the essence of great putting is confidence. When you have successfully holed 50 three feet putts in a row, it’s difficult not to be confident.
In conclusion when you start to feel your confidence waiver you can quickly replay some of your best putts in your head, immediately giving you a boost and ensuring you have the right mental approach for the next putt.
6. Using positive self talk to maintain your confidence
Any self talk that knocks you back after a missed putt is destructive. As humans we have a habit of undermining our confidence with negative comments. Thus in order to maintain your confidence your self talk should be supportive and encouraging. There’s no need to blame others, yourself or even your putter!
There are many reasons you may feel it’s appropriate to get upset on the greens. A few examples would be misreading the line, losing concentration, not putting over your target, not sticking to your pre-shot routine. The reality is, that these types of things will happen from time to time, the goal though is to ensure this one event doesn’t get to you. Negative self talk will only make you dwell on the error longer than necessary. Instead you should use affirmations to keep a positive mindset and outlook on the rest of your round. What exact affirmation you use is a personal choice, but making references to your memory bank in the tip above will definitely squash any doubt that might creep in.
7. Putting Drills to build confidence
Once you have a working consistent pre-shot routine, it’s time to practise it in tandem with the 6 putting drills explained below. All of these drills will help increase your confidence and keep you in the groove. Simply applying these during a 30 minute session will improve your technique and mindset.
i. Clock drill
First place 4 tees around the hole at 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock, 3 feet from the hole on a flat area of the green. Next place a ball next to each tee. The objective is to to make 4 consecutive putts. If you miss a putt you have to start again and if you hole all 4 holes you move each tee a further foot out from the hole. Thus you are now faced with 4 putts, each 4 feet from the hole. Again if you miss you have to start from 3 feet and if you hole all 4 balls you move onto putting from 5 feet from the hole.
This is a perfect drill for practising your pre-shot routine, holing lots of short putts and storing a lot of positive images of successful putts in your mind. Additionally this drill recreates the pressure you will feel out on the course because you can’t afford to lose your focus and start from the very beginning.
You can alter this drill to fit your own personal preferences in a number of ways. Firstly you can decide to hit 3 balls from each tee instead of one. Secondly you can maker it harder by setting it up on a slope so as you can practise putting uphill, downhill and with varying amounts of break.
This clock drill can be expanded to the point you have 10 balls in a circle around the hole rather than four. Perhaps you have seen Phil Mickelson doing this on TV or in person at a tournament. Phil sets himself the task of holing all 10 and then repeating again from the same distance a further 9 times to make a total of 100 putts.
ii. One ball practise drill
This putting drill allows you to hole a lot of short putts under pressure, thereby increasing your confidence as you hole more and putt further from the hole. Start by placing 5 tees in a line, with the first one 2 feet from the hole and the last one 6 feet from the hole. Next hole a putt from the tee nearest to the hole and then more to the next tee a further foot away. The pressure will increase as you move away from the hole because if you miss you have to start from the beginning by holing the 2 feet putt again.
The alternative is to putt 3 balls from each tee. Seeing yourself hole a lot of putts definitely helps increase your overall confidence.
iii. Putting to a smaller target drill
Making yourself putt to a smaller target, helps you focus more and gives you the belief and confidence you can hole any putt when you return to the hole width of 4.25 inches wide
Placing a tall plastic drinks bottle in the hole creates a smaller target. Furthermore using a tee or coin increases the accuracy required to hit your target.
iv. Developing feel and distance control drill
Stand 36 feet away from the hole and have 5 golf balls at your disposable. The aim is to putt all 5 balls further than your last putt and shortof the hole. Ideally you will putt the first ball 6 feet and then using your feel and touch, putt the next ball 6 feet further than the one before. This drill gives you a real awareness of your distance control.
v. Reacting to a target drill
As stated before putting is a target orientated task. Putting is a reaction to a target and this simple drill helps you shift your focus to the target. It revolves around making 10 putts from 2 to 10 feet from the hole. These can be totally random, the key is to putt very quickly without spending anytime on alignment. You should look at the hole and then hit the ball, taking no longer than 2 seconds to execute from the time you initially stand over the ball. There is no need to worry about the result. After each putt, move to a new location and quickly putt to the hole. This drill helps you to tune into the target by reacting to it as soon as you see it.
vi. Improving your putting technique drill
Confidence can be ruined by poor technique that stems from swinging poorly on your back swing, causing the putter head to come inside or outside too much. To prevent this and shorten your back swing place a tee directly behind ball with a gap of 6 inches. Now when you putt back you are forced into making a short back swing as you touch the tee. This keeps your putter square and encourages you to accelerate through the ball towards the target.