There are some golfers in the world who don’t or won’t practice their putting, have little inclination to warm up with a few putts on the practice green before they go out to play, still have the same putter they usedforty years ago, refuse to take advice and say they are too old or can’t be bothered to change their ways but still want to beat their mates in their weekly golf.

That’s OK and this article is for all those golfers. Here are some ideas that they can do on the course that won’t take up extra time and that no one will work out what they are doing, that will result in less three putts and sinking more putts under ten feet. Read on.

Let’s say that you have a sidehill putt of 25 feet. Walk to a spot halfway between the ball and the hole and about 10 feet on the low side of the putt. Then using a forefinger (either one will do) trace out all the undulations and slopes from the ball to the hole. This will give your brain more information about the putt and give you a better chance of the ball finishing closer to the hole.

When you next line up a putt, do so from 6 to 10 feet behind the ball looking at the target. Have your eyes about the same height as you would when you putt and do your practice swings from this position, not beside the ball. Then walk up to the ball, place the putter behind the ball, adjust the putter to where you want the ball to go, settle your body, have one last look at the hole and then putt. Why? Because,with this approach,the geometry is much less confusing and your brain does not have to do as much. Your brain can get on with the important business of distance judgement.

When you are out playing on the course, look for the pin positions on the holes that you will encounter later in the round. You’ll have prior knowledge of what’s coming up and you’ll be better prepared in your decision making as to where you’ll want to putt from and how to get there.

Breathe in when you are preparing to putt and exhale completely before you putt. Even better if you can do this breathing rhythmically. I had a phone call one afternoon from a former tour player. “I’ve just played in a pro-am and left eight putts just short, dead on line.” I said: “You were holding your breath.” The phone went dead. Five minutes later the phone rang again. The player said: “How did you know that?” Holding your breath on putts can cause a deceleration in the forward putting stroke and that’s what happened to this player.

Avoid pressure. Take the word “should” out of your language. Never ever say: “I should have sunk that putt.” Sometimes perfectly struck putts just don’t go in the hole. That’s how it is. All my best clients are concerned with the quality of their pre shot routine, the actual routine and the post shot routine. They are concerned with process not outcomes. In the 2000 Olympics the men’s 4 X 100 metre freestyle swimming event, the USA team were the favourites. They came second. To their great credit, the coaches of the USA team went to the coach of the winning team and asked: “What did you do that was different?” The winning team coach said that every swimmer in the team focussed on process, not outcome. Doing each part of that 100-metre swim really well was the prime focus of every team member of the swim team.

Never charge the hole. Always putt with your usual stroke. If you have a putt for an eagle or a birdie or an all-important putt to save the hole or the money, always putt with your usual stroke. If your mates say: “Never up, never in” or “Give it a go” or worse still “Twice the speed, half the break”, smile politely and employ your usual stroke. Why? Because the harder you putt, the smaller the effective size of the hole. Plus with your usual stroke you’ll have a better chance of sinking the return putt.

In summer play golf early in the day when the greens haven’t had too much traffic on them and there aren’t too many footprints around the hole. In winter play later in the day when you are fully awake and tuned into the conditions.

Pick the exact point on the lip of the hole that you want the ball to cross over when it goes in the hole. Crazy? Ambitious? No, far from it. The smaller the target the more focussed your brain will become. It will help your aiming and that in itself,will have a profound and positive influence on your stroke. A famous story involves the great Ben Hogan who had a blind second shot on a par five hole that had pine trees at the back of the green. It was a practice round so Ben asked the crowd where the green was. The reply was in front of the pine trees. Hogan said: “Which pine tree?” The crowd oooh’d and aaah’d. “How good is Hogan?” they whispered. “He wants to hit at a specific tree so far away”. But what was really happening was that Hogan knew, as do our current crop of psychologists, that the more specific the target, the better the chance of getting close.

Finally, play with golfers who are better than you. Watch what they do and, after the round, think closely about how they navigated their way around the greens. Play with golfers who have great rhythm and also, seek out golfers who are good company. Your game will be more enjoyable. You never know, you might end up reading an article on how to putt better without practising.

Kevin O’Neill
Inventor of the DOT Putter