Archived Newsletters - MENTAL PUTTING MECHANICS :
Newsletter October 2010
In North America, Autumn or fall is the transition from warm summer weather to cooler weather signaling the coming of winter. Deciduous trees change their leaves into spectacular colors and fall from the trees. That is why this time is known as fall in North America. As I write this I can see the strong winds from hurricane Nicole blowing leaves off the trees, and I can hear the acorns bouncing off my roof.
Fall weather rarely is a smooth transition, and the days alternate between warm and cool days. Autumn is the season when most hurricanes occur bringing at the very least, copious amounts of rain. As the air temperature cools overnight, we often awake to fog in the morning or frost on the greens. Being flexible and being able to adapt easily to all kinds of conditions is one of the necessary mental tools for success.
As summer wanes it is a good time to reflect on all that it held for you. It is a perfect time to reflect back on what you have done on the golf course and what you want to accomplish in the future. If your scores didn’t go down, or you didn’t play as well as you desired most of the time, the first place to look is at the scoring part of your game.
If you watched the Ryder Cup matches over the weekend, you will have noticed how important good putting is to winning. Here is some information to help you lower your scores with better mental putting skills.
F is for Fall. F is for Fun.
Of all the clubs, the putter gets the least attention. People pick putters because they feel good, or because they putt well with it the first time out. Your putter needs to have the correct length, correct lie angle and loft, and correct weight to compliment your stroke. If your grip is the wrong size it can create tension, and can also result in tendonitis or bursitis.
Golfers make unorthodox movements to compensate for the equipment they are using, and the putter is no exception. If you have not been fitted for your putter, this is the first thing you need to do. When you are fitted correctly you will feel very confident knowing that your putter is giving you the best possible aim and alignment.
Be fitted to your putter for optimal putting.
If you are walking, read the green as you approach it. Look for the lie of the land or overall slope of the green. If you are in a cart, park the cart greenside and walk to the front of the green instead of going directly to your ball. Many greens slope toward the fairway. Looking at the green from the front it is easier to see the overall shape and undulations of the green than looking at it from behind the hole.
Looking at the green, find the high side of the green first and then determine where the water would go if it rains. This will determine the slopes in the green. You may also want to stand behind the green to see which way it slants overall. If the green is elevated, squat down so you can see it at eye level.
Generally speaking, for mountain courses, the terrain and putts will often slope away from the highest peak. Similarly, putts will slope away from a river, lake or ocean.
When the wind is blowing the flag out straight, it can affect the ball by blowing it offline, increase its speed when going downwind, and slow it down into the wind.
The speed of putts will generally change depending upon the time of day. With dew on the grass in the morning, putts will often be slower than they look. As the sun dries out the grass, putts will become faster.
You must be a good reader of the greens to putt well.
GRASSES ON PUTTING GREENS
Greens as well as golf courses have changed over the years. Greens are often mowed as low as 1/10 of an inch creating lightning-fast putts.
As the day wears on, the grass in the hot sun will grow. Greens with Annual Bluegrass/Poa Annua (Oakmont Country Club greens) will grow tiny white seed heads causing them to be bumpy in the afternoon. Poa is a cool weather grass and putts well in the spring and fall, but dies out in the hot humid weather of summer.
Bentgrass is a cool weather grass that has a beautiful fine texture, deep green color, thick density and is noted for having a subtle grain which tends to follow the direction of draining water. Bentgrass tends to grow vertically so the ball holds the line.
Bermuda-grass greens are found in hot southern climates. The grass grows more parallel to the ground than bent. It is heavy, thicker, stronger and harder to cut short and close to the ground. Thus the tough blades of Bermuda grass will influence the roll of the ball. It is called the grain of the green. The ball will break with the grain on an otherwise flat putt.
The blades of Bermuda grass tend to grow west toward the setting sun, and greens will have more grain in the afternoon when the grass grows most. The grain can be seen by the color of the grass. If the grass has a deeper shade of green, you are putting “against the grain.” If you are putting “with the grain,” it will have a shiny, lighter green color. Putts hit into the grain will slow down, and down-grain putts will be faster. Putting across the grain can cause your ball to be pulled right or left, or even uphill. The grain of the green can also affect chip shots.
Another way to read the grain is to look inside the cup. One side of the cup will be smooth green grass overhanging the lip and the other side will be brown and rough. From this you can determine that the grain is growing (down-grain) in the direction of the grass hanging over the edge. The grain grows with the prevailing wind.
Decide that today’s grass is your favorite kind of grass to putt on.
