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See the Line Every Time! The EOB Putting System

Confidence in Putting

Dear Dr. Putt:
What can I do to build confidence in my putting? I have tried everything in all the golf magazines I read every month, and nothing seems to work. No matter what I do I seem to miss several three foot putts every round, and after missing those my partners will not even concede a one foot putt to me. Occasionally I even miss one of those and then I really get down on myself for several days after that. Sometimes I feel like quitting the game completely. I find myself lag putting on even makeable ten foot putts so that I will not face a possible two or three foot putt. I am sometimes almost too afraid to take the putter back. Please help me if you can.
Mr. D.S. Parret

Dear Mr. Parret:
Dr. Putt feels great empathy for anyone who loves an activity and and suffers self-imposed humiliation because of perceived persistent failure at that activity. A number of explanations exist for this lack of confidence in putting. One possibility is that the player has a general lack of self-esteem and expresses his/her low self-regard by proving that she/he is unworthy for success in even the most simple of tasks--such as critical short putts. However, this is unlikely if the person in question feels confidence in other aspects of her/his life. Moreover, all of us should remember that self-worth as a human being is not measured by success in any athletic endeavor. One could miss every key shot the rest of ones life and still exert a positive influence on other people. What is more important than success is the grace with which one faces the inevitable trials and tribulations of life. By "grace," Dr. Putt is referring not to laughing failure off and not really trying, but making a continuous serious effort and accepting the results with dignity, not boasting when efforts are successful nor expressing rancor when they are less than successful.

A second possibility is that the player has set impossibly high standards of perfection for him or herself. Failing to reach perfection, the player may consider her or himself to be a failure. As the saying goes, the perfect may become the enemy of the good, and the player may embark on a Quixotic search for perfection. The result is inconsistency as a result of never staying with any technique long enough to reach consistency. When you say "I have tried everything," Dr. Putt is suspicious that this may be the problem in your case. Return to a basic and simple putting technique and stick with it. The fewer the moving parts, the better. Make sure that you have a putting routine and focus on that routine more than on the results. Consider concentration on the routine to be a success regardless of whether the putt falls. Focusing on the routine helps shut out the inner self--that inner self rarely has a positive influence on outcomes. Nearly all normal human beings have self-doubt. Even the greatest of athletes have doubts--when Michael Jordan took the winning shot to beat Georgetown in the NCAA finals, he closed his eyes after the ball left his hand (according to Dean Smith)--Michael had doubts. What makes golf more difficult is that the player has more time between shots to let that inner self-doubt bubble to the surface. Consider how many wonderful basketball players have more trouble shooting a 15 foot foul shot than they do in sinking a 15 foot jump shot. The foul shot is more like the putt. Good foul shooters have a preshot routine they always follow. So do good putters.

A third possibility is that you simply need to experience a little success in order to build more success. As the cliche says, nothing succeeds like success. In a classic text on the American Presidency (which John Kennedy made required reading for his staff before assuming office), Richard Neustadt advised Presidents to build a reputation for success in order to build a foundation for more success. The golfer should do the same. Start with something modest. Make 5 three foot putts in a row on the practice green before starting a round. Then work up to 10 or even 20. Recently Dr. Putt happened to catch one of the best players on the European tour excitedly telling a reporter on the golf channel that he was about to make 200 three foot putts in a row on the practice green--something he had never done before. He went on to win the next tournament. He built a greater success from a smaller success. After hitting 10 or 20 three foot putts, you might make it a little tougher on yourself by placing a quarter just in front of the hole and trying to hit it 5 times on these three foot putts. Then do it with a dime. After a while, three foot putts that merely have to go in the hole will seem easy. But even then, don't aim for the hole--aim at a blade of grass, just as you did the quarter or dime.

Above all, give yourself a break. You are human and golf is only a game. Embrace your humanity and all its imperfections and enjoy golf, knowing that as long as you are lucky enough to play, you will always have another shot.

Sincerely, Dr. Putt

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