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Silent Mind Golf - The Four Foot Putt

Silent Mind Golf brings a refreshingly simple yet original approach to mental aspects of golf. It is written by a business professional and lifelong golfer, Robin Sieger, who directly relates to "the average golfer's love-hate relationship with the game". The book guides golfers of all skill levels to "get out of their own way" and learn to play intuitively and instinctively. This is also the first golf book to be accompanied by a mental conditioning audio CD that teaches the learner the 'how to'.

"Improving mental excellence takes practice, just like improving your swing to be more consistent," says Sieger. "It came to me several years ago that I could apply the theories of best performance, those I'd traditionally used in a business context, to my golf. Almost immediately I reduced my handicap from 16 to 8."

We cannot guarantee that this exclusive series of extracts from the book will halve your handicap, but we are certain it will help to give you valuable direction in what is the most over-looked aspect of the game.

Part 1 - Silent Mind Golf
Part 2 - The Art of Focus

Part 3 - Presence - Being in the Moment
Part 4 - The Faith Factor
Part 5 - Ovecoming the Fear Factor
Part 6 - What makes a Winner?
Part 7 - The Fear Factor
Part 8 - The Four Foot Putt

It’s time to shake off all negative thoughts and putt like it just doesn’t matter, says Robin Sieger

Ben Crenshaw was considered one of the best putters of all time. Curiously, when asked about technique he said, ‘I don’t think precise mechanical thoughts, I just stay loose, comfortable and easy.’ He didn’t believe there was a right or wrong way to putt, no right or wrong way to stand or set up even, but he did believe in making a consistent stroke.

Putting is often seen as a game within a game. Personally, though I believe technique is important in golf, when it comes to putting I believe it is less to do with formal technique and more to do with confidence. The putting green is a very democratic place: it favours no one and is a great leveller, a place where all golfers are truly equal and the best player is not always favourite. It is also where the first cracks in a player’s game tend to appear. Many legends of the game confess that the short putts they previously smacked into the back of the hole have become harder and harder. The pressure of making such putts finally takes its toll and the fine muscle control required gradually falls away. In some cases, it disappears altogether and is replaced by the involuntary muscle twitch known as the dreaded ‘yip’.

‘I don’t have any big secret about putting … Just hit at it. It’s either going to miss or go in.’The four-foot putt that we regularly face in a round can, over time, reduce even the finest of players to a second-guessing, superstitious, equipment- changing wreck. Why? I think the majority of golfers would agree that a four-foot putt is much easier than a three-wood from the light rough, or a long bunker shot, a drive hit with perfect draw, or just about any other shot you will find on the course. And it is exactly because it is such a simple shot that the thought of missing it can be so painful and, for some players, become their (negative) dominant thought. Sure, it’s only four feet and on the practice green they will make it time and again. But out on the course, when it counts for real, it’s a different matter altogether: they know if they miss it they will have dropped an easy shot.

We play our best when we are unencumbered by negative thoughts, relaxed, and in the moment; equally we play our worst when we are full of negative thoughts, tense and worrying about the next shot. This is as true on the green as it is on the tee box, yet we don’t seem to agonise over a tee shot as we do a four-foot putt.

So let me give you the advice that I have found most helpful: You have got to putt like it just doesn’t matter. This may seem counter-intuitive, especially as we recognise that every shot is important. When we think back to the practice green, there is no pressure or penalty for a missed putt, and because we are much more relaxed we are more likely to make those shots. If we can take that same attitude onto the golf course, then we will remove much of the pressure that can cause the nervous strokemaking we so wish to avoid. The more we can develop a putting stroke we are comfortable with, the easier it is for us to let go of trying, be confident and simply rely on the stroke itself.

Obviously, this is easier said than done! The more short putts we sink, the more our confidence grows and the more we expect to sink them in the future. The opposite is also true: missed putts lead to a lack of confidence and an expectation of missing in the future. Simply put, our confidence on the green is more important than our technique, as long as the stroke we adopt and use works for us and can be repeated.

Amongst students of the game, one player stood head and shoulders above all others when it came to putting, and that was the South African Bobby Locke. He was by all accounts an extraordinarily gifted putter with one of the most unorthodox styles seen in the game, which went against all the conventional theories of what constitutes a good putting stroke. The fact that no one has ever attempted to copy his putting style would indicate that it was very individual to him.

When he putted, Locke kept his feet close together and kept the ball in line with his left foot. On the backstroke he would take the club inside the line of the putt, and as he came through the ball he would appear to hood the face of the putter and have a very short follow-through, almost as though he was stabbing at the ball. He did not overanalyse his technique, but let the results speak for themselves: it was Locke who coined the phrase, ‘You drive for show and you putt for dough.’ He was not particularly long off the tee, but placed great emphasis on being accurate. And when he arrived at the green in regulation he was a match for anybody, as his three Open Championship wins demonstrate.

In my experience, over the course of a year, more than half of my golfing friends and clients will change their grip, stance, pre-shot routine – or a combination of all three. Many will invest in the latest putting technology. Every golfer is looking for that magic bullet.

Doubtless the best approach is investing time to build the confidence on the greens, but sometimes making a change is all that is required to get the confidence previously lacking. I have twice played with golfers who had wooden-shafted putters they told me they had inherited from family members many years earlier.

One had a severely warped shaft with no grip at all; it had a mallet head and truly belonged in a museum. The other putter was also wooden-shafted and had a flat thin blade that was at least sixty years old. Yet at their club they were both noted as being exceptional putters.

I was thrilled to see them with two very different styles of play, but with one significant similarity: they both holed a lot of putts.

The other quality these players possessed was that they did not linger over the ball once they had read the line of the putt. Both stepped up, looked down the line once or twice and then stroked the ball. If they made the putt, that was fine; if not, neither lost their cool, they simply continued.

It was watching these two players that led me to conclude that the best way to approach putting is simply to putt like it just doesn’t matter. We know that every stroke we take on the golf course does matter, but, equally, the more we worry about bad outcomes, the tighter we become and the greater the likelihood that we will hit an imperfect shot.

We have all experienced days on the course when our putter is redhot, when even the putts that do not go in shave the hole and come to rest inches from the cup. Even on the long putts, we can see the exact line we need to take and somehow without even trying we stroke the ball on line and with perfect weight. Those days are all too few, but the fact that we can do it once means we can do it again. If we remember back to those days, we will probably notice that we were feeling relaxed and confident: on such days, a four-foot putt feels like a routine tap-in. It is truly a wonderful and exhilarating feeling to walk up to a putt with the full expectation we are going to make it or put it very close. Yet when we putt badly, we find we have adopted the opposite mindset.

Fear has no place on the golf course. Nerves, and even a little tension, can be helpful. But to be fearful that we are probably going to miss serves no purpose at all. When we step up to a short putt, we need to do so with the confident expectation that we are going to make the putt, and free ourselves to putt in a state of relaxed control.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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