In “Zen Putting: Mastering the Mental Game on the Greens”, Dr. Joseph Parent redefines making a putt. He putts it this way, if you started your putt on the line you intended, at the speed you intended, then you made your putt. This is important becuase it takes pressure away from holing the putt, and paradoxically leads to holing more putts.
Two rounds ago I took about 34 putts. For comparison the average PGA tour player will take about 30 putts per round. In my latest round, I only needed 27 putts. That’s a big difference. So how did that happen?
I have found that applying Dr. Parent’s definition of making putts is very helpful. It gets you focusing on the quality of your process. Getting comfortable with this method should help especially in higher pressure situations. If you become accustomed to focusing on the process it will release some of the pressure. Once I have picked out my line, I find that the most important thing is to get the speed right. This comes from trusting your feel.
In my putting practice lately I have focused on feeling the right speed on the practice stroke, and repeating my practice stroke when actually putting a ball. It has lessened the need to hit it harder, or to ease up on it. And has made it much easier to putt consistently. As you begin to trust your ability to fel the right speed, you begin to feel less pressure. Here is why.
If you don’t have good control of your speed, you attempt a tentative putt that either adds speed because you don’t feel the ball is going to reach the hole, or a decelerating stroke that ensures the putt won’t reach the target. Do this often enough and you end up with 4,5,6 footers for your second putt. These are not exactly the easiest putts. However, when you can trust your speed, you will end up with a lot more tap ins. This increases confidence and lowers pressure. If you know you are going to have a simple tap in, it actually becomes much easier to read the line, and hit a confident putt. Confident putts have a better chance of following their intended line and going in the hole.
What is the best way to practice this?
Go to the practice green, set down a ball and take a some practice strokes. Really try to get a feel for the speed of the putt. When you are certain that you have the right speed down, address the ball, and hit it the same speed as your practice stroke. Now, you need to pay attention. You probably won’t hit it the same speed as your practice stroke. Without judging, notice what happened. Did you hit it softer or harder than the practice stroke? Do a few and you should begin to notice your particular tendencies. Soon you will be able to consistently putt with the same speed as the practice stroke. And when you do, you’ll start to see some good results.