Don't Let Some Bad Breaks Ruin Your Round
Trouble shots are all about risk and reward. Here I have to hit the ball over a few trees to get it to the green. This requires some adjustments to my setup.
To hit the ball as high as possible, place the ball forward in your stance, near the heel of your forward foot. Next, open the clubface to increase your club’s loft. Finally, tilt your body away from the target. Keep your weight on your back foot during the swing and finish high.
Even players with great short games have trouble playing the ball from the short side of a green. Leaving yourself very little room on the green to land the ball creates a dilemma; do you try to land the ball onto the fringe and let it release toward the hole, or do you hit a short high shot to land the ball softly so it doesn’t roll past the hole?
First, you need to consider the circumstances: the lie, the firmness of the green, the amount of green between you and the hole, and the fringe’s condition. Next, visualize the entire shot: its trajectory, the landing spot and how the ball will release.
If you plan to hit the ball onto the fringe, you’ll hit a chip shot with a lofted club. Place the ball back in your stance and square the clubface with the target. Make a normal chip shot motion and land it on the fringe to slow the ball down. Then it will release onto the green.
If you want to play a lofted shot, change your setup. Move the ball farther forward in your stance (opposite your left foot) and open up your sand wedge. You’ll still make the same chip motion, however, you’ll have to make a longer swing. The shot will get up higher more quickly and land soft on the green.
It’s easy to say that every three-foot putt is the same, but depending on the situation, your mind-set changes. Consider what happens when you have a short putt to shoot your career-best round.
Most golfers in this situation get ahead of themselves. They think only of the outcome. They get excited and start to fear that they’ll choke.
The key is to focus on the process and stroke the ball with confidence. Here are a few ways to do that:
• Take a mini time-out as you start your preshot routine. Become aware of how your body is feeling. Take some slow, deep breaths to calm your mind.
• Acknowledge that this putt is for your personal best and then turn your attention back to the process. Use a question to focus on the process like, “Where is this ball going to enter the cup?”
• As you look behind the ball, visualize the putt going in several times.
• Then, finally, take a practice stroke that matches how you want to stroke the putt.
The next time you have one of those important putts, remember to shift your attention from what the putt means, to how you’re going to make it.
Rick Sessinghaus Psy.D., PGA, is a nationally known mental coach who works with professional, collegiate and top junior players to achieve focus, confidence and mental toughness. He’s the author of Golf: The Ultimate Mind Game and works out of Chevy Chase CC in Glendale, Calif.