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5 steps to building confidence in your putting

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Almost everyone can hit a putt, but very few people putt as well as they would like. There are multiple factors from setup to mechanics to feel that are extremely important when learning to putt your best.

Another dynamic of putting, which nearly every golfer will attest to its importance, is the mental factor. You need a consistent putting stroke and solid distance control, but you also need belief in yourself and your putting ability. While this can be challenging, there are 5 steps you can build into your practice that will help you gain and preserve confidence.

Take an honest look at your putting

In putting, positive change starts with taking a realistic appraisal of your game. Understand your strengths and areas for improvement. This can include using statistics and seeking assistance from putting experts, club fitters, eye doctors, and other professionals. In this day and age, there is a lot of great information about how you should properly setup, what your mechanics should look like, what types of putters compliment your style, as well as technologies that monitor your tendencies like Sam PuttLab.

The trick is using this information to maximize your potential by taking an honest look at your putting, creating a consistent plan you believe in, honing your skills, and then making your approach simple and natural again. I do not suggest becoming a golfer that is constantly searching; that is a great way to ruin your putting. Find the information you need from professionals, and then trust and execute your plan.

The next four steps provide some ways to use your plan to improve, as well as how to take it to the course with confidence.

Practice your putting strengths and areas for improvement equally

I typically encourage my clients to embrace their strengths more than the areas that are lacking. For instance, if their strength is driving accuracy I encourage them to play their game and not get into long-drive contests with fellow playing partners. This is slightly different when it comes working on your putting and practicing. You need to work on your strengths to preserve and create confidence, but you also need to develop the parts of your putting that can cause fear or frustration. If distance control is your strength, I encourage you to practice this half the time so you feel confident in your ability. But I also want you to practice the areas that needs improvement, such as short putts, the other half of the time.

Always end your practice session on a positive note

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If you want to build confidence, you need to finish every practice session on the putting green on a positive note. You want your last experience on the putting green to be something positive that you can take with you. Think about it; this is your last mental imprint until you visit the putting green again. If you finish on a positive note, it’s much more likely that you will think about how the day was a success and how you’re improving. I’ve worked with golfers who struggle to do this; they consistently find a way turn a positive putting session into a negative experience. They continue working on their stroke until they leave confused and frustrated. If this isn’t a recipe for disaster, I’m not sure what is.

If you want to adhere to suggestions Nos. 1 and 2 in a simple way, I recommend sandwiching your area for improvement during practice. Let the first 25 percent of your practice be your strengths, the middle 50 percent be what you’re working on to improve your putting, and the last 25 percent be another strength.

“Isn’t that being disingenuous, purposely finishing with your strength?”

No, it’s not! It’s being smart and setting yourself up for success. You’re still practicing the areas you wish to improve, but you’re doing it in an intelligent way that builds confidence.

Recognize your successes

It’s not enough to finish on a high note. It’s also important to make a conscious effort to reaffirm what you did well. I suggest every client I work with take a minute or two following every practice session to make a deliberate effort to focus on what they did well. This could be as simple as stating it out loud, calling your coach and leaving a message about what you found positive, or journaling it. The most beneficial of these I have found is to write it out in a journal. This way you not only have a simple ritual that you can follow at the end of every practice, but it’s also recorded for future reference whenever you want to go back and read it. Additionally, there is scientific evidence that suggests the practice of writing strengthens associations and neurological connections in your brain. In essence, every time you write out your successes, you’re creating pathways to confidence in your mind.

Develop and practice your pre-putting routine

The pre-shot routine is one of the most important mental skills you can develop in golf and putting. It not only helps you transfer and preserve your skills from the putting green to the course; it also helps you better manage stress and pressure. While this article isn’t dedicated to pre-shot routines, I have written in-depth in a previous article about routines and encourage you to check it out for suggestions, “Adding P.E.P. to your mental game.”

The first step to almost every successful pre-putt routine is that you make a decisive decision about starting line and speed prior to rehearsing and stepping up to the ball. This will help alleviate hesitation and second-guessing when standing up over a putt. The second step is to find a consistent set of actions that will give you confidence during your routine. Finally, you should go through your routine on the putting green during practice to ingrain it and add in pressure situations to mirror the pressure you feel during competitive golf.

While this may be just the start and other mental training techniques — practices such as self-talk and imagery can continue to help you build confidence on the putting green — I believe that if you start with these 5 steps you’ll be well on your way to believing more in your putting.

