Putting Anxiety is a state of nervousness every
golfer has to deal with in order to succeed.
When the stakes increase, we tend to tense up. Managing your mental state is as important, if not more important, than all the physical aspects of putting.
When you become nervous it interferes with your performance especially when it is coupled with self-consciousness. You become uncertain, hesitant, and start not to trust your natural instincts.
Here are some warning signs that you are trying too hard and need to back off a bit:
1. Your muscles tense up
2. You become Over-Analytical
3. You stop breathing
It is one thing to recognise a case of Putting Anxiety, but a more difficult task to overcome your negative emotions. To start, it is important that you understand why forcing yourself to putt well doesn't work.
It doesn't work because trying too hard produces a change in the working of your muscles and a deterioration in your mental acuity. In simple terms, your putting stroke gets jerky and you become fuzzy-headed.
The best explanation that I have read of the important need to Let Go is in the book Putting Out of Your Mind by Dr Bob Rotella.
In a chapter entitled Gaining Control by Giving Up Control he spells out the reasons and the remedies for dealing with a case of trying too hard. This is a 'must read' for any golfer who tends to fall apart under pressure.
Essentially when you try to be perfect in order to avoid failure or possible embarrassment, you become self-conscious, putting feelings of self-worth on the line. This ramps up the pressure causing you to lose the natural fluidity of your putting stroke.
Paralysis by Analysis
For example, when you get nervous over a putt, several things can happen. For one, your pre-putt routine changes. You either become too focused in following the steps correctly, or you rush your putt to get it over with.
Another frequent mistake is thinking about your stroke mechanics rather than engaging with your target and letting your sub-conscious do the rest.
So how can you try, yet at the same time not try too hard?
Your personality plays a part. If you are a grinder by nature, your tendency will be to increase your effort when the going gets tough.
Unfortunately this can work against you in putting when a nonchalant approach with less effort is more likely to get the job done.
To putt well under pressure you have to block out self-evaluation, or any worries about what others will think of you. You also need to accept that emphasising results over process will undermine your true ability.
This doesn't mean that you should be careless in the way you putt. You still have to pick the line or path and judge the speed. However, when you are ready to putt the analysis stage is over, and all thinking must stop.
Finally when you practise your putting, you should re-create pressure situations as often as you can so that out on the course they become more ho-hum experiences - the idea of 'Been there and Done that.'
Putting Anxiety can blight your game if you let it take hold.
your putting will become easier and less stressful because you are not trying so hard.
1 = Illustration from The Golfing Mind by Vivien Mind
2 = www1.free-clipart.net