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Fri, Dec. 06

Gunby: Putting is a Mental Art
Tee it Up

Putting is not a physical science, it is a mental art. Everybody tries to get too technical when it comes to putting. They put way too much emphasis on the mechanics.

Seve Ballesteros was once asked why he was such a successful putter. He responded, “I see it, I feel it, I make it.” Pretty technical, huh? This should be the mantra of every golfer. Let’s explore each of these points.

See it. You must visualize the ball going in the hole before you do anything else. Not close or within a circle. That is like wanting to fail. I want to succeed. And the only way to succeed is to visualize success, making the putt. You should see a line that the putt will roll on and be laser focused on the exact part of the hole that the ball will enter.

All this visualization will be directly behind the ball. It is just like riding a bicycle or driving a car. The handlebar and steering wheel are directly in front of you, so you can see where you are going. This is where you will also begin to “feel it”.

Many good putters take a few practice strokes from the “see it” area, keeping the ball between them and the hole. Take note though. They don’t watch the putter go back and through. They keep their eyes focused on the target and how the ball is going to roll into the hole. They are now “feeling it”.

Then they walk up to ball and “make it.” Pretty simple, huh? Yes, but here is where those crazy Scots got us. The ball is not moving! Now our conscious mind can wander, see failure, get scared, try to control the putter path, etc. This is the probably the only sport where the ball is not moving, giving us plenty of time to think. The trick is to react to what we see and “make it”.

Aaron Baddeley told me that hits a putt within 1.2 seconds of getting comfortable with his alignment. I asked him why and he responded that it keeps him from getting negative thoughts and fear of failure into his head.

Dave Stockton recommends hitting the putt within 2 to 3 seconds of getting comfortable with your alignment. He also advises us that the only conscious thought should be a vague feeling of relaxation, readiness and rhythm.

Jack Nicklaus on the other hand, would stand over the putt until he got a clear picture in his mind of the ball going in the hole. Then he would hit it. Ben Hogan focused on a dimple on the golf ball.

And my favorite, Arnold Palmer, did this on many great putting rounds. I “concentrated fiercely on my toenails”. Or after getting set to make the putt, he would then “give my full attention to the task of making an anagram from the names of my playing companions. A name like Weiskopf could keep the attention truly occupied.”

Everyone is different. But what is common with all good putters is that they always think they are going to make every putt. I will share some more putting information and suggestions in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, “See it, feel it, make it”.

John Gunby Sr. is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at

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