When The Hole Looks Like A Garbage Can Lid

Many days on the golf course the actual hole does not look like the standard 4.25 inches. There are times when it looks like a ball could not possibly fall in such a tiny space. On other days, it is as big as a garbage can lid and I could not miss it even if I tried. Of course we all want the latter when we play because those are the days we have great scoring rounds. I often wonder why the hole looks small some days and large on others. My conclusion is that it is all mental. There is no other possible explanation or is there?

Through the years, I have played every manner of putting. There is no spectrum that could capture how well or poor my flat stick would work. Additionally, there was no way I could determine if what type of day I was going to have on the greens. It really was a bit of a quandary until I found the light switch that changed it all. Yup, I found my solution that changed my putting game and elevated my overall game to the next level.

Putting Success For Me Is Mental

This momentous find shifted my approach to golfing and that empowered me to start shooting more rounds in the 70s. Eventually, I would shot most rounds under 80 where today if I do not shoot in the 70s, I will consider my round a failure. Yes, my expectations are that high and it is all because of my putting.

Right about now you are wondering what my euphony was and inquiring minds want to know. Well, here it is. On the faithful day where I changed my putting journey, I decided to focus on my chipping around the green. I decided that I would not worry about my putting, but trust and accept whatever happened with the flat stick. The craziest thing happened, I had the best putting day of the year (this was back in the early 80s). The less I lamented about making every single putt, the larger the hole seemed to grow. By the end of the round, it was as large as a garbage can lid!

After thinking about my success for that day, I realized that I was hurting my ability to putt by focusing so much on not missing, than actually sinking the putt! Additionally, I realized I did not have any pre-putt routine, nor any consistency on how to approach any putt. I decided to pursue this shortcoming and see if I was on to something.

Being the days before the internet, I approached my mentor Bobby Fortune. He was a great player and I relied on is guidance for many years. I explained my challenge He smiled his sage smile and he provided me with a road map to become a better putter. Today, I still use the processes I developed back then consider myself a better than average putter.

My process was pretty straight forward:

  1. Develop a pre-putt routine. Find one that works for me and it should not be any more than 10 to 20 seconds.
  2. Decide on a comfortable putting grip.
  3. Find a spot 1 foot and 3 feet on my intended line and focus on hitting those points.
  4. Created a smooth drawback and forward putting motion.
  5. Hit the ball past the hole.

You are probably saying that this is nothing new. All four steps are common sense and you might be right. However, I would suggest that to an up and coming player, I needed some way of building the mental confidence to be a good putter and this process was my starting point.

Creating a process to develop a consistent putting stroke was definitely a boon, however what this process did was create a paradigm shift in my mental approach to putting. I quickly developed trust and confidence in my short game where I was thinking I would sink the putt vice trying not to miss. My mental approach was altered for ever and I am a better player for it.

Over the years, I refined this process, but the core steps remain present. However, the greatest gains over the years was mental. I am not at the point where I expect to sink every putt regardless of the distance. I rarely (although it does happen) feel frustrated by missing because I know that I have made the best putt I could at that moment. So, after a long diatribe, the reason the holes looks like a garbage can lid on most days is my mental strength, confidence and trust relating to all things putting.

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!


4 thoughts on “When The Hole Looks Like A Garbage Can Lid

  1. Jim, good tips, thanks. Pretty similar to Dr. Bob’s “putt like you don’t care if you make it” approach. Actually, I think he borrowed that from Brad Faxon. Either way, it’s non-intuitive but works. I will be playing today for the first time in five weeks and will be putting to make everything. Hope I get my share!


    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t know. I putt to a spot, not the hole. I really don’t think about the hole at all anymore except to gauge speed. I know your title is just an allegory, but I tend to want to put it on me and add it to my confidence than some fictional dream of the hole enlarging. Your process however is good if it works for you. It’s not mine, but they both share the same idea and the same learned truths like putt past the hole.
    I putt more aggressively than in the past for two reasons. First, I have less fear and second, I know a more aggressive putt will fall more often from experience. Near the beginning of Covid, they took away the flags here and putt the cups in upside down and only sunk in half way. You didn’t sink your putt, you bounced your putt off the hole. I saw some really low scores and watched all the people I play with start putting better during those months and that cemented the idea in my head once and for all. I have to be slightly more circumspect and careful of course speed wise now that we have to sink them again, but it’s held true. They won’t all fall, but start sinking 8-10 footers with better than 50% consistency levels and missing one by 4 feet doesn’t seem so bad anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kevin,

      You are right that my words can definitely be adjusted to match any process. Putting past the hole is definitely a trait I try to follow always. I will say that it does not happen every time and when it doesn’t, I consider my putt poorly hit. You are right that COVID may have forced many players to be better putters by being more aggressive. Silver linings!

      Cheers Jim


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