Do you have trouble making short putts? Do your hands shake when you attempt to make a two or three-foot putt? Does the first miss of the day affect your attitude with the putter for the rest of the round? Is putting the part of the game that holds you back from scoring your best?
At first glance, it seems hard to believe that some golfers make more putts from 10 feet than they do from two to three feet. However, if you look into the mind of the golfer more closely, you soon can see why this phenomenon exists. Is this a confidence issue? Is this a I-can’t-make-short-putts issue? Is this an expectation issue? I think for the most part it’s all of the above.
From a mental game perspective, I think players struggle with short putts because they put extra pressure on themselves to make them when they do not have the confidence to make these putts. This length of putt is the distance that players expect to make. “Everyone makes short putts, it would be awful if I missed this one” a player may feel or say standing over the shorter putt.
The extra pressure that you put on yourself causes a result focus about the potential for missing and this opens up the door for tension and other problems. It does not help when you think you have a history of missing short putts too. After players miss a couple of short putts in a row, they get the “I-can’t-make-the-short-putts” syndrome and thus talk themselves into thinking they will miss them before they even attempt! In addition, some players are afraid to embarrass themselves for missing a short putt, which causes too much trying and tension in the stroke.
As a mental game coach to golfers of all levels including Tour Pros, I try to help you first understand what mental breakdown you are committing. Do you lack confidence with your putting? Are you trying too hard? Do you worry too much about missing or embarrassing yourself? With this information, I am better able to deal with the specific challenge of the player.
With that said, there are a few things you can do to help you make short putts. First, don’t label the putt as a “short putt” and treat it differently than a 12-foot putt for example. The bottom line (or what I call the common denominator) in putting is that you have to hit your line with the right pace—and many fine players forget about this basic principle.
Second, you don’t “have to” make it. Even the pros miss short putts once in a while. When worrying about making, you become too result focused. Keep your focus on the process of hitting a solid putt on your line that you selected. Focus on a small spot on the hole to launch your ball towards and make that the goal instead of making the putt.
Third, don’t baby the putt into the hole and try to guide it. You must learn how to give up control to your hand-eye coordination. You already know how to stroke a putt on line and you have trust that you can do just that. See the target (maybe right edge for example) and allow your body to start the ball on that spot. Feel it into the hole instead of trying to make a good “stroke.” I use a couple simple drills with my students to help them free up their putting. The main goal is to trust your stroke and not guide it or flinch at the ball with the putter.
Fourth, you may be low on putting confidence. Confidence in putting is how strongly you believe in your putting and ability to make putts from any length. Some golfers think they are excellent short putters, while others seem to think that they can “buy a putt” from short range. This is the case when you have had a history of missing three footers and you label yourself as crummy short putter. This will for certain cause you to cringe when you get over these putts.
If you are low on putting confidence because of some sketchy history of missed short putts, do not label yourself as a poor short putter. If you can make putts from 6-10 feet, you can certainly make the short ones too.