READING THE BREAK
While you are waiting your turn to putt, walk 360 degrees around your putt looking for the grain and any subtle slopes. Look for the true downward direction of the slope. This will help you determine which way your ball will break at the hole.
The biggest mistake recreational golfers make is to under-read their putts. Dave Pelz recommends that you triple the amount of break you see in a putt and aim there.
Pros know that over-reading a break on “the pro side” or “the high side” is better than not reading enough break as a putt on the high side always has a chance of breaking and falling into the hole. Below the hole it never has a chance to fall in.
Watch the putts of your playing partners. Look for the speed of their putts; see how the putts react close to the hole, and what they do if they go beyond the hole.
The speed of your putt determines the break. The harder you hit the ball, the straighter it rolls. As the ball begins to slow down, it is more affected by the slopes and slants in the green.
Good putters adapt to the conditions.
Poor players complain about the conditions.
SPEED OF THE GREENS
The ball must have a certain speed as it reaches the hole. The slower the speed, the more likely it is that the green will deflect the ball from its intended course.
According to Pelz’ research, the probability that the ball will fall into the hole is highest when it rolls fast enough that, assuming that the hole is covered over, the ball comes to rest 17 inches beyond the hole.
Most short putts are missed due to negative thoughts and carelessness which results in deceleration; the dreaded “de-cel.” Accelerate through every length putt.
Harvey Penick says most putts are left short not because you didn’t hit it hard enough, but because you didn’t hit it on the sweet spot of the putter.
Never up. Never In.
Keep it simple. The putting stroke is one of the simplest tasks in sport.
The putting stroke itself is only one part of the art of putting. Of equal importance are seeing a clear picture of the path to the hole, having a consistent set-up, reading the greens, and aiming the clubface correctly.
To be a great putter, you need to train your eyes to see a mental picture of the hole and the path that the ball will travel to drop in. Look at the hole until you have a mental picture of it, of the space where it is, and the path that the ball will travel to get there. Tiger’s father Earl taught him to “Putt to the picture.” If you don’t see a picture, practice looking back and forth until you can see it in your mind’s eye. You can practice this by tossing a ball to the hole with your eyes closed.
Your own vision is one of the most powerful faculties you have for bringing an invisible activity into visible, physical form.
Imagination and visualization create good putts.
Short putts are made more difficult because you are “supposed” to make them. A four footer is the easiest stroke in golf as the putter only moves back an inch or two.
Practice putting 6-inch “tap-ins” that you never miss, and use that on 4-5 foot putts. When you have a 4-foot pressure putt, pick out a spot on your line that is 6 inches in front of your ball, and putt your tap-in stroke.
The key to your short game is where you putt from. Practice 20-30 foot putts until they consistently end up in a 3-foot radius. The average pro makes 90% of his 3-foot putts.
Phil Michelson practices making 100 3-footers in a row from a circle around the hole. If he misses on the 87th, he starts over. As an amateur you can start with 10 in a row.
Perfect practice makes perfect putts.
Drive for show, putt for dough.
Be committed to focusing your attention on putting the ball in the hole.
Fear thoughts are thoughts about missing. Fear is focusing on the outcome. Focus on the process of giving the ball the best possible chance to go into the hole. Trust that you can do this. Trust is better than training.
Putting is made difficult when the average golfer’s thoughts and feelings are comprised of negative suggestions from the world around him. When you let go of the idea that missing a putt has serious consequences, you will be enjoying a fun game that will end up with positive results.
- Collect your information.
- Determine speed, distance and break, imagining the line the ball will follow.
- Take practice strokes to feel the rhythm and speed of your stroke.
- Use a consistent preshot routine to focus and feel comfortable over the ball.
- Feel relaxed and confident.
Make a decision to be a great putter.
“Without confidence, a golfer is little more than a hacker.” –Bobby Jones
A confident golfer thinks about what he wants to happen on the course. A golfer who lacks confidence thinks about the things he doesn’t want to happen. Confident golfers play like athletes.
Confidence is the ability to focus your mind and think only about the ball going to the target.
If, instead of remembering your successful shots, you’re remembering the misses, your confidence is going to suffer. If your confidence suffers, your performance will suffer. Anchor your successful putts into your memory bank by feeling the emotion of joy. Your subconscious mind will then be able to access the process easily.
At his best, Tiger radiated confidence. He felt that if he played his best golf, he was going to win. If he played less than his best, he felt there might be a few guys who could beat him, but not many. And they’d have to be playing at their peak performance level. In those days, a lot of players looked for Tiger’s name on the scoreboard. Tiger didn’t look for anyone else’s.
Confidence is feeling like a winner
Even if you’re not the winner.
Entrain Your Heart & Brain for Peak Performances!
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