Do you ever feel like you have more confidence over a par putt than a birdie putt? Like somehow the pressure of going lower gets in the way of just freely letting yourself make a good stroke?
How can you go low and shoot lower scores when you can’t make a birdie putt?
Well in my experience, standing over a birdie putt, being truly confident, and feeling like you’re going to make it comes down to being able to do three things really well. Here they are:
You have to practice and be skilled enough to make the putts. Because you can’t be blindly confident. Your confidence has to be based on something.
So what will your confidence be based on? There's no getting around the need to practice. You have to put in quality time. How you practice is different for everybody, based on what your game needs. Some players need more technical practice, some players need more random feel practice (pro tip: the better you are the less you need to work on your technique and the more you should simulate competition, and vice versa). So there's no magic to having confidence. Which leads directly to the second point:
You have to switch from thinking mode to trusting mode. There are clear differences between the time you should be thinking, analyzing, and calculating. But then there is a time to let yourself simply trust the preparation (both in practice and right before the putt).
So what specifically are you trusting? We throw this term around a lot, but what you're trusting is that your preparation will allow you to make this putt. You’re trusting that you have the ability to make it. You might know that you've made this same type of putt 1000 times before. That’s a form of trust. But you have to be genuine at a subconscious level. Your brain can't be fooled and it knows when you're lying to it. So you truly have to rest in the fact that you have prepared, and allow that preparation to come out. You have to actively give yourself permission to hit the putt how you know you can.
You have to give yourself permission.
And most importantly you have to be ok with whatever the result is. Whether you miss or make the putt both have to be completely ok with you. And you not only have to be ok with it after the putt, you have to be ok with it BEFORE the putt. You have to pre-accept the result. This is the only way you’ll let your body trust your preparation and be able to make a free stroke.
Acceptance (both pre- and post-putt) is the key to making putts, AND it’s the key to being ok not making putts.
4. And then repeat
Once you’ve accepted the result, you can begin preparing for the next shot. Acceptance is analyzing what you just did, learning from it, and moving on. This whole cycle builds your trust and confidence, and every time you go through the cycle it puts down another layer of bricks on your foundation.
Not only is this process how you can hit the best shot in the present, it’s how you can build your game from the ground up and improve over the long term. Go through this progression enough times and you’ll get better.