Golf Psychology: How to Stay Focused and Confident When Putting

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Golf Psychology: How to Stay Focused and Confident When Putting

If you’re taking the time to practice both outdoors and indoors with a putting green, you may feel set to make a truckload of putts. But, especially for the ones under pressure, you are still missing one key piece to the puzzle.

Golf is Proactive Not Reactive

A round of golf takes place on your own time. 

In golf, we are not required to quickly react to a ball being thrown or follow a set time limit. The ball is stationary, waiting for us to hit, chip, or putt it towards a target. However, a significant amount of time is spent with our thoughts before and between each stroke.

Many golfers experience negative thoughts in general, especially when they’re not playing their best. It is hard to forget about the putts we’ve missed or drives we've hit poorly. With the time we have during our pre-putt routine and over a putt, these thoughts can creep into our subconscious and break our focus, which leads to doubt. 

Confronting our negative thoughts is a crucial first step in maintaining a neutral and even positive mindset when standing over the ball. 

Reflect on your thought pattern. Our ability to recognize how to speak to ourselves internally is key to maintaining composure in any situation, not just on the golf course.

However, remaining confident when putting does not mean silencing all doubt; it means choosing not to indulge negative thoughts as you go through your pre-putt routine and take your putt.

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How to Maintain Focus When Putting

Developing a simple, repetitive, and meaningful pre-putting routine is worth your time. There are many resources and lessons available about creating a pre-putt routine, but there are a few components that remain consistent. 

Read the Green 

Reading the green means collecting information that gives clues about how the putt could break. This includes identifying the tiers, slope, and grain of the grass. Select your target inside or outside of the cup depending on how much break you can see. Ensure your golf ball is clean. Then, when it’s your turn to putt, it should take 10 seconds from the point you approach the ball to when you strike the putt. 

Visualize the Putt

Visualize the ball rolling either on the line you see the ball following towards a certain part of the cup or towards a target you’ve identified just outside of the hole. Oftentimes, it’s easiest to imagine where the apex of the putt is located and aim for that spot. 

Intentional Practice

This is also the time to practice putting from either behind the ball or to the side of it. This is not the time to watch or think about putting stroke mechanics. Get in the habit of making practice strokes just for fun. It’s important to attempt to make a practice stroke as close to the actual stroke you want to make; this is the only way to gauge your distance control (or lack thereof) mid-round.

Let It Go

Place the putter on the ground behind the ball, aiming at your target. You do not want much time to pass between looking at the hole to line up your putter and taking the putter head back to begin your stroke. 

If your mind is focused on each step of the pre-putt routine, you will not have time to engage in negative thinking. If your mind wanders during this process rather than remaining focused step by step, it will not put you in the best state of mind to sink your putt

How to Stay Confident When Putting 

Eliminate other distractions by zeroing in on the cup, zoning out your surroundings, then taking a deep breath (inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts). Actively make the decision to commit to focusing in the moment and flowing through the pre-putt routine you’ve practiced. 

You might be wondering, “How can I stay confident if I’m missing putts?” and it’s a fair question. While it’s tough to commit your good shots to memory and learn from, then erase the bad ones. 

Realize that true confidence comes from preparation. Only through intentional practice will you find success in challenging situations and build confidence that is not dependent on results. 

Making the choice to focus on the best putts and view misses as outliers is similar to how basketball legend Larry Bird approached free-throw shooting. He saw each miss as something that raised his overall chances of making the next one. 

Believing that “I am due for a make” keeps your chin up and your head in a better place mentally than the attitude of “I guess I am just going to miss them all today.”

Staying focused and confident on the greens takes effort and awareness from within, no matter your skill level. Confidence is the result of the decisions we make every day in how we speak to ourselves and the attitude we bring to taking challenges head-on. 

In golf psychology, having a great attitude may not guarantee you’re going to break par, but having a poor one all but guarantees you won’t.

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