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See the Line Every Time! The EOB Putting System

Hot and Cold Putter

Dear Dr. Putt:
I don't understand why on a few days I have a hot putter and on most others, when nothing seems to have changed in my stroke, my putting goes cold. What can I do to be more consistent?
Jim R.

Dear Mr. R.:
Dr. Putt would suggest you take a coin from your pocket. Assuming it is a fair coin (that is, heads will come up as often as tails), flip it four times. Did you obtain four heads? Unlikely. In fact, the probablility of achieving four heads in a row is .0625, just a little over 6%. Suppose that you make an average of one half of the four foot putts you face. Then your chance of making each putt from that length is the same as coming up with a head on a coin toss. If you compute the odds, then you can expect to make two of these relatively difficult putts in a row about one time in four, three in a row about one time out of eight, and four in a row about one in sixteen. So if you define a "hot putter" as making three out of four of these putts during a round, plus perhaps dropping a couple of longer ones, you can see why this occasionally happens, but on most days you will miss as many four footers as you make. You will then conclude that you have no touch that day or have a "cold putter."

What you have, dear reader, is the law of probability. Once you get beyond the distance from which your skill allows you to make half of the putts you face, the deck is stacked against you, and you will fail more than you succeed. The best thing you can do is improve your skill so that you raise the percentages at a given distance.

However, having said that, one must also account for psychological factors--confidence, or lack thereof, and pressure, or lack thereof, and how these states of mind affect the player's stroke. Missing a relatively short putt introduces an element of doubt in the mind of the player, thereby creating uncertainty, tension, and more inconsistency in executing a normal putting stroke. The converse is also true. Making several short putts in a row adds confidence, more relaxed muscles, and a more confident and consistent stroke. This is why Dr. Putt advises all players to always stroke two or three balls into the hole in a row from two or three feet before walking to the first tee. In a recent round Dr. Putt himself rushed in accomplishing this task, as he was called by the starter to move to the tee, and missed several tries from 3 feet. He then proceeded to miss three out of four three footers on the course, resulting in a score that was in the mid seventies rather than in the low seventies. Even Dr. Putt sometimes does not follow his own advice!

Even professionals are not immune to the laws of probability. PGA statistics indicate that pros make about 90% of their putts from 3 feet. That means that if they face seven 3 foot putts in a round, which would not be unusual, their odds of making all of them are less than 50%. They may erroneously conclude that their putter failed them if that single and highly probable miss cost them the tournament.

All the player can do is understand that regardless of skill level, misses are inevitable and keep the faith that one or two misses do not mean that some force of nature has condemned him or her on that day. Even at a normal 50% success rate (back to the coin), one fourth of the time she or he will miss two putts in a row. The wise player will understand this, smile, and do his or her best to execute a normal stroke on the next putt.

Dr. Putt

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