October 24, 2011

Replacing Doubt With Confidence For Better Putting

“Golf is a terrible game. I’m glad I don’t have to play again until tomorrow. “ – Anonymous

Ask any great putter what’s the most important thing to great putting, they will say without hesitation—it’s confidence. Confidence means making putts. Too many players don’t give themselves a chance to putt well because doubt destroys confidence. It’s easy to doubt.


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There are many opportunities to doubt your putting. You can question your line, stroke, or your method. You can doubt you have good touch, or doubt your ability to hit putts under pressure. You have many things you can doubt in putting if you want to.

If you let doubt rule your thinking, it will take over your mind and you won’t putt well.

If you are the type of player who looks for excuses to not putt well, this is just as bad, it’s really doubt in disguise.

When you say to yourself: “I hate putting on slow greens”, or “I never putt well at this course” or “I can’t make putts until I can work on my stroke,” you are in fact doubting your ability to make putts that day.

Removing doubt starts with the idea that you have a plan for every putt you hit and you stick to that plan. How many times have you gone through your routine with no plan, or if you had a plan, you doubted it when got over the ball?

To eliminate doubt about missing putts you have to spend time getting a good read and believe in that read. The next step is to pick a line and trust what your eyes see. If you don’t trust your line that is just another source of doubt.

Finally, you must know you are going to make it. The preparation you do prior to getting over the ball is what helps you eliminate the doubt and be confident when the moment of truth arrives.

A player’s level of confidence and commitment can vary. Let’s consider these levels:

  1. Maybe I can make this putt?
  2. I think I can make this putt?
  3. I believe I can make this putt, and…
  4. I know this putt is going in!

As you can see, number 1 and 2 are not the desired level of confidence. Number 3 and 4 are better options. Knowing you will make the putt pushes out the doubt. Although the players I work with are not always in a knowing mindset, I strive to help them reach this level of confidence.

Brian Tennyson who played on the PGA Tour and now plays the Nike Tour, is a great putter. He said the best way to think about putting is to ask yourself if you want to make the putt. Do you want to make this putt?

If so, your mindset has to be one that supports that idea. How would you think over every putt if there was no way you could miss? This is a great attitude to have on the greens. This attitude is far from the attitude “maybe I can make this putt if I make a good stroke”.

The reality is that you can’t make every putt, but you have to think that you can make every putt. Dave Stockton, one of the best putters on the senior tour, agrees with this philosophy. He said “I believe you should, must, think you can make every putt you look at no matter the distance.”

Some players may respond to this by saying “That sounds great but what if I think I am going to make every putt and I don’t make any? I put my heart and sole into thinking they are going in and they don’t, that’s frustrating.”

My response is that I don’t buy into that thinking. What are the options? One option is to think that you might make it and then not be so disappointed if you don’t. The other option is to think it’s going in and accept the results no matter what. I like this option better.

So commit to a philosophy that helps you think that the only option is the ball is going in the hole. Ask yourself if you want to make it. If you want to make putts, you must think in a way that will get you that result – it’s that simple. Push out the doubt by commit to a plan, and stick to that plan.

Practice Drill:

Before you play a round of golf spend at least 10 minutes on the practice green warming up your putter. Hit several long putts to tune up your touch. Before you go to the first tee, hit several putts from two to three feet in length.

Feel the ball go in the hole, see the ball go in the hole, and hear the ball go in the hole. Take those strong images of the ball going into the hole with you on to the course!


Dr. Patrick J. Cohn is a leading mental game coach who consults with Tour Pros and amateurs. He is the author of Going Low, Peak Performance Golf, The Mental Game of Golf and The Mental Art of Putting. For more information, visit: www.peaksports.com

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