The Art of Putting: A Pure Mental Game

I’ve called this article “The Art of Putting”, because if you want to get better at it, it is imperative that you think about it as a visual art and not a technical science. Good putting is performed with the senses, which we can heighten every time we play. You need to see and feel everything and learn to trust your instincts. The more intense your focus is on the line and the greater your commitment to it, the better you will putt. Developing and practicing a solid routine of positive visualization, feel and trust, will give us the structure we need to become better putters and lower our scores.

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The Art of Putting

Putting is where scores are made. If you are an 18 handicapper and you make 36 putts a round (2 per hole) this represents 40% of your total number of strokes. So clearly it is worth dedicating at least as much practice time here as you do on your long and short game. This time is not about simply about perfecting your stroke, it’s about developing acute positive visualization and feel with every putt.

The most important factor in putting well is visualizing and committing to a line. Only you know how hard you are going to hit it, so only you can determine the the line you are going to hit it on. Reading the slopes and understanding how different grasses affect the putt will simply come with experience. The body performs better when the mind is focusing on visual images, instead of words or technical instructions. The mind needs to tell the body what it wants to do, not how to do it. Developing acute visualization of the ball rolling on its line into the hole will give your body all the information it needs to execute a putt well.

With your practice strokes, get into the habit of seeing the ball go in the hole. Whether you pick a spot to aim at or you see the whole putt, ALWAYS visualize holing every putt. Tiger believes he is going to hole every putt no matter how far away he is. If you have read any motivational books about the secrets of successful people, it is having a very positive image of this success that typically differentiates them from people who do not achieve it.You need to start believing you are a good putter and convincing yourself of a positive visual outcome before you strike the golf ball.

If we think about lagging it to the hole, we will miss more putts. I’m not saying you need to be so aggressive that you blow every putt 6 ft past the hole, but always focus on making it. We need a vivid a picture of the ball following its line and dying into the cup. Be so precise that you see the side of the cup the ball will drop in. You are actually playing the putt in your head before you hit the ball and seeing it go in a couple of times will increase your confidence and give you a far greater chance of making it. Use this mental imagery to feel the speed with your practice strokes, which will pre-set the right tempo. Once you are over the ball, you can be confident in the fact that your mind has all the information it needs to allow the body to hit a good putt. Then let the subconscious mind take over and concentrate on a solid strike.

If you can do all these things during your routine, you will have hit a good putt whatever the outcome. Your power of positive visualization will intensify with every putt. Overtime, this process will no doubt lead to better putting, greater confidence and lower scores.
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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 2 Comments

  1. Robert Beckley

    I have read many of your internet postings and enjoyed them. However, I would argue that good play creates confidence, not the other way around. In my case, many years ago I was a beginning tennis player with neither positive nor negative expectations. It was only after much early success, beating players who had played much longer than I, that my confidence grew. That, in turn, made me an even stronger player. But the confidence came only after my initial success. I’m not sure any player can become significantly better by simply believing he is. And I’m not sure believing you are confident is the same as being confident.

  2. David MacKenzie
    David MacKenzie

    Robert, for me there are 2 types of confidence – “External” and “Internal”. The type of confidence you get from playing well is called external confidence and isn’t long lasting. It’s definitely great that you have more good memories to recall but it puts too much pressure on your game to think that your confidence is contingent on how well you’re playing. Enduring confidence comes from within and there are ways to develop it. I have an article coming up which explains.

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