Jap P. Granat, Ph.D.
Psychotherapist, Founder, StayInTheZone.com
Over the years, I have coached and counseled many golfers on the psychological aspects of playing fine golf. Golf pros will tell you that putting and the short game are the keys to scoring well and winning on the professional tour. Putting and the short game are very important for the weekend player too. Although there may still be some frost on the ground, the golf season is just around the corner, and in a few weeks, your local courses will open for play. Great putting begins with what you do before the season begins and before you ever walk on to the green. Here are some simple tips to help you improve your putting this season.
1. Get a putter that you love. Look for one that is the right length, shape, weight and design. The putter should also allow you to find your line easily. Try a bunch of putters in the golf shop and try to discover the one that enables you to make putts of varying distances. If you don’t love the putter immediately, don’t buy it. The right putter should feel right instantly. See if your golf pro will allow you to demo the putter on the course, before you purchase your new putter. Remember, putting in the store is not the same as putting on the course.
2. Have your eyes examined. Putting is like surgery. It requires great precision. You can not putt well if you can’t see well. I have had many golfers who have come to see me because of putting problems. Some of them had vision problems which were making it hard for them to read the green, see their line and putt well. In many instances, these golfers were helped by a comprehensive ophthalmologic exam and new glasses, contact lenses or surgery.
3. If you have been struggling with your putting, consider changing your grip or the style of putter you are using. The pros do this often and I have seen others improve their putting by changing their grip, their putter or both. One man who came to see me for some help with his putting remarked, “I could never putt well with a reverse grip.” I immediately suggested that he try this kind of grip. His putting improved immediately. Be open to experimenting with your putting and be willing to try different styles of putting. My own putting improved significantly when I switched to a belly putter.
4. Decide if you want to be a golfer who putts with your hands or with your shoulders. This is personal, but no matter how you decided to strike the ball, you must develop a consistent, pendulum motion and hit the ball square.
5. Determine if you are a front of the cup or back of the cup kind of putter. Again, this is personal. Some people like the ball to trickle in the hole. Others like to hit it in with more authority. The style of putting people choose seems to relate to their personality. I counseled a man who was an aggressive trial lawyer. He was a back of the cup kind of putter. I coached a violinist who was front of the cup putter. Interestingly, this man used to imagine the sound of the ball dropping in the cup as part of his putting routine. He paid little attention to the visual aspect of putting. Instead he utilized his acumen for sound to hone his putting skills.
6. Practice putting from different distances every day. Begin with one foot putts. After you make three in a row increase the distance. Build up to approximately ten feet.
7. Get to an eighty per cent success rate from ten feet. Most of the pros I have worked with sink eight out of ten putts from this distance. Try to get your putting to this level. Even if you are not a great athlete, you can definitely improve your putting with consistent and intelligent practice. As I said earlier, if you putt better, you will lower your score and win more often.
8. Spend twenty minutes a day visualizing yourself putting successfully from various distances. Just close your eyes and imagine yourself having great success on the green. If you like, imagine yourself sinking a putt to win your club championship. There is a fair amount of research to support the value of this daily visualization exercise. Seeing yourself putting successfully in your “mind’s eye,” translates into better putting on the course.
9. On long putts, pick a target to roll the ball over on its way to the hole. The target should be about the size of a quarter.
10. Participate in darts, bowling, shooting or pocket billiards as these activities require the same mental skills as does putting. Playing these sports acts as mental cross training for golfers who want to improve their putting.
11. Before you get to the green, imagine that the green is filled with water. This will help you to get a feeling for the slope of the putting surface.
12. Before you putt, take a look at the line from both sides of the hole.
13. Develop a simple routine that allows you to find your line and feel confident, relaxed and focused. If you want to improve your ability to remain relaxed, focused and confident, try our stay in the zone program.
14. Don’t putt unless you feel really ready. Ready means your are confident, focused and relaxed.
15. Commit to a line and speed, roll the ball to your target and enjoy the glorious sound of the ball falling into the cup.
Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. a Psychotherapist and founder of StayInTheZone.com and SingleDigitHandicap.com has been counseling athletes for more than twenty years. He has been featured in Golf Digest, ESPN Magazine, ESPN Radio, The BBC, The Golf Channel and The Newark Star Ledger. Granat has written and lectured extensively on sports, sport psychology and self-help. He works closely with world class athletes and weekend warriors from a variety of sports including golf, tennis, baseball, basketball, soccer, the martial arts, bowling, fencing, billiards, swimming, skating and boxing. Dr. Granat received his graduate training at The University of Michigan. His undergraduate training was completed at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has been a university professor at Fairliegh Dickinson University. Dr. Granat welcomes inquiries from coaches, athletes and parents of athletes. He can be reached at info@StayInTheZone.com or at 888 580-ZONE.