First published on the Golf Monthly website on Friday 23rd July 2010
Putting – the bane of my golfing life. So far this season, I’ve suffered badly on the greens and, as such, have been totally unable to construct good scores.
I know it’s a cliché but it’s impossible to overstate the importance of putting in golf. I’ve had Medal rounds this year where I’ve played as well as I ever have from tee to green yet the ball has simply refused to get in the hole once I’ve reached the putting surface.
During some rounds I’ve just putted poorly – lacked conviction on the stroke and misread the surfaces. In other rounds, I’ve felt confident with the flat stick and have stroked the ball nicely, yet that obstinate little white orb remains defiantly above ground.
I’ve tried almost everything to change the situation over the last few months – different putters, using more hands / less hands, gripping the putter so loosely it’s in danger of falling from my grasp, standing further away, widening my stance, looking at the hole through the stroke, closing my eyes, going cross handed, separating the hands, the claw grip, narrowing my stance, moving the ball back / forward in my stance, shortening my backswing and more and more… oh, so many thoughts, I’m struggling to breathe, arrrggghhhh… The only thing I refuse to do is succumb to the long putter. I’m with Tom Watson on that one.
Anyway, yesterday evening I went out for nine holes with a pal and narrowly missed a couple of makeable putts on the first two greens. “See, this is exactly what’s been happening.” I moaned. “They were reasonable putts,” he replied. “You just didn’t look like you believed they would go in.”
That’s the essence of the problem – It doesn’t matter what technical alterations you make to your stroke or stance. If you don’t believe the putt will go in, it won’t. For the next seven holes I decided I would concentrate solely on willing the ball into the cup. I tried to blank my mind of everything except the putt dropping.
It was incredibly successful and I holed a greater total length of putts during those seven holes than I have over the entire last month. I don’t think I believe in telekinesis so it wasn’t that I was actually willing the ball into the hole. But, I managed to attain a mental state where I really did believe the ball would go in.
I’m almost certain I’ll never be able to get my fickle brain to act like that again. I’m absolutely certain I won’t be able to do it in a competition. But, it was a revelation while it lasted and it emphasised how important self-belief is on the greens.
If your brain thinks you’re likely to narrowly miss a putt. It will send a message to your body that causes you to narrowly miss. Even if you’re lined up correctly your brain will find a way to slightly push it with a twitch of the hand or take just an ounce off the power so it comes up short. If your brain tells you you’re likely to make the putt it will help your body do everything possible to put the ball in the cup.
I’m playing in a team tournament at Banchory tomorrow where I’m hoping to re-find that almost trance-like state I enjoyed last night. I aim to transcend the physical and move to a higher golfing plane where putting the ball in the hole is as simple as placing a trophy on a shelf. The problem is – I’ve just re-read this paragraph and I simply don’t believe myself.