As mental game coach, where a player’s focus is before, during and after a putt is very important to me. I’ve analyzed the pre-putt routine of hundreds of Tour players and there’s a direct correlation with the steps they go through and how consistent and successful they are.
A players personality type will probably influence the speed of their routine, but all Tour players all reach a similar state of mind when they are ready to pull the trigger.
One putting routine I really like is Brandt Snedeker’s. Sure, Brandt is a quick player and his routine is also very quick. But I think we can all learn a thing or two from how instinctive this process is.
Why is the pre-putt routine so important?
If you’re not following a proper sequence, your mind can wander onto things such as the importance of the outcome and the technical aspects of your stroke. Any doubt or hesitation about the line, how good your stroke is, or what making or missing means, makes for a tentative and inconsistent stroke, and inconsistent results.
Putting is about feel and trust; the more you can take conscious thinking out of it and just use your eyes and trust yourself to hit the ball the correct distance, the better. It needs to be “reactive”, not “proactive” when you are over the ball. Clearly your conscious mind is active when making decisions about the line and speed, but once that is decided upon, the best thing you can do is put faith in your process and trust your stroke.
Don’t leave time for hesitation
When you’re nervous about a putt, you try to take more control. The desire for control, makes the the left-brain (analytical/logical side) more active in the process which causes “over-thinking” or “paralysis by analysis”. When the time before making the stroke is more left brain and less right brain, more time is usually taken and the fluidity and quality of the stroke is compromised.
Pay attention to the Tour player routines when you watch the PGA Tour TV coverage. If you were to put a clock to them, they would be the same every time. The key is that once the decision on line and speed has been made, the mind is quiet and the stroke reactive to the image you’ve created. To make sure the this happens every time, you might want to consider speeding up your routine, especially when you’re over the ball.
Brandt Snedekers Pre-putt Routine
Brandt Snedeker finds his line through good green reading and visualization, then he:
1. Makes a few rehearsal strokes beside the ball while looking at the hole and seeing the line (programming the look and feel of it into the subconscious).
2. Gets set up/aligned properly (this would be pretty automatic from purposeful practice).
3. Takes one glance at the target (seeing the line and hole)
4. Takes one glance at the ball
5. Starts take away
All that takes about 5 seconds. It’s possible there’s some positive self talk in there, but from what I can see, the routine is very consistent with little conscious thinking over the ball. Make sure you practice this when working on your putting, and make (sticking to) it your goal for each round. If you can do this, the outcome will take care of itself!
Photo by Keith Allison