Putt Like You Don't Care
I think what makes putting so frustrating and difficult is that we put lots of pressure on ourselves to make “everything”, because it seems like the pros do. And it always seems like there’s one guy in our group who’s winning because he’s making “everything. But the biggest killer to a smooth and effective putting stroke is tension, and that comes from putting pressure on ourselves to make every putt.
I was reading the other day about one of the tour players – can’t even remember who – and his success on putts from 5-10 feet. The article said he was among the tour leaders at that range with a 61% “make” percentage. Really? So, the best players in the world are making just over half their putts from 5-10 feet, and you think you should make them all?
What happens when we start putting pressure on ourselves like that is that we get very focused on the mechanics of the stroke, rather than just “making the putt, dammit”. And that generally starts us into a downward spiral of tension, correction, tension, more correction, etc. Which eventually makes the hole look like a thimble and causes more misses, frustration, tension . . . well, you get the idea.
So that brings me to the title of today’s article. We played in a charity scramble last summer and one of my golf buddies’ mantra for the day was “putt like you don’t care”. I thought it was a very cool way to keep himself loose and focused on the hole and the idea of making the putt, rather than allowing the tension and pressure of making the putt get in the way of the calmness and looseness that good putting requires.
I’ve always found that the best putters that I observe have almost nothing in common. Very diverse selection of putters, completely different putting styles, mechanics that really don’t look that good . . . but they all do one thing the same. Every good putter I’ve ever known really thought they were going to make every putt. They never had a doubt that they’d make a good stroke. The never doubted their read of the break or speed. So they had not one negative thought in their head. And that allows them to “putt like they don’t care”. Except that they do.
The best putters are those guys who find the last shot on every hole the most exciting. The one that can finally get the ball in the cup is the one that counts the most. A great putt can make up for a bad drive, a so-so approach or a chip or pitch that really wasn’t all that stellar. But that last stroke on every hole is the great redeemer. It makes it all OK.
I remember my Dad – who was a great putter – had a saying after he kind of chopped up a hole and then saved par with a great putt. He’d always offer up, “Well, that’s three of those and one of them.”
So, the next time you are out on the course, give “putt like you don’t care” a try. Ease up on the expectation that you have to make any putt, and just putt it to make it.
If you don’t, fine. But I’ll bet you sink more than you’ve been making.
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Interesting article! A few months ago, whilst experimenting on the green I noticed that just walking up to the ball and playing every putt, no matter what the distance, like a tap-in was more successful than the traditional method. Basically, I read the putt as normal, pick a vague line, then just wander up and hit it. Somehow, over-thinking my putting gets in the way of whatever hand-eye coordination I have. The only problem now is deciding whether to stick with my casual technique or spend some time trying to develop a more "professional" style like everyone else has.
I also think that most golfers out there don't spend enough time practicing our short game, including putting. Not only don't put enough time into practice, but don't have specific goal in mind when we practice. But we expect the better equipment to do the work for us.
Our handicap will never improve if we don't put time into it, especially short games.
Get to know your putter...and take time to become a better putter. I know I am going to dedicate 40-50% of my range time to putting this year
I'm a fan of this style of golf in general. It would probably speed up play if everyone played this way.
joe jones says:
Great article!!! If you want to understand the hows and whys of putting try to overcome a bad case of the yips, I had them in 1969 and started putting side saddle to stop them.
My three rules on putting.
1. Establish a routine that you can repeat every time. Any routine. Same way every time.
2 .Pick a line and trust your first read. Don't over analyze it.
3. Concentrate on distance and tempo.
One of two things will happen. You make or you don't.50% odds are better than Las Vegas.
I've always been a big fan of mental golf. putting "like you don't care" isn't exactly how i'd characterize it though. More like "have blind confidence in every shot". Basically you get your line and how you want to swing and you have to think that nomatter what, your ball is going to go where you want it to. That's part of the key to keeping your head down too. Not questioning yourself is the key.
I've spent a lot of time on putting lately and one of the clear learnings is that the more uncertain I am, particularly around distance, the worse the putt. If I decide I know the distance, the putt will be good, even though it may not go down. The other thing I bring up is something I read in one of Dave Stockton's books. He says to read the putt from the low side and from behind the ball - 2 looks - no more. He believes a big mistake all golfers including pros make is over thinking their putts.
Sorry to go on, but I think that watching the pros on TV distorts our view of putting. First, I think on TV they look further than they are - a 6' may look greater than 10'. Second, the TV follows the leaders who are making a lot of putts during that week to be in the lead. Looking at the PGA tour stats can be enlightening. The pros make 35-40% from 10' and it starts to fall off rapidly from there. Watching the tour would make most people think they made more. The big difference with from 5' or less (which I think is the new 3') - the worse pros on tour make 90% from within 5'. I've starting practicing heavily from 7' and in.
Golfers are so mental. There is so much hand wringing over a simple task--pick a line, pick a speed, roll the ball. I think it's because in golf the ball is stationary and so there's far too much opportunity for contemplation. Do basketball players engage in this kind of psychobabble self-help? As in, "Shoot layups like you don't care"...I doubt it. In a game like that, when you're going for the hoop, you focus on the hoop and little else. There is simply no time for applying some weird reverse psychology on yourself. All due respect to TWG, but I find this whole approach to putting to be weird. But maybe what he is trying to say is Don't hang your self-worth on the putt you are standing over. If you make it, great, if not, so what. Just putt the frigging thing.
