Six Mental Steps to Great Putting

By Golf Fitness MagazineJuly 29, 2009, 4:00 pm
By Dr. Robert K. Winters
Dr. Robert K. Winters works with Jonathan MooreThe Basic Question: Are you Good?
Here is a fact that you may already know: Great putters make putts. I am sure that you are unimpressed with that statement but none the less, it is still true. Great putters make short putts, long putts, uphill and downhill putts, and putts that curve through double-breaks. They make putts for club championships and friendly money wagers, and through it all, make it look easy in the process! Quite simply, great putters make putts on all types of greens and grasses and some even do it on lousy greens and inferior course conditions! The question I am most often asked is: What is the secret to great putting? Where does it originate, is it in the stroke, or is it in the mental attitude of the putter?
 
For instance, when I first start working with a golfer, I always ask the basic question: Are you a good putter? The answers that I have received over the years may astound you! Many of them give me a socially acceptable response and say that they are relatively streaky but that they would like to be more consistent. Almost everyone that I work with is trying to become a better putter. To this day in time, I have yet to meet a golfer who has responded to my initial question with this answer:
 
Well yes, Dr. Bob, I am a good putter. In fact, I am so good on the green that I may have a problem because I am making too many putts. I really need to slow down! Making all of these putts has become a problem!
 
I can honestly say that I havent met anyone with this type of response because everyone either feels that they are not making enough putts or that they want to make more putts! As a sport psychologist and putting researcher, I can say with certainty that great putters think differently about putting from poor putters, and this difference is in their attitude and mental philosophy about the task of putting!
 
Technical skill vs Emotional skill
As a mental coach to some of the games great young stars such as Jonathan Moore, Ryan Blaum, Taylor Leon, Sandra Gal, and Drew Weaver, I happen to believe that the physical task of putting is relatively easy. Almost anyone who can learn to hold a putter squarely and refine their mechanics by sheer practice can become a fairly good putter and start to make putts. In terms of technical proficiency, the putting motion is a simple motion by moving your hands, arms and shoulders back and forth and striking the ball on the center of the putterface. It seems benign enough.
 
But in terms of actual human response, perhaps the most overlooked and difficult part of putting is the psychological devastation that comes with missing and watching the negative picture of the golf ball sliding by the hole. In no other arena of sport do you have the frequency of outcome feedback so honest and objective as you do on the putting green. In essence, you either make the putt, or you miss. Experience enough misses and the negative pictures start to deteriorate your confidence and affect your putting stroke. No wonder putting has been the Achilles heel in so many great players careers!
 
I have provided a list of the six psychological qualities that separate the great putters from the poor putters. These six psychological characteristics are all common to great putters and great putting. I believe that if you can emulate what the great putters do as successful role models, you will find that your putting will improve as well!
 
Dr. Robert K. Winters works with Jonathan Moore
 
The six mental characteristics of great putters are:
1 Great putters keep putting simple
2 Great putters enjoy the task of putting
3 Great putters trust
4 Great putters know that its OK to miss!
5 Great putters have patience
6 Great putters have confidence
Mental Key #1: Keep it Simple!
The first mental characteristic is that great putters keep putting simple. Great putters dont get lost in dealing with their mechanics, even if their mechanics are poor on a certain day, because they realize that the most important thing at the present moment is to get the ball into the hole as swiftly and efficiently as possible! Great putters use their minds to keep the task of putting simple, clear and specific. Their basic mental focus is: Where do I want the ball to go and how hard do I hit the ball to get it there? From a psychological viewpoint, I think this is where the idea of keeping it simple becomes crucial.
 
Now, lets discuss these characteristics and see how your putting can benefit from implementing them into your golf game!
 
Mental Key #2: Learn to Enjoy the Process of Putting!
The second mental characteristic is that great putters enjoy putting. I often hear golfers talk on the practice green about how putting is boring and they dislike the idea of putting altogether. These players make the entire activity of putting work instead of a challenging or enjoyable activity! In reality, by choosing to comment on how much they dread putting and view it from a negative mindset, they never give themselves a chance to see how good a putter they can be! In turn, their self-limiting mindsets hold them back from ever achieving any putting greatness!
 
It comes down to the simple notion of changing your attitude about putting. Once you can change your attitude and view putting as a joyful event and start to appreciate the value of practicing putting, the more success youll have on the greens.
 