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Dan Vosgerichian Ph.D. is owner of Elite Performance Solutions. Dr. Dan earned his doctorate in Sport Psychology from Florida State University and has more than 10 years of experience working with golfers to maximize their mental game. His clients have included golfers from The PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Web.com Tour, PGA Latin America, as well as some of the top junior and collegiate players in the country. Dr. Dan has experience training elite golfers on every aspect of the game. He served as The Director of Mental Training at Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy, as well as a Mental Game Coach for Nike Golf Schools. He’s also worked as an instructor at The PGA Tour Golf Academy and assistant golf coach at Springfield College. Dan's worked as a professional caddie at TPC Sawgrass, Home of The Players Championship, as well as an assistant to Florida State University's PGA Professional Golf Management Program.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Casey

    Mar 10, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    Great advice Dan and Go Noles!

  2. Hogg

    Mar 10, 2016 at 11:04 am

    Nothing wrong with always wanting to feel good in golf

  3. Rhoda Weiner

    Mar 10, 2016 at 12:32 am

    Golf is more than a game and that’s how I treat my putting. I once was told by a famous putting coach that if you think of the as a cup of coffee and the golfball as a donut and the putter as your arm and your goal is to dunk the donut.

  4. Bob Jones

    Mar 9, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    My teaching pro told me a story about a guy on his college golf team who was by far the best putter of the lot. One day guy was on the practice green practicing one-foot putts, over and over. My pro guy asked him what he was doing, and other guy said he was practicing making putts. Pro guy says, but they’re only one foot long! Other guy says, yes, but my putter doesn’t know that.

  5. gofish721

    Mar 9, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    I bought a remnant 4×14′ piece of an ugly looking low pile carpet several years back. Then cut a small 4-1/4″ hole out at one end in the center and marked an X on the other end to putt from. Rolled it out on a concrete section in my workshop and put a marker line every foot on the putting path. I even drew an set of outline footprints to putt from for consistency of stance. I began putting 50-100 balls all the time whenever I had time and I noticed (and partners) that my putting improved tremendously. I putt 12 footers and then move to 4 feet. My confidence to stroke the ball well is high, especially around the hole. Easy to say that all the new clubs and such through the years had way less impact on lowering my scores than this. Best under $10 golfing investment I ever made!

  6. Brian

    Mar 9, 2016 at 10:59 am

    I practice 8 footers until I hole 10 in a row every night. Can’t go to sleep until I have. I’ve never been more confident from inside 10 feet.

  7. Rob

    Mar 8, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    Finish on a high note is a great idea. When I was practicing and playing a lot I would stay until I holed a chip then after I holed 10 or 20 3 footers in a row. I would pick an easy chip and dead straight 3 footers too. Just seeing the ball go straight in means I’m rolling it well on the line I choose.

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Instruction

The 3 best ways to train your golf swing

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Understanding how to effectively train and practice is critical to transferring skills to the golf course.

In golf, I view training as a thoughtful, deliberate rehearsal of a motion to develop technique. This is better rehearsed away from the golf course. Practicing golf consists of developing your skill to take to the golf course—an example being learning to hit shots in certain winds and shot shaping.

“A lawyer will train to be a lawyer, then he or she will practice law” – The Lost Art of Golf

I find the below examples the best ways to train effectively. These techniques will also help facilitate a swing change and make your training and practice more efficient.

Mirror Work

I like my student to implement what I call “mirror work”. This is done by looking into a mirror from the face-on position.

This is a great way to get external feedback (information delivered from an outside source). Learning by external feedback will help facilitate the required body movement to produce a particular shot. It’s also a cheap and effective way to train. Research suggests observation in a mirror is considered external, so the use of mirrors will elicit external feedback, enhancing the learning process.

I prefer students to only check positions from the face-on view. If a player starts checking positions in a mirror from down-the-line, moving your head to look in the mirror can cause your body to change positions, losing the proper direction of turn.

Train Slow

Learning a new motion is best trained slow. At a slower speed, it is easier to monitor and analyze a new motion. You will have increased awareness of the body and where the shaft is in space. At a faster speed, this awareness is more difficult to obtain.

I often use the analogy of learning how to drive a car. First, you took time to learn how to position your hands on the wheel and position your foot next to the break. When comfortable, you put the car in motion and began to drive slowly. Once you developed the technique, you added speed and took the car on the freeway.

In martial arts, there are three speeds taught to students: Slow-speed for learning, medium speed for practice and fast speed for fighting. Again, the movement was trained slow to start. Once comfortable, the motion was put into combat. This should be similar to golf.

Finding Impact

Use an impact bag to get the feeling of impact and an efficient set-up. If you don’t have an impact bag, a spare car tire, bean bag or something light and soft that can be pushed along the ground can be used.

I like to refer to the impact bag as a “Push bag”. Start by setting up into the bag, lightly pressing the shaft into the bag. You will notice how your trail arm slightly tucks in and as your right shoulder drops below the left with your body leaning forward, an efficient set-up.

