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Mental Golf: Creating Positive Putting Momentum
Dr. Robert Winters

Momentum on the Putting Green

Momentum plays a huge factor in determining how well or how poorly you will play golf, and its effect becomes magnified on the putting green. When I speak to golfers on the professional golf tours about building positive putting momentum, I emphasize that it involves not only psychological factors, but emotional ones as well. These emotional factors are vital to sustaining and building positive "mo." For example, the exhilaration that accompanies a series of successfully holed putts (or putts that do not go in the hole, but are hit solidly and with the proper pace) provides golfers with feelings of confidence and control.

However, if golfers miss putts (and miss frequently) they often are ready to throw in the towel and say, "it's just not my day!" What usually follows this negative self-talk are the feelings of failure, embarrassment, anger, and self-pity. These devastating feelings are the result of allowing oneself to be overwhelmed by negative momentum and not understanding how to reverse the effects of missing. If you have ever missed a short putt and felt distressed or thought that you were "losing it," then you understand how putting can have an immediate effect on your emotions and in turn, your momentum.

Regarding negative experiences, many golfers tell me that when they miss putts early in the round, they experience an extreme feeling of disappointment and find it hard to recover. The pictures they see in their mind's eye (before they putt) are of balls continually lipping out, sliding by the hole, or being way off of the target. In essence, negative momentum on the greens provides a poor taste in one's mind for putting, while positive momentum "wets" the appetite for a putting feeding frenzy. Therefore, your focus should always be on building and sustaining positive momentum, no matter the outcome of any one putt. Here's a simple strategy to build positive putting momentum!

Develop an attitude of taking something positive from each putt!

It all comes down to this: your success on the greens is largely determined by having the right attitude of what constitutes putting success. For most golfers, success on the green is whether the ball is going in the hole or not. But if you can only feel good about your putting when the ball is dropping, you become totally outcome-focused. This is a very dangerous way to think and in the long term, will most likely increase your fear of missing and putting failure. I suggest that a more enjoyable way to view putting is that the outcome of missing or making putts should not have an impact on whether you feel successful on the green or not. Other factors need to be considered for putting success, such as:

(a) the quality of your decision making

(b) your commitment to the line and speed of any particular putt

(c) your ability to stay within the fluidity of your pre-putt routine and stroke the ball solidly

(d) your overall belief that the ball will have a good chance of going in the hole

(e) your self-discipline to accept the outcome without self-criticism and move on to the next putt with fresh enthusiasm

All of these items are efficient ways to view your putting process as being successful. They are also separate from the outcome of whether the ball goes in the hole or not and help to develop positive putting momentum. Here are a number of things that you can focus on and derive good feelings from other than whether the ball goes in or not:

First, you can control your ability to read the green and by doing this well, you give yourself a good idea of where you want to roll the ball. Knowing that you are a good reader of the greens and that you can see the lines clearly, is a good way to build confidence.

Secondly, by knowing where the ball needs to roll, you can make a clear decision about the line and speed, which in turn, affects the amount of hit or force that you hit the ball. Knowing that you make good decisions is another way to feel successful about your putting process.

Thirdly, you ultimately have the power of control over whether your mind is really into a putt or not. If you putt with purposeful intent and feel that you have given the ball a solid hit on the proper line that you read, then you have done all of the things that you can control. If the ball does not go in, you must realize that you gave it your best effort at that particular time and situation. It is very important that you walk away from the putting green having positive feelings knowing that you did many things well, regardless of the outcome. This one simple step (of pulling something positive from every putt) is the pinnacle of being task-focused and concentrating on what needs to be done for the process of putting! Therefore, this type of thinking is dealing with the task of the present putt, versus worrying about the outcome (make or miss) or worrying about all of your previous misses.

4. Finally, if you feel that you didn't make a good read or that you just made a simple physical error, you must make the decision to think that this was a one-time mistake and leave it at that. You must walk away from the green to the next tee unaffected by the miss or the disappointment from not capitalizing on the opportunity. Many players ruin their positive momentum by missing a putt and decide that things are falling apart. Remember that one putt doesn't have to "make or break" your entire round.

Once you understand that you are giving your best intention and commitment to roll the ball on the right line at the right speed, you have done all you can do at that time. You have the final control of how you will accept this outcome. If you decide to pull something positive from every putt (no matter the outcome), then you are well on your way to building positive putting momentum!

May all your putts find the bottom of the cup!

Dr. Robert Winters is a leading sports psychologist, author and lecturer. He works with amateur golfers and touring professionals around the world and is the mental game consultant for NBC and Total Sports Network on the world-wide internet system, www.golf.com. He is also Director of Golf for NIKE Golf Schools at The Boca Raton Resort and Club in Florida and also at Williams College in Massachusetts. Dr. Winters can be contacted for individual or team consulting via e-mail at: mindpowersports@aol.com

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