I was once told by an instructor that if you hit every green but you three putt every hole you are a bogey golfer, and if you miss every green and one putt you are a scratch golfer. That definitely puts the importance of putting into perspective. Short putts should be the easiest shot on the golf course. They are actually the complete opposite for many golfers, including myself sometimes. Why do some golfers have such a hard time with short putts?
The answer is obvious, but not simple. The obvious answer is the MENTAL aspect of putting. It could be a confidence issue, or an expectation issue. The golfers that miss short putts frequently fill their mind with negative thoughts before addressing a short putt. "I should hit this putt." "What if I don't hit this putt?" "I keep missing these kinds of putts." Sound familiar?
I am going to give you a few quick tips on how to eliminate the doubt before standing over a short putt, and how to start hitting those pesky 3, 4, 5 foot putts that can destroy a golfer's confidence.
1. Have a routine. If you have a routine and you stick to it, there will be a lot less thinking involved with your pre-shot thought process. A good example of a routine: stand behind your putt, and pick a line you are confident in. Then stand over the ball, take 2 practice strokes, address the ball, and make a confident stroke. Sounds simple and a lot of you probably already have something similar routine, but do you do the same thing every time? If thinking is your problem, then you can always eliminate practice strokes and just pick a line and make a good, confident stroke. Sometimes that works better for the real head cases. In my opinion, less thinking equals better results.
2. Confidence. Butch Harmon says his number one rule with putting is that you should never leave from behind the ball until you are 100% confident in the line you have chosen for your putt. Can't argue with someone who teaches Tour pros. His concept is a good one though. If you have any doubt in your line, then you cannot focus on your speed, or your putting stroke. Pick a line and TRUST IT! When I say trust it, I want to emphasize the fact you should hit shorter putts firm. Do not baby these putts to the hole. Pick a line. Trust it and hit the putt like you know it's going in. FIRM allows you to take breaks out of the putt and leaves you with fewer margins for error.
3. Loosen Up. When we feel pressure we immediately start to hold the putter tighter. This is the complete opposite of how you want to hold your putter. You need to be relaxed, and hold it light enough that if someone was to pull it from you they could take it with relative ease. Although you're holding it light, you still need to make firm, confident strokes down your putt line.
4. Keep your head still. Some pros call it "peeking." If you are consistently missing short putts, there is a good chance you are looking at the cup before you should. Keep your eyes directly over the ball. Focus on not moving your head. Keep your eyes focused on the spot where the ball was until you hear the ball hit the cup. This will allow you to make better contact and you will find yourself rolling solid putts. This also helps with worrying about the putt. If you just focus on making a good stroke and putting the ball down the line you have confidently chosen you will not be as worried about the final result.
5. You will miss these putts. Every golfer misses short putts ( see: David Toms at TPC Sawgrass last weekend). You are putting on grass. Even when you hit great putts, on great lines, things happen. The ball could hit a bump, or a cleat mark. Things happen. Learn to bounce back from these misses and trust in yourself that you are a good putter. If you label yourself a bad putter, then you will fill your mind with negative thoughts and we already know what happens when you have negative thoughts. HAVE FUN!
I hope these tips help you make the short putts that we all struggle with from time to time. The beauty of putting is that although there are certain things you can do to promote success, there is really no RIGHT or WRONG way to putt. Just become confident in your stroke and you will be fine!