To get the feeling of impact swing the club back and down into the bag while maintaining your body shape. Don’t move the bag by hitting it, rather pushing it. Note how you maintain your wrist angles while pushing the bag (not flipping) and the right side of your body moves through impact.

Train your swing with these three training techniques to play better golf.

@KKelley_golf

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How posture influences your swing

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S0 what exactly is posture and how can it alter your swing? Posture is often the origin to a player’s swing pattern. I like to look at posture as the form of the body from the front view and down the line position at address.

“Shape” in posture is the angles our body creates at address. This includes the relationship between the upper and lower half of our bodies. This article will examine the importance of this shape from the face on view.

For an efficient posture that creates a simple, powerful, and repeatable swing, I like a player’s shape to be set into what I call their “hitting angles.” Hitting angles are similar to the impact position. In the picture below, note the body angles at address highlighted in green.

Once we are set into these hitting angles, the goal of the backswing is to maintain these angles, coiling around the spine. When these angles are maintained in the backswing, the club can return to impact in a more dynamic form of our set-up position. This creates minimal effort that produces speed and repeatability—essentially doing more with less.

The further we set up away from these hitting angles, our bodies will have to find impact by recovering. This is often where a player’s swing faults can occur. We want our body to react to the target in the golf swing, not recover to strike the ball.

Think of a baseball player or football player throwing a ball. When the athlete is in their throwing position, they can simply make the movement required to throw the ball at their intended target. If their body is contorted or out of position to make the throw, they must re-position their body (more movement) to get back into their throwing position, thus making them less accurate and powerful.

The good news about working on your posture is that it is the easiest part to control in the swing. Posture is a static motion, so our body will respond to 100 percent of what our mind tells it to do. It’s talentless.

Here is a simple routine to get you into these hitting angles.

To start, tuck in your trail arm making it shorter and below the lead arm, which makes your trail shoulder lower than the lead shoulder. This will give you the proper shape of the arms and wrist angles. Pictured right is Ben Hogan.

With these arm angles, bend from the hips to the ball and bump your body slightly forward towards the target getting ‘into yourself’. You may feel pressure on your lead foot, but your upper half will still remain behind the ball. Note the picture below with the blue lines.

Practice this drill using a mirror in front of you, head up looking into the mirror. Research has shown mirror work enhances motor skills and performance. Anytime you have external-focus based feedback, the learning process will escalate.

There are a lot of different postures on the PGA Tour and many ways to get the job done. There are no cookie-cutter swings, and players have different physiology. However, research and history have shown that an efficient posture gives us the best chance for solid contact and our desired ball flight. Work hard on the areas that are easiest to control: the set-up.

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Golf 101: How to chip (AKA “bump and run”)

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Although golf for a beginner can be an intimidating endeavor, and learning how to chip is part of that intimidation, this is one part of the game that if you can nail down the fundamentals, not only can you add some confidence to your experience but also you lay down a basic foundation you can build on.

How to chip

The chip shot, for all intents and purposes, is a mini-golf swing. To the beginner, it may seem like a nothing burger but if you look closely, it’s your first real way to understand contact, launch, spin, compression, and most importantly the fundamentals of impact.

What is a chip shot? A pitch shot?

Chip: A shot that is hit typically with anything from a 3-iron to a lob wedge that launches low, gets on the ground quickly, and rolls along the surface (like a putt) to the desired location.

Pitch: A shot that is hit typically with anything from a PW to a lob wedge that launches low- to mid-trajectory that carries a good portion of the way to your desired location and relies on spin to regulate distance.

Now that we have separated the two, the question is: How do I chip?

Since we are trying to keep this as simple as possible, let’s just do this as a quick checklist and leave it at that. Dealing with different lies, grass types, etc? Not the purpose here. We’re just concerned with how to make the motion and chip a ball on your carpet or at the golf course.

Think “rock the triangle”

  1. Pick a spot you want the ball to land. This is for visualization, direction and like any game you play, billiards, Darts, pin the tail on the donkey, having a target is helpful
  2. For today, use an 8-iron. It’s got just enough loft and bounce to make this endeavor fun.
  3. Grip the club in your palms and into the lifelines of your hands. This will lift the heel of the club of the ground for better contact and will take your wrists out of the shot.
  4. Open your stance
  5. Put most of your weight into your lead leg. 80/20 is a good ratio
  6. Ball is positioned off your right heel
  7. Lean the shaft handle to your left thigh
  8. Rock the shoulders like a putt
  9. ENJOY!

Check out this vid from @jakehuttgolf to give you some visuals.

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