The Practice Green – Friend Or Foe?
Are you one of those practice nuts who hit great putts on the practice green before your round, but when it comes to crunch time on the course you fall to pieces? Yet nothing has changed during the short time between practice and playing – you are the same person, hitting putts with the same putter you were using less than an hour before. Your playing partners may make comments perhaps kidding you that you have used all your good putts on the practice green and now you have nothing left in the tank for your round.
Unfortunately negative comments can start to get to you after time and only serve to affect your confidence. You may actually start to believe what other golfers are saying to you, something as silly as this sort of comment can actually become the route of many negative beliefs you create around your game of golf, especially when it comes to putting.
Today we are going to take a look at how we differentiate between practice and play which will give you more confidence in your ability to putt. There is often a more casual approach to the practice green as it can sometimes be seen as less important to achieve the putts whilst practicing as it is when playing.
It is, however, important to understand that to practice wisely you need to practice competitively. In doing so it is also important to remember that there is no difference between the practice putting green and the putting green on the course.
So when you have that three footer to win you have already prepared for it and will find it no harder than ordering your winner’s drink at the bar afterwards.
So, how do we create a competitive edge to our practice?
When we do this we must not make it dull or ultra serious, as if our life depends on us making 30 straight putts in a row. But on the other hand you must ensure that you do not become too casual about your practice.
Remember you do not have to practice just in the designated areas on and around the practice green; you can practice putting anywhere and everywhere; at home, in your front room whilst watching TV, or in your office.
Here are some tips to make practicing your putting link fluently into how you play.
TIP ONE: Take only one golf ball onto the practice green with you. This does a number of things; firstly, as you have only one ball in play at any one time on the green it emulates more closely how you would play in a competitive situation.
Using one ball also serves another purpose as it re-programmes you with the correct learning processes. When we play golf our moods and our energy can change each and every time we play. Our brain works differently depending on all sorts of different internal and external stimuli. So, there are things in our golf which will change from day to day; the tempo & dynamics of our stroke are prone to change.
Even a small change in backstroke timing will affect rotation timing to impact; this means that your ability to square the club at impact can change from day to day. The problem can be increased when you take a sleeve of balls out to the practice green and hit your first putt. If you miss left you will take another ball out of the sleeve and now over-compensate and hit right. There may not have been a directional problem in the first place there may have been a problem with tempo. But, you will begin to compensate for a problem that could not be rectified if you were playing in a competitive situation because you only get one go at it.
In your one attempt you may miss left, but alignment is just one factor that you will have taken into account to ensure you hole the putt. You may have already taken this into account and decided to aim slightly right of your target thus trusting your own abilities for that putt. You do not have a sleeve of balls to try and try again. This is where confidence in your own ability plays an important role.
TIP TWO: Another method of creating competitive practice is to set yourself little competitions; devise little mini-games, set goals for yourself and attempt to beat them. You can play your friends at a putting competition for a pound; and feel your competitive edge shine through when you hole that putt to win.
Here is a sample competitive practice game to try. The ‘Round the Clock’ putting game.
You need to pick one of the holes on the practice green and position six balls around it to form a clock face. Choose a hole which best represents one of the holes on the course you are about to play. Each and every putt is to win the hole. It’s a fact. Great sports people develop a winning habit by carefully enacting the exact same procedure in their shot execution. And, it’s the quickest way you can improve your score. So, remember to keep a score. This will further help in creating an association between the putting green and the course and will aid you in knowing the pace of the greens on the day.
This will also help bring you added confidence in your putting to take onto the course with you.
TIP THREE: Practice your distance control as this is such an important part in sinking those putts. A very good method for this is to use your Zen Oracle putter. Take your stance or even stand straddle to the hole, and by holding the putter in one hand just roll a few putts by “releasing” the ball to the hole from the aperture. Also try doing this drill while at the same time looking directly at the hole. This way you will start to synchronise your motor pattern with your aim and so improve your hand-to-eye coordination. For more information on this watch the Release Drill on your Drills DVD. This drill will help synchronise the feeling of the ground, ball, club and your hand all together. It will also help in judging your distances. You will see most good tour pros doing this drill in their putting routine. Almost everyone acts out a simple bowling motion towards the hole when judging the distance, but this drill also gives you a feel for the ball on the ground from the ball rolling in the aperture during this drill.
I hope some of the aspects I have identified through this article will enable you to start taking a great putting stroke from the so called ‘practice putting green’ to the course with confidence.