How to effectively practice your putting stroke without added mental fatigue
March 27, 2018 by Brian Earhart in Instruction with 0 comments
Doink, clunk, thud…ahhhhh, the heavenly sounds of leaving a putt short, sending it straight into the cage. Do those sounds give you nightmares? Do you leave the course complaining to your friends that you kept rushing your putts and drilling the tray? I could’ve answered yes to those questions for years, feeling helpless that none of my practice meant anything and that I’d forever be tied to the label of:
“The kid who can throw but won’t go anywhere with his awful short game.”
After reading numerous golf books and reflecting on their lessons at a near-obsessive level, I’ve begun to change the way I think about disc golf, especially when it comes to putting. After months of attempting to re-wire my brain and translating the principles from various books about the mental aspect of golf,1 it’s completely changed the way I practice the sport and conduct myself on the course.
Practicing “Rolling the Perfect Putt”
Oftentimes I’ve heard disc golfers say something along the lines of, ‘it doesn’t matter how a putt looks, as long as it goes in.’ In a tournament, that statement is absolutely correct. While this is obviously true during competitive play, how the putt looks coming out of your hand should be the only thing you’re thinking about when you are practicing putting.
Unlike disc golfers, this type of thinking on the putting green is naturally developed over time for a traditional ball golfer. This is because, in order to hole a putt in ball golf, the player needs to read the slope of the green correctly and make a conscious decision to roll the ball on that line with as perfect of a tempo as possible. Too much or too little pace on the putt and the ball is less likely to follow the slope of the green as they had envisioned. This forces a traditional golfer to practice executing “perfect putts” at many different tempos.
Most disc golfers don’t practice “rolling a perfect putt” because they don’t need to. Most modern disc golf baskets reward strong putts with lots of pace, oftentimes allowing a player to throw the same tempo of putt for a 40-footer as they would for a 15-footer, and care less about the overall control of their stroke. The drill I’ve developed and listed below forces you to slow down and master your own personal putting stroke before speeding back up to a comfortable tempo.
Bearhart’s Perfect Putting Drill
1) Take five putters to the closest distance you’re confident you can make 10/10 easily without much thought. Perhaps, begin around 5-10 feet initially.2
2) Attempt to throw those five putts with no wobble and a tempo that would also drop in the basket if there were no chains. Don’t get discouraged if it’s challenging initially, as this may be difficult right off the bat. Again, making the putt does not matter, instead focus on executing the message your brain is sending your body.3
3) When you begin to figure out the spin/speed ratio needed to execute perfect putts at a short distance, move back five feet and repeat the drill. Make sure to speed up the entire body’s mechanics in ratio as needed with the increased distance. Be honest with yourself and don’t cheat.
4) Repeat until you get to around 25 feet. It is unlikely that you will be throwing perfect putts from that distance in the first session, so work your way to that point over time.
Six Realizations After Months of Repeating this Drill
1) You were likely moving way too fast on Circle 1 putts before. This can cause a disconnect between your brain and body, leading to rushed, inconsistent movements.
2) Your wrist and legs are stronger than you think.
3) Now that you’ve been practicing the execution of a perfect putt at multiple tempos, you’ll be able to speed up that stroke in ratio and hit more putts from longer distances. From doing this drill all winter I now can throw standing putts from 50 feet, something I previously could not have dreamed of.
4) When you’re focusing on your stroke and visualizing how you want the putt to come out of your hand, you don’t have as much time to worry about making or missing the putt, which can cause those putting jitters everyone hates so much. If you’re having trouble not worrying about making or missing putts during practice, trying putting at an object that isn’t a basket but is roughly the same height and shape.
5) When you begin putting back at your normal tempo, you will feel an increased sense of control over how your putt looks coming out of your hand.
6) You’re a much better putter than you realize when you remove the irrational, emotional labeling of your results. Only speak about your game in factual terms (too high, too low, etc.). When you’re practicing, don’t focus on labeling the outcome of each putt as that will only fatigue you mentally. Just focus on the material things that happened, and visualize how to adjust them on your next putt.
I hope these putting tips help some of you start focusing on the right things while you practice, allowing you to break through some barriers we all experience when we’re trying to improve our game.
In particular the Zen Golf series by Dr. Joseph Parent. ↩
This drill is most successful when putting indoors or on a day when wind is minimal. ↩
When throwing these putts, act like a musician learning a new piece of music in detail and slow your body’s metronome to a tempo that feels like slow motion. Make sure to not cheat your form, slow down all movements in ratio. ↩