News & Opinion

What’s your story?

How we interpret a few missed putts can start to shape how we view ourselves overall as putters

First of six excerpts from The Lost Art of Putting, by Gary Nicol and Karl Morris.

A missed putt in and of itself means nothing beyond the meaning we personally attach to it. 

Great putters tend to adopt a good attitude toward putting. Your story will determine or at the very least, heavily influence your attitude.

Now, here is the key: the stories you tell yourself will either be useful to you or useless, exactly the same principle we will discover with attention. The narrative will either support your goals or the stories will hold you back. 

What you will produce in the outside world will be relative to the stories you keep telling yourself. The stories we tell ourselves can begin to act out, even at a subconscious level.

As Trevor Sylvestor, a great therapist, tells us: what the thinker thinks, the prover proves.

So, if we think we are poor on the greens then the ‘prover’ inside our minds will seek supporting evidence. 

Every three-putt is a confirmation of the story. Every stroke feeling a bit jerky and every long putt left short is the opportunity for the prover to ‘prove’ he is a poor putter. 

Any evidence to counter that belief is ignored. The putts rolled smoothly, the birdie putts that go in, the great lag putt from 50 feet? They are all passed over because the thinker thinks we are poor at putting so it doesn’t in any way go looking for any evidence to contradict that story.

The thinker loves to help the prover by talking about how many putts he has taken. He draws company in the misery of poor putting. He tries to recruit other ‘believers’ who struggle on the greens. 

There is almost a badge of honor worn by people who putt badly and they are only too willing to share it with others.

There is more of an honor in being a good ball-striker than a good putter.

The ‘he is a great ball-striker’ story is delivered with a puffed-out chest and a sense of dramatic pride yet how often have we heard people say that such-and-such a player can’t really hit it but get him on the greens and he is something of a ‘blade merchant’ – almost as if it is a lesser ability to be great on the greens.

People love to hear about legendary ball strikers such as Ben Hogan and Mac O’Grady yet the same aura doesn’t seem to be afforded to great putters such as Bobby Locke, Ben Crenshaw and Loren Roberts.

Some players will look back with regret on their careers as a result of being less than they could have been on the greens — partly as a result of the story they bought into of the ego-boosting value of ball-striking over the simple task of rolling the ball on the green.

So what is your story? How have you constructed a narrative around what happens when you have a putter in your hand? How do you talk about your performance on the greens?

How do you talk about your putting with others — and perhaps more importantly with yourself?

What do you say to yourself when you putt well? Do you dismiss those days as flukes?

How do you explain the days when the ball just doesn’t want to go in?

Consider how much the story you have carried around with you for so long might have held back your progress.

Do you want to keep with the same old story or could it perhaps be the time to take charge of a new script? Do you want to be the author of your own future story or do you want to keep following the same old script?

The most important aspect to understand is unless you change your story — the narrative you continually tell yourself — then no matter how many times you change your putter or no matter how much work you do on your putting stroke, you will never see any lasting change. 

Stories are that powerful. They bind us to our own self-imposed reality.

Gary Nicol, of Scotland, is a certified TrackMan Master and Mind Factor coach and is based at Archerfield Links on Scotland’s Golf Coast. Nicol has worked with a number of European Tour players. www.tpegs.com

Karl Morris, the founder of The Mind Factor Institute, has been involved in performance coaching for over 30 years and has worked with multiple major championship winners. www.themindfactor.com