The Golf Performance Center Ridgefield, CT

The Missed Putt

The Open week, watching the best golfers in the world look a little silly on and around the greens of St. Andrews was eye opening and heart-warming.  Well, maybe not so much heart warming but certainly eye opening. The Open lets us mere mortals who play the game realize, everyone can miss a 1 foot or a 2-foot putt and that NO one is exempt from feeling a little embarrassed about it.  The difference however for the best players is that they know that missing a 2 foot putt can and will happen at some point in their career, it may come at an Open or at the John Deer, but it will happen!  Why are they able to get over this type of miss and move on while amateurs and juniors are more likely to panic or become obsessed with “feeling” like they will not be able to make even a 1-footer?

The answer to the question has nothing to do with the skill of making the putt but the mindset of the player. To some degree we are all guilty of worrying about what others think, we become judgmental of our emotions and thoughts. We judge ourselves on the result most of the time based on missing but rarely do we take a moment to think the odds are not much different to make or miss a putt.  We know practice can improve the odds but in the heat of battle, once we start the stroke and we connect with the ball it becomes a 50/50 chance of the ball going in. In other words, we can hit a perfect putt and the ball gets knocked offline by a blade of grass or the speed is a little off, whatever the case, we have to then accept the result.  Unfortunately, ego, reputation or negative self-image get in the way.  Players begin to think their lives are on the line, if I do not make a short putt everyone is going to make fun of me, or think that I suck, or my future to play in college is gone! 

For aspiring junior golfers, missing a 3’ footer happens more frequently than with a tour player, why you ask?  Simple, PGA /LPGA Tour player skills are better, mentally they can focus on the task better, they are less likely to feel judged, harassed by a parent or coach for failing.  What is not recognized when it comes to junior players by many parents or coaches is when a junior misses or messes up a shot they are not trying to miss or mess up, they are trying their best.  They are going to miss a lot of putts relative to the best players, don’t judge, enjoy watching them improve, understand that the putt they just missed means way more to them than to you.  In a lot of cases the 3-foot putt a junior golfer misses, didn’t miss the putt from a lack of skill but lack of ability to control emotions and thoughts.  They have more things to think about than most professionals; here are some common themes,  what is my car ride going to be like if I play poorly today, how am I going to explain the 3 putt from 15 feet on hole #12 for a double bogey, how can explain the tee ball out of bounds on hole 16, wow, I forgot about the quiz tomorrow in econ, if I score above 74 today I will never get a chance to play DI golf,  how do I explain to my friends golf is something I love when it hurts me so much.  When your son or daughter miss a 3-foot putt it isn’t about the three feet, it is far greater than that for them.  Don’t judge, don’t get excited, be amazed that they can do much at all with that type of constant pressure!  

If you are a junior golfer aspiring to play college golf or an amateur enjoying golf, remember, to be great at this game will take a lot of work, not just on the skills of golf but on your own mind, working to reduce the stresses that come with development.  Next time you miss a three-footer or become terrified over it, become aware of your thoughts, back away, refocus on making your best effort, let it go! 

Enjoy your Journey!