How Vision can harm your Putting.
Your ability to see can work against you. You need sight to aim your putterface and to estimate distance. However, you don't need your eyes to putt the ball.
This seems a contradiction when you consider that golf is such a visual game. But there are times when our vision works against our best interests.
Just as we are easily distracted by a sudden noise, we also lose our attention when there is a movement, however slight, on the periphery of our vision. Only those with the fiercest powers of concentration can cut out the outside world successfully.
The evolution of our brain has equipped us with peripheral vision as part of our armoury for survival. By being able to see off to the side we can anticipate potential harm. Tunnel vision would be our undoing.
Unfortunately peripheral vision is a distraction in putting.
When a leaf blows across the green, or someone close by moves, our eyes automatically switch their focus, if only for a moment. They dart to the side in a reflex action.
Even without outside interference our eyes, unless quietened, are prone to follow the path of our putter back and through our stroke. When our mind is full of stroke mechanics the problem is at its worst.
The customary advice in ball sports is to watch the ball. When your eyes are off watching something else, you are not following this advice. This can be both a bad thing and a good thing.
Fixing your gaze on the ball too intently can inhibit the freedom of your putting stroke. You can become ball-bound to such an extent that you end up freezing over your putt. By all means watch the ball, but don't end like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
In an effort to free up golfers who tense up over their putts golf instructors recommend putting with your eyes closed or putting while looking at the hole. This helps to restore feel. Some golfers use such a strategy to reduce their putting anxiety when out on the course.
It is important to appreciate that our ability to see is not actually required to execute a putt. If it was, blind golfers would not be able to play the game.
We need our vision to identify our aimpoint (target), to aim our putterface to it, and to visualise the distance between the ball and the hole.
Short of putting with your eyes closed, or looking at the hole, the advice of keep your eye on the ball is better paraphrased as hold your head steady during your stroke and for a second or so after impact.
If you putt with your eyes open, soften your gaze so that your eyes are relaxed. As far as your ability to see, their job is done. It is now up to your auto-pilot to run the show.
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