by Jeff Skinner
My golf season is well under way and even though the weather in the Northeast can still play havoc with our tee times, we all have had enough opportunities to find our game. Unfortunately, not all of my game was there to be found. I’ve spent plenty of time on the practice range to get my old muscles back in the swing of things. Unlike most golfers I won’t spend hours pumping drivers out on the range. I’ll spend more time with my wedge on the chipping green trying to hole out a few. When you’re a short hitter like I am, you need to depend on your scoring clubs like the wedge and the putter. That’s been my game for a long time. I’ll hit a few fairways now and then but not too many greens so I’ll always need to rely on my wedges to chip it close to have a chance at par. On a good day my scorecard will be filled with some pars but not too many GIR’s (greens in regulation) but I’ll always have a bunch of one putts. Miss the green, chip it close and sink the putt, that’s my game. It’s not pretty but I’ll take it.
But this season my trusty old short stick has been slow to come around. I’ve been the victim of more lip outs, woefully short putts, bad reads and three putts to fill an entire season or two. My putting has been uncharacteristically poor. When my putter is off I am in big trouble and even though a bad round of golf is better than your best day at work, poor putting can really be depressing.
Then it hit me. While I was driving somewhere and going over my last round in my head, I realized I hadn’t completed all of my pre-season preparations. Each year when the snow starts to melt and we are watching the pros play in the warm weather I start my preparation by re-reading my putting bible: Dr. Bob Rotella’s “Putting Out of Your Mind.” For me that book is a much a critical part of my game as my Cobras and Footjoys. For me to get my putter working I need to get my head in the right place and nobody works for me like Rotella. Rotella has a magical effect on me and my game. His simple strategies work wonders for me and the dozens of professionals that he works with.
Two old axioms say it all: Drive for show and putt for dough; and Golf is a game played on a five inch course, the distance between your ears. Rotella uses simple, positive reinforcement techniques to get his players thinking in the right frame of mind, once your mind is right your game will follow.
Rotella tells the story of Jack Nicklaus stating that he never three putted on the last hole of a tournament or missed a putt from inside five feet on the last hole of a tournament. When Nicklaus is asked about it and given a time and date that he indeed had missed one of those putts, he refuses to recognize it and still insists that he had not missed from five feet or three putted on the last hole. Rotella finishes the story after the questioner asked Rotella why Nicklaus wouldn’t admit it:
“I asked the man if he played golf. ‘Yes’ he said.
‘What’s your handicap?’ I asked.
‘About sixteen’ he said.
‘And if you missed a short putt on the last hole of a tournament, you’d remember it and admit it, ‘I observed.
‘Of course,’ he confirmed.
‘So let me get this straight,’ I said. ‘You’re a sixteen handicap, and Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer ever, and you want Jack to think like you?’
The man had no answer.”
It’s simple. Convince yourself that you’re a great putter and the putts will fall. Excuse me while I get back to my reading. I still have a few chapters left before my game tomorrow.