Mental Key #3: Great Putters Trust!
The third vital characteristic of great putters is that they trust. Great putters trust their mechanics, their stroke, their read of the green, their touch and feel, and most importantly they trust their putting talent. Great putters totally trust that everything is going to work out well and that the ball is going to drop into the hole. Great putters continue to trust even more when the ball fails to drop. They understand that by allowing themselves to totally trust in their putting ability, they gain more control by letting go of the overcontrolling tendencies of trying to force or coerce the ball into the hole. Trust is the letting go of trying hard to force the ball into the hole. Great putters have learned that by allowing themselves to trust also allows them to putt their best. You should do this as well!
 
Mental Key #4: Its OK to Miss!
The fourth mental characteristic of great putters is that they know its OK to miss! Solheim Cup Captain and LPGA golfer Helen Alfreddson once offered a great piece of wisdom about putting in a book that I co-authored, entitled The Mental Art of Putting. Helen stated: I know that I am going to miss some putts, but I am going to miss them by trying to make them! I believe what Helen suggests here is what is referred to in American basketball as a shooters mentality. That is, in basketball when a great shooter such as Michael Jordan shoots and misses and goes 0 for 6, does he stop shooting? Absolutely not! He reminds himself that he may go 12 for 12 starting on the very next shot.
 
Thus, a series of misses doesnt detract his focus on the job of making baskets. Great putters think in this same way. When they miss, they dont have time to fear the results. They are merely getting themselves ready for the next putt and to have success. Thus, a great putter has a shooters mentality that doesnt fear missing. Missing for a great putter is OK because they know that if they just keep putting, they are going to make a lot of putts. So, the next time you have a series of misses, forget about the lost opportunities, and get into the next putt with a shooters mentality to make the next one! Remember, in order for a hot streak to occur, it only takes one holed putt to get it going!
 
Mental Key #5: Developing Patience on the Green
The fifth characteristic of great putters is that they have patience. Patience on the putting green means that you can accept a miss as a putt that had a chance to go in, but stayed out. Patience can be viewed as a form of putting confidence that says If I keep on doing the same good things with my putting today, sooner or later they will start to drop. Patience is the characteristic that suggests that good things will happen if a player stays on task, doesnt become distracted, frustrated or angry, and that by staying in the process of focusing on making putts, will ultimately lead to success.
 
Mental Key #6: Putting is about Confidence!
The sixth and final characteristic of all great putters is that they have confidence. A great putter looks forward to the opportunity of making putts, versus the opportunity to fail. The difference between the two ways of thinking is all about attitude. Confidence on the putting green is a learned skill that starts by developing a positive putting attitude for success. Putting confidence is simply the mental and emotional glue that provides a player the belief that they will make a putt even before they step into and address the ball. Great putters know theyre good and they allow themselves every opportunity to prove their putting talent each time they putt.
 
A key point: Confident putters do not allow negative outcomes to affect their confidence because they know that they are giving their best effort into each and every roll and that it is only a matter of time until success arrives.
 
A Final Word
Great putters know that confidence is vital and they do everything they can to develop, sustain, and enhance their belief system. You must do the same and start to use these six mental keys to provide you with a foundation for creating enduring putting success! Remember, great putting is more about attitude and conviction that it is about pure stroke mechanics. So, start to create an attitude that provides you with a foundation for seeing how great a putter you can be. If you do, I am certain that you will be finding your ball at the bottom of the cup more often! I will see you on the fairways!
 
Dr. Robert K. Winters, is an internationally renowned sport psychologist who works with competitive golfers from around the world. He is a GFM Advisory Team Member. To learn more about Dr. Winters, log onto www.golffitnessmagazine.com/advisoryteam.
 

EDITORS NOTE: Golf Fitness Magazine is the only national consumer publication dedicated to golf-specific fitness, mental focus, and improving ability, performance and health among all golfers. Our priority is to maximize your potential, lower your scores, reduce your risk of injury, and extend your golfing years. Each issue has departments dedicated to men, women, seniors, and juniors along with tips, advice and simple exercise routines from GFMs team of experts. If you want to improve your golf game, and hit the ball farther, click here for special offers on a subscription so you can have all this and more in-depth advice delivered right to you! Get cutting edge fitness & mental tips sent to your inbox each month with our FREE golf performance eNewsletter, Shape Your Game. To contact our Senior Editor, Publisher or Online Editor with questions or comments, please visit our web site golffitnessmagazine.com for more information.
Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

"The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

“Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

Getty Images

McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

Getty Images

Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

Getty Images

Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.