MORE HASTE LESS NERVES
Lee Westwood is improving his putting with the help of sports psychologist , ex professional snooker player Chris Henry. He is speeding up his putting routine. He now has to hit the ball within six seconds from the moment he stands over it.
This is not a new development in the mental game of golf Research shows that golfers who take less time in their putting preparation get far better results.
The Beilock, Carr et al Golfers research (2004)
In this study. skilled golfers were given as much time as they liked to take a put. The researchers then put a time limit on their putting prep time. Their putting accuracy dropped significantly when they were given longer time to think.
Why is this. Wouldn’t we expect better results from giving the shot more thought. Because of the relationship with the subconscious and fine motor skills, the answer is a definite no.
Paralysis from analysis
When anxiety takes hold, people try harder to take control . They hope that being careful will increase their chance of success. It doesn’t. Attention to performance or technique disrupts the flow of subconscious and muscle memory. Delay also invites negative thoughts but most of all if you start thinking about your technique, you are going to interfere with the connection between the picture in your mind and the stroke
The danger of over thinking is confirmed in other studies where sports people were given mental tasks like counting from 100 backwards to distract them from thinking about technique. They did much better when they were distracted than when they only had the task to think about.
First impressions are better than second and third ones
Trust your first impressions. In competition, there is the tendency to take more time to reflect because of the importance of the occasion. This leads to the shot being ‘over-thought’. It is possible (and preferable ) to take in all of the necessary information about the slope, grain and speed in a very short time
See it go in first
Imagine the ball going in the hole. Some players see a line on the green , others imagine a video of the ball rolling in. This is how to pinpoint the target to aim for.
The good putter visualises the shot going in – not going near the hole or half way. As Jack Niklaus said “in my mind I never miss a shot”
Look at the target. See the ball going into the hole. Let the stroke go. Don’t hang around
Why can’t I play as well on the course as I do in practice?
How many times do we say this. Look at what you do in practice. Examine in detail how you prepare for shots and specifically how long you take before you take them. By replicating this on the course you will get the same results. This means taking the same preparation time too.l
When I coach people we look at what is happening on the rang and in the pre-shot routine. ( See my articles on pre shot routine for more info) Often we find that the practice one is much quicker. The stroke is something that happens in response to the image you have in your mind.
How to deal with the wait on the course
When you are practising you don’t have to wait while others play their shots. In this respect you can’t replicate the practice routine so you need to have a strategy to cope with this difference.
I recommend planning how you are going to distract yourself from over thinking the next shot. In other words plan to think about something unrelated to golf.
A NOTE OF CAUTION
The speeding up to avoid over thinking principle applies to putting. There are other high pressure points in sport where speeding up has the opposite effect. Take penalty taking for example. The best research on this is by a Swedish Sports Psychologist Dr, Geif Jordet who studied why English penalty takers were so poor. The conclusion after extensive study was that they performed worse than their foreign counterparts because they rushed the run up and kick. It found the longer a player takes, the more likely they are to score. We are talking about the time from the referee's signal to the shot. so seconds. There was an element of 'lets get it over with'. The penalty shootout is a different situation to putting though because there is the interaction with the keeper and team dynamics to take into consideration.
Consider whether you are ‘over thinking’ your shot and whether you could incorporate a quicker and more decisive pre shot routine for putting. Get out on the range and play around with different time scales . But make sure you replicate the successful ones on the course to a second.
Remember in sport ‘you gain control by giving up control.’