No matter where we are — the tee, the fairway or the rough — our practice swing always seems to feel really good. Smooth and relaxed, guaranteed to hit the mark. And then we’re over the ball, thinking. Reality sets in: we actually have to hit that little round thing that’s just shrunk to the size of a pea in front of our eyes. It’s at this point that we really start considering all the things we should have considered before we took that practice swing: the lie, the wind, that water, etc., etc.

Putting is just the same. We’ve looked at the slopes — left, right, up or down, fast, slow, wet, dry — placed the ball, made a few super-smooth practice strokes and woosh, in come all those pesky thoughts. My partner’s putt was three feet short — must hit it harder! The line looks all wrong, so hit it a bit more left… Where did that lovely practice swing go?

Practice makes perfect

Many golfers are better putters than they believe. The practice putting green shows us just that: after two or three wayward warm-ups, we’re usually pretty good. Not as good as Tiger at his best, but pretty good. Why? Because when we’re just practicing, the result doesn’t count.

We know when we’ve hit it well, and we know when we’ve hit it badly. “That’s a great roll,” we hear a lot when it comes to putting. So how do we get that great roll more often?

Of course, practice helps to build confidence, but as we’ve said, practice isn’t to save par, prevent a double bogey or make your first birdie in ages in the monthly medal. Instead, I try to include an element of pressure in my practice. For example, I have to make 10 three-footers in a row or start again. There are loads of drills out there to practice putting under pressure. Try them on the carpet at home.

I’m not the best putter in the world. I’m not a golf pro, I don’t give golf lessons or play off scratch, but I’m a much better putter than I was, now that I’ve started experimenting with my putting and trusting my line-up judgement, since playing with the PuttBANDIT, of course.

Getting into focus

When we focus on something very specific, our minds don’t wander. “You scared the life out of me” — how often has someone walked up to you and you didn’t realise they were there? That’s focus.

Once I’ve set the line I like to watch the forward stroke so it’s straight at impact. I’m not too concerned about a wobbly back stroke, just that my forward stroke is straight. It’s not perfect, but it can help.

Here are some other things I try:
• Count a rhythm 1…2 in your mind for back and forward strokes, like a metronome.
• Putt over a mark on the green just in front of the ball on my chosen putting line
• Putt just to the side of a stud mark, leaf or divot that is just to the side of my intended direction

The trick is experimentation. Find your go-to!

Play well

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Neil is a director of PuttBANDIT Ltd, and co-inventor of the PuttBANDIT ball marker. Neil currently plays off a handicap index of 16.1.