Golf is a game filled with exasperating contradictions. All golfers understand that the game requires concentration, but not over-thinking, a strong focus, yet the ability to see the "big picture," and a rigid routine, but one which allows for creativity. As Bob Hope once remarked, "If you watch a game, it's fun. If you play it, it's recreation. If you work at it, it's golf."
Nowhere are the contradictions more apparent than on the green, where a simple task--pushing a ball into a hole in the ground--is loaded with tension and anxiety. Golfers have attempted everything from expert instruction to hypnosis trying to make every putt on the green. Relax, even the pros can't do that.
Rather than making the occasional monster 35 foot putt, your goal should be to master a few techniques that will enable you to sink those most important putts--those pesky 3 to 10 footers--with greater confidence and much more frequency.
Three primary skills need to be mastered in order to become a proficient putter. First, keep you head down! Seeing the ball at impact is a simple idea, but it is too often over-ridden by the excitement of wanting to see where your ball is going. Lifting your head, even slightly, to watch the path of your ball before it has been struck can mean a change in the angle of your putter head, which often results in a line significantly off target, even for short putts. Just as important as keeping your head down is keeping it still.
A second major skill is to learn to visualize. Amateur golfers typically read their putts by examining only the immediate path from the ball to the hole. In fact, you should scan as broad a perspective as possible when assessing a putt. Try to develop a mental picture of the entire green--where the high side is located, the severity of the tilt, and a general idea of speed, break and ball path.
Once you have evaluated the entire green, narrow your focus to the area where you'll be putting. Visualize how you think the ball is going to track. Imagine its precise path directly into the hole. By starting with the big picture and then narrowing it to a more manageable size, you take control.
Finally, think distance, not speed! While the ultimate objective of getting your ball in the hole doesn't change, a subtle shift in approach--emphasizing distance, not speed--can bring major improvement in your overall putting ability. Distance control comes primarily from the symmetry of your stroke.
The ideal putting stroke moves as far backward as it does forward, with both parts of the stroke in equal temp. This even rhythm can be achieved through a combination of diligent practice and the real understanding that the putter, not you, is responsible for doing the work.
By keeping your head down and still, visualizing from broad to narrow before you putt and concentrate on distance rather than speed, you'll start making putts that you formerly missed.