Do This If You Want
To Putt Your Best
(Part 2 of 3)
"Bill", I said
"The issue for golfers like you (those that have the talent but struggle to putt consistently) is you tend to over-think.
Please hang with me for a minute, because we're going to get to the good stuff in a jiffy and I promise I won't leave you hanging.
And over-thinking is the worse thing you can do. What tends to happen is you choke.
And choking is simply when you try and do too much at the same time and your system shuts down.
And all of the symptoms you have told me so far, are leading me to believe you are trying too hard.
Trying hard seems like the right thing to do, but there's a fine line. If you overload your mind you'll have a short-circuit. And the short-circuit usually shows up as a yip or flinch or some pathetic attempt at getting the ball into the hole.
But let's get to that later. It's time to test you"
The Little Putting Test
Please note: I have performed this test so many times and it has rarely failed. In this case, I sort of tricked Bill into performing the task. I didn't mean to, it sorta just happened but the result was nonetheless outstanding and what I was hoping for.
"Alright Bill", I said
"Are you ready to start the exercise?"
"Yes", he said.
"OK great. So before we start, I want you to back up a few paces..."
And when he did I casually tossed a ball to him. And because it was only a short throw, and I managed to throw it right to him, he caught the ball. In fact, he was able to catch the ball as he was still moving into position.
"Now", I continued in a very casual voice
"Can you throw the ball back to me?"
Bill didn't think this was part of the exercise. But I continued with this very laid-back approach.
Bill's throw was perfect. The ideal speed and height and it was an easy catch for me.
I said, also very casually, "Can you step back a few more steps please?"
When he did, I threw the golf ball back and he caught it easily. I moved another 3 or 4 paces further away and asked Bill to return the ball to me.
He looked at me and in a very simple motion, tossed the ball right to me.
And just to make sure Bill was up to it, I threw the ball, harder this time, right back at him.
Bill caught the ball without a worry in the world.
And finally, to really make sure, I backed away even further, pretending to look for something and said in the most casual voice I could, "Hey Bill, just give me that ball will you and we can get started..."
Again, Bill threw the ball to me perfectly. It was just right. Not too hard or too soft. It was a perfect throw from a guy who had enough talent to be a way better putter.
Putting really is a simple task
Bill said, "Cameron, when are we going to do the exercise? I am really keen to see if I can putt better".
I let out a little chuckle (Bill didn't know what was going on) and said, "Bill, I have some good news for you.
"What is it?", he said
"We've already done the drill and you've passed with flying colors."
"What are you talking about Cameron? We haven't done anything. I thought you were setting up some sort of training drill?"
Trying not to laugh I explained to Bill, "Mate, the tossing/throwing the ball WAS the exercise. I tricked you because I wanted to make sure you didn't over-think things. I wanted you to throw the ball naturally".
"Arrgh. I see. But throwing is easy"
"Yes. Throwing is easy. But so is putting. Do you want to hit some putts the same way?"
Bill and I walked to the putting green. Bill was still a little confused about what had just happened but he was with me.
"Cameron, so what you're saying is that putting really is just like throwing a ball to someone?".
"Yes, it sure is". I continued, "It doesn't need to be any harder. When we throw a ball to someone, we look at them and then throw. We don't think about HOW hard to throw or how to hold the ball. We simply throw.
And the good news Bill is you can throw and catch a ball. So, you can certainly putt. You have all the necessary talent to putt really well."
You have what it takes to putt really well (and just maybe, you can become a master on the golf greens)
Bill smiled. And he realised two things in that moment.
1. Putting is simple. He can throw a ball and he made the leap that putting really shouldn't be any harder than throwing a ball.
2. He had over-complicated things with his own putting game.
When we got to the green, I asked Bill to look at the hole and feel like he's just tossing the ball to the hole. But this time, instead of actually throwing the ball, he was going to use his putter to roll the ball.
In a calm voice I said, "Bill, take a good look at the hole, get set and then putt the ball"
The putt was around 20 feet and he rolled the ball beautifully. It stopped next to the hole.
For the next 10 minutes we repeated the exercise with an entire range of putts. Short putts, long putts and impossible putts (I even walked Bill off the green and asked him to putt through the garden bed, rough, fairway and onto the green and right across the putting surface to a distant flag)
Each time Bill was able to make a simple and free putting stroke. He didn't make every putt and he was still a little anxious, but I could see he had made progress.
Some Questions for Bill:
Q: I know every putt wasn't perfect, but did you feel like you made some progress?
A: Yes. It felt more and more comfortable the longer we went on.
Q: And even though you hit some great putts, do you feel like you can grow into this process further?
A: Yes, absolutely.
Q: And, do you feel if you could practice this some more, do you think you'll continue to get better and better?
A: I'm sure. I feel so much more relaxed now. I feel I have a process to make my putting the best part of my game.
Bill had a glint in his eye and a spring back in his step. He was no longer despondent and he actually looked like a golfer.
He certainly got his swagger back.
I said, "Bill, this is really just the first step. You've made a huge leap today, but things can get better and easier from here."
"The real learning lies ahead"
"Would you like to continue?"