Focus on the process, not the result. The only thing we can do as golfers is to putt it on the line we want with the speed we want. If you start focusing more on successfully doing this and judging the quality of the putt that way, instead of whether or not you make the putt, it will free up your stroke, decrease stress, and you'll make more.
@beef I think your last sentence is his point - just hit it...you probably aren't going to make that 25 footer and guess what, neither are the pros. I've noticed recently NBC puts the tour "Make Percentage" next to putts at that distance. To GBogey's point, it's astonishing how low they are for anything over 10'. Something I want to do this year, practice 5' and in like crazy, and anything more than that, work on getting the distance right for lagging it close. Essentially practicing to eliminate 3-putts. If you can lag a 30' putt to 5' or less and make a decent amount of those, you'll be in pretty decent shape on the green.
What i do in practice but rarely have dared to for score is pick my line, line up the club, get into my stance and make a few practice strokes to be sure my hands and arms are keeping the putter head lined up, then instead of looking down at the ball, i look at the cup and make my putt. I often come very close to the cup and sometimes make the putt, more often on close putts. The thought I have in my head during this, is if I have the ball in my hand and using the same amount of effort it would take to underhand toss the ball to the hole and translating that into how hard I stroke the putt. At least early season this year, I plan on taking this to the course and see how I do with it there.
Sort of similar to you, Larrynjr, i don't look at the ball while i'm putting. I keep my eye on a spot on the ground 1-2 inches in front of the ball, and i focus on *rolling* the ball over that spot. It's amazing how much it frees me up, and i make a smooth stroke Through the ball instead of just hitting it.
I remember a tourney a few years ago on TV, the announcers were all talking about what a good putting day one of the players was having (I believe it was Sergio Garcia)after having gotten a putting tip from Brad Faxon, one of the best putters on tour, prior to the round. At the end of the round in an interview they asked Garcia what tip Faxon had given him. Garcia said basically, He told me to relax and putt like it like you don't give shit. They bleeped the last word but it was obvious what he said. I've tried it and it works, works on regular shots too.
@dusty Assuming it was Sergio, look how that turned out. Garcia has never been known as a good putter, so I doubt that Faxon's "tip" was anything more than a temporary fix, a momentary distraction from one's own usual self-defeating methods.
I like oober scottccherry's comment--focus on the process. Hyperfocus if you feel nervous. Repeat the objective in your head: "perfect. holing. speed. perfect. holing. speed" etc. I think it applies to all shots really. I mean once you are stood over the ball, about ready to pull the trigger, what else is there to consciously do except put a clean strike on the ball? Aim, distance, trajectory, etc, they should all be predetermined before the trigger is pulled.
AMEN on this article, well said.
Read the book "Putting Out of Your Mind" by Dr. Bob Rotella. This is exactly what he talks about!!!
Beef, I agree that in the long run that tip didn't stick for long if it was Sergio, but if it helped him collect a big check that day, tip worked fine. I think the whole putt like you don't care attitude is designed to ultimately reduce tension in the swing which in theory should produce a more fluid stroke. Ultimately it really comes down to doing what works for you whether thats working yourself into a coronary or hitting like you don't give a shit
The one thing that led me to better scoring in golf WAS GIVING A S*&^. A general and keen interest in scoring strokes(whether a chip or a putt - please don't delineate between these (yes there are different techniques, but you're still playing with touch for distance and topography of the green)). Tour greens - probably slopier yet better kept than your local muni (shaggy and flat). Tour pros - they all give a crap about every little thing and have a ton of self-awareness, if they don't their coaches and sponsors do, heh. We should have the natural ability to aim - like with darts, bowling balls, horseshoes, guns, frisbees, etc. Given an assessment of the grounds and conditions, our instincts evolved for hunting and building should get the job done. I think we get into trouble in golf when we can't see what's there or ignore it... like when we look at the yardage number and block out everything else. What we really need to give a crap about is improving, and being aware of how we learn and improve.
When I learned that, I was off to the races and dropped stroke after stroke. I hate to practice! But it's necessary for consistent improvement. But practice doesn't have to feel like dreadful repetitive practice - this isn't ballet. Some friends and I developed a number of putting and chipping games. We'd finish our round and then hang for another hour or so playing these games, having fun, competing, giving a crap but in the most fun way. All that being said TWG is primarily talking about the debilitating stress and anxiety that can build around competitive individual sports - now think Olympic Figure skating falls and blunders. The fear of shame can cripple our performance - which is way worse for pros, on camera, every stroke recorded for ever seemingly. Everyone will or can know your performance. Not only that kind of stress, but the wrong kind of focus that can impair our natural instinctive ability to aim. I have a saying when things go awry.
"Play it stupid!" This doesn't mean not to be smart, but it means not to outsmart yourself. In other words, don't get cute. If the hole is a straight away 400 yard hole with a wide open fairway, just play it straight forward. You don't need that extra 10 yards. Forego the little adjustment to negate the slight breeze. Do what is obvious! So to "put like you don't care" means primarily... let your natural abilities take over, instead of using the 12 point system of contradictory checks and balances. Eyes, ears, smell, touch!
Tim Horan says:
On anything other than straight putts...Some golfers see the whole putt as a curve and some see it as a target from which the ball will deviate to the hole. Whichever camp you fall into focus on something smaller than the hole, a pitch mark, bug or blade of grass. The smaller the focus the narrower the miss. Having studied the line or curve...Look at the hole and whilst looking at that hole swing the club to feel the distance. Pick your target, focus, step in one last look at your target and strike. All of the work is put in in advance, all you have to do over the ball is hit it.
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