Six Mental Steps to Great Putting

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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.
 

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