36 Scor­ing zone

How many putts have you missed be­fore you even reach the green – and isn’t it time you changed that? This ex­clu­sive ex­tract from The Lost Art of Putting, by Gary Ni­col and Karl Mor­ris ex­plains how to do it

Today's Golfer (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Al­ter the way to ap­proach your putting... and hole more.


So, what kind of put­ter are you? Good from range? Fal­li­ble on the short ones? Not bad for your hand­i­cap? Prone to three-putting? Think about it for a mo­ment and you will be able to come up with a story that de­scribes your putting. But here is the key: the sto­ries you tell your­self will ei­ther be use­ful to you or use­less. In other words, that nar­ra­tive will ei­ther sup­port your goals or the sto­ries will hold you back.

This is be­cause the sto­ries we tell our­selves can be­gin to act out, even at a sub­con­scious level. Great putters tend to adopt a good at­ti­tude to putting. Your story will de­ter­mine or at the very least, heav­ily in­flu­ence your at­ti­tude. Note it well: a missed putt in and of it­self means noth­ing be­yond the mean­ing we per­son­ally at­tach to it.

As Trevor Sylvestor, a great ther­a­pist, tells us: what the thinker thinks the prover proves.

So, if we think we are poor on the greens then the ‘prover’ in­side our minds will seek sup­port­ing ev­i­dence. Ev­ery three-putt is a con­fir­ma­tion of the story. Ev­ery stroke feel­ing a bit jerky and ev­ery long putt left short is the op­por­tu­nity for the prover to ‘prove’ he is a poor put­ter.

Any ev­i­dence to counter that be­lief is ig­nored. The putts rolled smoothly, the birdie putts that go in, the great lag putt from 50 feet? They are all passed over be­cause the thinker thinks we are poor at putting so it doesn’t in any way go look­ing for any ev­i­dence to con­tra­dict that story.

The thinker loves to help the prover by talk­ing about how many putts he has taken. He draws com­pany in the mis­ery of poor putting. He tries to re­cruit other “be­liev­ers” who strug­gle on the greens.

In truth, it is hard to tell our­selves good sto­ries about our putting. A bad day on the greens makes a nice ex­cuse for what would oth­er­wise have been an ex­cel­lent round; more­over, good putting is of­ten as­so­ci­ated with be­ing lucky or streaky. There is al­most a badge of hon­our worn by peo­ple who putt badly and they are only too will­ing to share it with oth­ers.

Com­pare this to the ‘great ball-striker’ story, inevitably de­liv­ered with a puffed-out chest and a sense of dra­matic pride. Peo­ple love to hear about leg­endary ball-strik­ers such as Ben Ho­gan and Mac O’grady; yet the same aura doesn’t seem to be af­forded to great putters such as Bobby Locke, Ben Cren­shaw and Loren Roberts.

How of­ten have we heard peo­ple say “such-and-such a player can’t re­ally hit it but get him on the greens and he is some­thing of a blade mer­chant” – al­most as if it is a lesser abil­ity to be great on the greens.

Some play­ers will look back with re­gret on their ca­reers as a re­sult of be­ing less than they could have been on the greens – partly as a re­sult of the story they bought into of the ego-boost­ing value of ball-strik­ing over the sim­ple task of rolling the ball on the green.

So what is your story? How have you con­structed a nar­ra­tive around what hap­pens when you have a put­ter in your hand? How do you talk about your per­for­mance on the greens?

How do you talk about your putting with oth­ers – and per­haps more im­por­tantly with your­self?

What do you say to your­self when you putt well? Do you dis­miss those days as flukes?

How do you ex­plain the days when the ball just doesn’t want to go in?

Con­sider how much the story you have car­ried around with you for so long might have held back your progress. Do you want to keep with the same old story or could it per­haps be the time to take charge of a new script?

The most im­por­tant as­pect to un­der­stand is un­less you change your story – the nar­ra­tive you con­tin­u­ally tell your­self – then no mat­ter how many times you change your put­ter or no mat­ter how much work you do on your putting stroke, you will never see any last­ing change.

Sto­ries are that pow­er­ful. They bind us to our own self-im­posed re­al­ity.

Make sure you har­ness that power; don’t let it har­ness you.

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