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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