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Putting Routine
on Tour

The average golfer usually doesn’t have a recognisable putting routine.

Every putt is pretty much a one-off.

Professional golfers on the other hand perform a standardised ritual before each putt, unless the putt is a simple tap-in.

A pre-putt routine incorporates a standardised series of mental and physical behaviours that are consistently repeated before each putt.

Harold Swash : Putting – The Complete Guide

  • So what does the putting routine of a professional golfer look like?
  • Which routine should you copy in building your own pre-putt ritual?

The consensus among sports psychologists is that there is no one best way, except that a snappy routine is better than a drawn-out one.

The most noticeable differences in the various routines are:

  • the number of rehearsal putts
  • where these rehearsal putts take place
  • the number of looks from the ball to the hole and back

Tiger Woods in his book How I play Golf says this.

"A good putting stroke requires smooth rhythm and a steady, repeating pace. One of the secrets to accomplishing that is to do everything else smoothly and repetitively, too.

I’m talking about my pre-putt routine, or the series of things I do before I actually pull the trigger with the putter."

His routine is:

  • Take a general view of the putt while standing behind the ball
  • Walk to the hole and take a side view of the line to help determine the slope
  • Examine the area around the hole
  • Walk back to the ball and crouch behind it to get the most telling view of the speed and the break
  • Stand alongside the ball and make two rehearsal strokes
  • Move the putter behind the ball and then shift the feet forward
  • Take two more looks at the path of the putt and the hole
  • Stroke the putt

In tournament golf the player has 40 seconds to complete the putt once it is his or her turn. So in theory this is the longest time any putting routine should take. However, I have seen some tour players go well over this time limit.

The golfer whose putting I admire most is Aaron Baddeley. His pre-putt routine doesn’t allow time for doubt to creep in.

From behind the ball he closes his eyes and visualises the putt he is about to make in order to help eradicate any negative thoughts.

He explains that when he visualises a putt, he sees in his mind the ball rolling in the hole over and over again. So, when he is over the putt, he already believes that the ball will roll in because he has seen it happen so many times.

He then steps in with purpose, and within four to five seconds of grounding his putter, it is over. There are no rehearsal putts, only one last look and the ball is heading for the hole.

Contrast this to the agonising pre-putt routine of Jim Furyk. Just when you think he is going to putt, he backs off as if to reconfirm his initial assessment of the break. 

Here are some suggestions to incorporate in your routine from Len Mattiace, the runner-up in the 2003 Masters:

  • Take a deep breath and let it go before you make your stroke
  • Mentally visualise the the path of your putt and, in your rehearsal stroke, physically feel the speed with which you’ll need to stroke the ball to take that imaginary path
  • Keep your head and body steady before, during, and after contact with the ball
  • Keep your left wrist firm throughout the stroke

In their book The Mental Art of Putting Dr Patrick J. Cohn and Dr Robert K. Winters devote a chapter to what they call The 30-second Mindset: Establishing a Putting Routine.

It is well worth reading their ideas for using your mind to putt your best'.

Jim Flick, 5th in Golf Digest’s 2007 America’s 50 Greatest Teachers, recommends a number of steps in his outline of a putting routine.

  • Go halfway on the low side of the hole to get a feel for the length of the putt and the slope of the green
  • Go behind your ball and picture the intended putting path you want your ball to roll on
  • Get into a good setup with your eyes over the ball
  • Take a couple of rehearsal strokes looking at the hole to let your mind determine the amount of stroke you need
  • Address the ball and aim the putter head. Then adjust your body to how your putter is aimed
  • Take a final look at the hole and make your stroke
  • Watch the ball roll from your striking position

Phil Mickelsen has on occasion used an interesting psychological ploy as part of his putting routine.

In practice putting he lines up 10 balls in a circle about three feet from the hole. He then works his way clockwise around the circle, continuing this drill until he has made 100 putts in a row.

During a tournament you will see him making his rehearsal putts to the one side of his aimline. This helps him because he is imagining that he is back on the practice putting green and the putt he has is just one of the balls in the circle.

Pick up a book written by a sports psychologist on any sport and you will find a common message:

  • In order to perform an activity consistently, you must have a routine that frees your mind from conscious thought.

A sport such as golf puts added demands on the player – too much time to think.

A putting routine protects you from yourself.

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