A week or so ago I came home from another trip to Japan and was a little disappointed. I had played really well and had shot four sub par rounds for the week finishing at ten under par. Why would I be disappointed with that I hear you ask? Well I didn't putt well and once again felt as though that part of my game let the rest of my game down again!
That Monday I sat down at my computer and decided to do some research. I looked up the PGA Tour putting stats for this year to date. What I found will change me forever I hope. The numbers were amazing. I looked at putts from 3 foot to 10 foot and then in some larger brackets beyond that out to 25 ft. I looked at the best, the number one ranked player and his percentage of putts holed from all of those distances and then also looked at the 10th player and also the last placed player from every distance. What I found in a nutshell without really boring you completely to tears was that from inside 5 ft the number one putter is exceptional and is nearly at 100% although 10th place only makes around 88% from 5ft whilst last place makes only 61% from 5 ft. The numbers continue to considerably slide the further you get from the hole which is understandable but what shocked me were the numbers. From 10ft the best is at a very respectable 73% but 10th place drops to 57% whilst last place is only making 17% from that range. I guess what I am getting at here is that for a very very long time I have been expecting to make more putts than the best putters in the world. Unrealistic expectations and that has over a number of years built the pressure on the greens and caused me to spiral downwards mentally to the point of suffering the yips and incredible mental instability in the greens. When the best in the world is making 13% from 20 foot why and how did I get away with believing I should be making them all and criticising myself each time I missed.
It was probably the most valuable hr I have spent on my game this year. I am playing great at the moment but that doesn't matter when your brain is being told lies the minute you get to the green. The past two days I have added to my study by spending some considerable time with Cameron Stachan, a putting coach that I have come across through a mutual friend.
When Cameron and I went to the course to play I flushed it down the middle and wedged it to about 10ft. From there I hit my putt which came up short and I tapped it in for par. Cameron came across and said something very profound to me....he said "I watched you play that hole and from the tee to the green you were dancing, moving beautifully to the music and then the minute you got on the green it looked like you no longer knew how to dance, you were lost and your brain looked like it was in overdrive trying to find answers!" He said "The hardest part of the hole technically was to hit that tee shot 250m down the middle with a slight draw and you didn't give it any thought or time?? Yet when you got to the easiest part of the hole technically, you actually almost froze and gave it far more brain power than the tee shot!" How true he was and how valuable this putting lesson was going to be. Not only was I placing unrealistic expectations on my putting but I was also doing it all wrong. I wasn't dancing at all, I was thinking too much about outcomes, fearing them even and also just generally overthinking the easiest skill in the game.
For a person who plays the game so much on feel and in fact loves playing instinctive sports too, my putting game hasn't matched that since I was a young kid. I have often thought I am better at other sports where thinking happens on the run unlike golf where we have an abundance of time to think. For me that has been the killer. Here's the big one, if a person who had never played golf before was given the task of hitting a driver 250m down the middle and hitting a ten ft putt to the hole, we all know they would have far more success hitting the putt....yet I make that process the hardest and most difficult.
Over the course of the day I was taught and finally started to roll the ball, stay in the bubble, look and react, putt instinctively and more. I felt free for the first time in forever and coupled with my study I felt as though I didn't have to make putts!!! The irony of it all was that now I started making putts! There is loads of more relevant repetition ahead of me but I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little excited! Stay tuned for more and my advice is that you don't think about how to throw a ball to a person, you just do it, allow the power of your brain and instincts to work and you may just be amazed at what happens! Enjoy your golf!!