Putting Under Pressure

“Look And React” To Putt Better Under Pressure

Do you ever stand over a must-make 5 ft putt and get totally overwhelmed by the situation?

Do you lose confidence and make a jerky, stab at the ball instead of your normal free-flowing stroke?

Physically speaking, a 5 footer is a 5 footer, whether it’s in practice or in competition.

But for you, at that moment, it’s the difference between success and failure.

The hole seems a lot smaller.

Your previously quiet mind is over-run with the noise of what making that putt will mean for you in the future.

Tension creeps into your grip without you knowing it.

Your tempo gets quicker, and…before you know it…you’ve blown it 🙁

Why does pressure affect the putting stroke?

Golfers that reach the top level have holed thousands of putts under pressure. They don’t get to this level because they are born mentally tougher than you or I, instead they’ve learned the proper mental techniques to allow them to access their natural stroke, even under the highest pressure.

The difference between your stroke when making a 5 footer in practice and a 5 footer to win the club championship is to do with:

  • The amount of conscious-mind interference before and during the stroke
  • The build-up of physical tension before making the stroke

However, there are a couple of good techniques to counter this and have you putt more freely when the pressure is on:

Make golf more reactive

Golf is a hard game because you have a lot of time to think.

You’re only “playing” for a fraction of the time you’re on the course. Compare that to a game like basketball or soccer. In these games you’re playing for the whole time you’re on the court or field and you’re always reacting to what’s going on.

In those games, you don’t get a lot of time to think consciously, you’re just having to trust your practice i.e. think subconsciously.

In golf however, the conscious mind can go into over-drive in between and even during shots. A lot of the ways to control the in-between shots thoughts can be found in my free series of mental game lessons, but the moment before shots is just as important.

To increase your chance of success under pressure, you need to make your putting stroke more reactive.

Before each putt, I’d like you to “look and react” instead of what you might currently do: look and think. This way, you’ll be using your subconscious mind to turn the ”look” into a reality i.e. you’ll be accessing your natural stroke.

Make it part of your pre-putt routine to take 2-3 good “looks” down the line of the putt and then simply, “react” to that imagery! Don’t give yourself time to think. See a vivid image of the line the ball will take and see it going in, and then just glance at the ball before taking the putter back. Some elite players I’ve worked with say that it seems like they start their back-stroke before they bring their eyes back to the ball. Problems can arise when you look at the ball for too long which can cause freezing and tension. You need to remain connected with the putt (what’s in front of you) at all times.

The Secret To Putting Under Pressure

Here’s a technique you can use on the course, in pressure situations.

It involves counting, before, during and after your stroke. The idea here, is that instead of thinking about your mechanics or the consequences of making or missing the putt, you distract yourself by counting.

Once you’ve gone through your pre-shot routine and the putter is behind the ball, count to the following 5 actions:

  1. Make a look down the line to the hole to the count of “1”
  2. Glance back at the ball to the count of “2”
  3. Make your back-stroke to the count of “3”
  4. Make your forward-stroke to the count of “4”
  5. Look up to see where the putt to the count of “5”

So the whole putting action takes about 5 seconds.

Give this a go when you’re under pressure and let me know how it goes.

Play well!

Photo courtesy of Brandon Andersen

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.

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