Emotional Putting is an unhelpful habit
We like to label things to feel in control of our surrounds. In putting this habit is not helpful. Consider every putt in terms of its length, slope, and direction of the break only, not as a putt with a particular significance.
It is human nature to label and categorise people and things. It is a habit that is deeply ingrained in us.
Within a minute of knowing someone, we readily form an opinion by attaching a descriptive label to the person. For example, funny, boring, arrogant and so on.
While labelling may help us to feel more in control of our surrounds, it is an unhelpful habit when it comes to putting. The way you will ultimately putt best, will be when you are free of judgement, and are able to see a sameness in every putt.
A research study by two professors at the University of Pennsylvania Business School revealed that a tour professional's approach to identical birdie and par putts in the six to 12 foot range differed.
This approach is best summed up by Jim Furyk who stated that "Par putts just seem to be more critical because, if you miss, you drop a shot – if you miss a birdie putt, it doesn't seem to have the same effect."
Of course every putt is still a single shot on the scorecard and rationally there should be no reason why you should treat it differently. This is easier said than done as your mind keeps getting in the way. So if this is the problem, then what is the solution?
The solution lies in part in a pre-putt routine that is solid and doesn't vary putt by putt. The ideal is to achieve a consistency in the time and step-by-step procedure of your routine. Faced with an important putt there is a tendency either to speed up in order to get the putt over with, or to slow down as you become too cautious and over-think every detail.
The sports psychologist Morris Pickens has emerged as the mind-guru of Major winners. He has bragging rights for the success of Zach Johnson, Lucas Glover, and Stewart Cink. In assisting Cink to his British Open victory, he helped him to avoid the trap of emotional putting.
Every putt was to be a process, not a putt for a result. It was to be described only by its length, its slope and the direction of its break - nothing more. Cink worked on building consistency in his pre-putt routine, and on his mental outlook of viewing every putt as a physical rather than an emotional act.
As amateur golfers we can learn from the lessons that tour professionals receive. While we want to hole more putts, we must try to putt without an outcome in mind.
As soon as you start to label your putts as anything more than just another putt, you start to put pressure on yourself. Emotional putting will undermine your success on the greens.
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