Eliminate The 3 Putt

How to Eliminate The 3 Putt With A Good Mental Approach

The great thing about putting, is that it’s less about technique and more about your mental approach and developing a feel for distances. In this article, I’d like to you how to change your mental approach to help you eliminate the 3 putt, or at least get closer to it.

The keys to better long putting are:

1. Good preparation
2. A solid pre-putt routine
3. Distance control
4. Good contact

1. See – Walk around the putt and see it from all angles to determine length, slope and speed. Some players like to pace off the distance, so they know if it’s 25, 30, 35 feet etc. Create a vivid image of the ball tracking to the hole.

2. Feel – With your practice strokes, play that exact putt and feel the rhythm of the stroke. See the putt roll out in your mind with each stroke. The distance the ball travels is determined by the length of the stroke, not how hard you hit the ball. If you were to throw the ball to the target, you wouldn’t throw it any harder to distances further away, you would simply take your arm further back. When you practice, start to become aware of how far you take the putter back vs the length of the putt. The tempo is the same.

3. Execute – Once you are confident on the line and you have committed to it and felt the distance with your practice strokes, the focus is now on hitting the ball in the center of the putter, nothing else. Focus on a single dimple on the ball for 1-2 seconds before starting your stroke (note: don’t stare at the ball for too long, so as not to lose connection with the putt). A tour pro will hit the ball out the center of the putter 99% of the time. The average amateur will make contact with the center far fewer times resulting in off-line putts with poor distance control. This is probably the biggest reason for the 3 putt, more so than getting the line right (green reading).

4. Respond – watch the putt to relate what you felt to the end result. You need to be able to use the feedback to determine which of these elements you are doing well and what you need to improve. Was it hit out the center of the putter? Did you miss read it? How was your distance control? Be objective about mistakes (not emotional) and then hit the reset button.

5. Practice
Good distance control is arguably the most important factor in good long putting. To eliminate the 3 putt, you’ll need excellent distance control. Random practice teaches your body and mind to synchronize to different distances quickly. Try practice reps where you hit to a different distance for each putt e.g. 10, 25, 25, 5, 30 feet etc. If you want putting practice drills, I’ve got plenty of them in the Golf State of Mind Putting System

6. A repeatable routine
The time it takes to read a putt might vary, but the time taken from when you start your practice strokes to when you take the putter back from the ball should be the same. Many tour players know the exact number of seconds their routine is for putting (somewhere around 10 seconds). If the time taken to complete your routine is the same, it means your focus was in the same place. If it varies, it’s likely there’s doubt and negative thoughts creeping in. Practice this away from the course and get it right on the course.

7. Reduce tension
When you’re feeling nervous or under pressure, chances are there’s more tension in your muscles (hands, arms and shoulders). This affects your feel for the putter head and the tempo of your stroke. While you go through your routine, make it a habit to notice any tension in your grip, arms and shoulders and do you best to lighten it.

Thanks for reading. I hope these tips will help you lower your 3 putts and make more birdies. Would love to hear your feedback!

Photo by Flash and Mel

Free Mental Game of Putting Course

David MacKenzie

is a golf coach and golf publisher and lives in Washington DC. He is the founder of Golf State of Mind a teaching program designed to help golfers eliminate negative mental interference and play with confidence.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Troy Vayanos

    Excellent Post.

    Some great advice on long range putting. I particularly like the part about practising feeling the stroke before you actually perform the real thing.

    Top advice for golfers of all levels.

  2. Steve

    Good tip but an important thing to remeber is to pick your spot 6 inches beyond the hole now what this means is get a spot on the line you want to put the ball too. The reason for this is if you focus on the hole you will putt the ball to the hole so you miss the line and will miss the putt. I have been using this for 2 months now and trust me it works.

    By focusing on your line and small spot you learn to focus on your line and speed.

  3. Rick

    steve that is what Breed said when he said pick the dimple. It is easier to pick something on the ball to hit than even something 6 inches ahead of the ball. Still the same principle.

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