An Interesting Putting Epiphany
I shared my putting miseries with you guys last week, and so I thought I'd offer this follow-up. We had our first big club tournament this weekend, and that is the first time I've put my new/old putter "under fire" so to speak. And, to be honest, I was a little wobbly again. But I had the most interesting thing happen in the last few holes Sunday, I thought I'd share with you.
On the Saturday two-man scramble format, I wobbled on a few short putts, but my partner came through more often than not, and we shot 6-under, even though we left more than a couple out there that we'd like to have back. That put us in second place, and paired with the leaders for Sunday's better-ball format. I spent some extra time on the putting green before Sunday's round to try to get some confidence back.
So, Sunday, we are hanging with these guys. Other than the two-putt birdie on the short par-five, we were both making lots of pars, other than the complete bungle we made of our second. Then I went "wobbly" again, missing two 4-foot birdies in a row on our 9th and 10th hole (result of two stuffed SCOR wedge shots I might shamelessly add). On the 11th, I stuck a 6-iron to four feet for the third short birdie putt in a row. Then something strange happened.
As we approached the green, our course superintendent drove up to "check on the leaders", and was behind the green as it came my turn to putt. But rather than get more "yippy" with this added "pressure", I found myself grinding down a bit more, focusing on making the putt rather than thinking of missing, and hit it center cup. Whew.
Two routine two-putts followed, and we came to our 14th, where I faced a crucial par save of about 10 feet. With our lone 'gallery' still watching, I drained that one, too. Hmmm. Made another clutch two-putt on the long par three 15th, a little downhill 30-inch slider. By the 17th, we have about 3-4 carts of golfers surrounding the green and I center-cut another crucial par save of about 8 feet. Now to 18, and I center-cut a 17-18 foot birdie, the hole looking like a bucket to me. Not something I see that often.
So, like the analyst that I am, following the post round congrats and adult beverages, I turned my mind to trying to figure out why I began to putt better ... rather than worse ... as we drew our small crowd. And it hit me like a ton of bricks.
What I have been doing over these small putts is thinking of missing them. Putting from fear. But when I began to be "watched", I realized (after the fact) that I changed my focus. I stepped up my intensity, and thought of making these putts, rather than missing them. And the more we were watched, the more I focused ... and bore down ... and made clutch putts.
And that's what all good putters do. And what I always do on tee shots, approach shots and greenside recoveries. But haven't been doing on my putting. Hmmm, again.
So, I'll let you know how this goes, but I'm going to try to just change my whole approach to putting and grind a bit more. Block out any negative thoughts, and focus only on making the putt. And not assign so much importance to them that I'm afraid of missing.
I'll let you know how this works out in a month or so, as I have two member-guest events in the coming four weeks.
Until then, I'd sure like you guys to send me some topics that are on your mind for me to address.
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Kurt the Knife says:
Dr. Bob Rotella. Read his book.
basically ya hafta swing a putt with CONFIDENCE
I notice the exact same thing from time to time, especially early in the playing season. Looking back on my first round of the year last week, I remember looking at 3-6 foot putts and worrying about where I'll be when I miss. But in the middle of the season all I'm thinking about is staying down on the ball and making a solid stroke. It's amazing what your mind can do to your physical abilities.
I had a similar epiphany about 2 years ago. I really started practicing putting more so than ever before which helped with the confidence. One thing helped me do that: line up your shot using the line on the ball. Practice this before you take it to a course as it takes some time to line it up correctly and equally importantly, quickly. To me this took 1 angle of the stress off, all I had to do after that was make sure I swing as hard as I'm supposed to and keeping the putter in line with the line on the ball.
Same idea though - focus on the good, good things happen. Simplify your stroke, less room for error. (at least in my opinion)
This is great news. In behavioral terms, it's a classic pattern analysis. One pattern leads to one result. To stop the negative result, interrupt the pattern. New pattern; new result!
Typically, the way to address anxiety is through metacognitive (self-aware) therapy or practice. Being aware of conditions which lead to the anxiety and self-administering an antidote or helpful interruption. For kids, they can imagine their anxiety as a "dragon", and they use their "wizard" to defeat the dragon. Their wizard tells them to change physically - posture, breathing, close eyes, counting, etc.
For adults, an alter ego sometimes helps - so Terry the wobbly putter no longer putts, Perry putts instead. Perry always thinks about sinking the putt. Terry may drive the ball really well, but Perry is the closer. Thus you can play a whole self-administered scramble with your alter egos. You can even literally change hats to become another person!
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