The use of preshot routines by athletes is not new. Basketball players use routines at the foul line. Baseball players use routines in the batter’s box. Bowlers use routines before executing a shot. Place kickers in football use routines to prepare for a field goal.
Golf is a self-paced game, which allows you to prepare for shots so you can feel ready. Consistency is the goal of all golfers. And that’s the goal of a good routine. Nowhere in golf are routines more important than in putting. A successful putting routine helps you to (1) feel confident and eliminate doubt and indecision; (2) immerse yourself in execution; and (3) trust your natural stroke. Here, I discuss the mindset for developing a successful putting routine.
1. Pick a Line and a Target
Make sure you read the putt from all sides if time permits. And go to the low side of the green-you can see the undulations better. Use your imagination to feel or see a line. Also pick a spot to aim your putter to-the launch point. Don’t just hit it “somewhere out there”. Make a specific plan. If you can’t decide, make a good guess. Pick a spot near the hole to launch the ball to get it on line.
2. Program Yourself with an Image
After you select a line, imagine the ball rolling on the line and into the hole. See the pace needed to keep the ball on line. Remember, the line you selected requires a specific pace. Many visual putters, such as Jack Nicklaus, see the ball roll along its line. Feel putters, such as Bob Murphy, feel the putt into the hole. The image you use should play to your strength.
3. Stay Target Focused
The mind plays tricks with you on the green. As you move from behind the ball (low to the ground) to over the ball (eyes above the line), perception changes and so does your recognition of the line. Thus, it’s important that you don’t get tricked into changing your read. Stay fixated on your line and spot as you approach the ball. Visualize the putt as you walk into the ball and don’t lose the vision of your line.
4. Ingrain the Feel
Practice strokes are important for gaining a sense of tempo for the putt. This is not the time to practice stroke path. Match the tempo of your stroke to the distance of the putt. If the practice stroke doesn’t match the feeling in your mind’s eye, then adjust. Don’t watch the putter head. Focus on feel and distance instead. To get away from stroke, look at the target as you take practice strokes to feel speed.
5. Aim Your Best
Golf is a target game. Without proper aim, you are doomed from the start. Poor aim leads to compensations in the stroke. Aim the putter first with the eyes over the ball and target line. Once you aim, then align your body around the putter head. Your body alignment should be parallel to your launch point. Don’t be so precise with aiming that you can’t pull the putter back when its time to fire away.
7. Think Target
Now that you are aimed and aligned well, what should you focus on? Should you think about the ball, line, speed, feel, or a spot on your line? I prefer you “see” or “feel” the target in your mind’s eye. I tell players to focus on where they want to launch the ball. Have a picture in the mind’s eye of the target (launch point) and line. If you have good touch, your distance control should be on target. And if aimed correctly, the ball should start on line.
8. Fire Away
Most players’ routines flow well until the moment of truth when it’s time to pull the trigger. This is when doubt, hesitation, and indecision can ruin a great stroke. Some players focus too much on results, get anxious, and steer the putt. Trying too hard to stroke the ball on line only increases tension and interferes with your natural stroke. Let your instincts take over. Trust what you see. Allow your natural stroke built on practice guide you. Engage with the target and fire away!