This is the third of six excerpts from "The Lost Art of Putting."
In the main, golfers ask dreadful questions: Why are these greens so slow? Why are they so bumpy? Why is play so slow? Will I ever hole another putt? Why is my putting so poor today?
Poor questions assist poor attention and poor attention will help you to miss a whole bunch of putts.
Understand that there is a big difference between asking positive questions and ‘trying’ to think positive.
Thinking positive often involves a statement about a future event that we make a prediction about.
"I am going to hole this putt" is a very positive statement.
We can make this statement over and over in our mind to try to convince ourselves of something we probably don’t really believe.
Often a golfer will start out a round making a lot of positive statements: It will be my day today; I am going to play great; I think I will hole everything.
We make those positive statements with the best of intentions but then reality takes over. The game kicks us in the teeth, we miss a bunch of putts and then many players will flip completely to the other side and just cave in to the negative and it becomes "I can’t hole anything."
Surely there has to be a better way. What about a way of being that you can stick with? A way of being that begins on the 1st green and only runs out when you hole your last putt on the 18th?
The great coach Fred Shoemaker, who has had such a big influence on our thinking, said many years ago: “One of the bravest things a golfer can stay open to is the possible.”
Perhaps the foundation of great putting is the question: “Is it possible that I could hole this putt?”
The answer of course is yes. Unless you choose otherwise.
The very fact that you believe it is possible now has your mind open to that possibility. You are not bound by a past story. You may well have holed nothing all day, you may well have struggled with the putter but you can still choose to ask the question: “Is it possible that I could hole this putt?”
The answer is yours to choose. The bravest thing you can do is stay open to the possible.
There is a whole world of difference between making a statement you have no control over and asking a question that puts you in a position of control.
You cannot control if the ball finds its way into the hole but you can stay open to that possibility.
We have found this liberates a player from the endless loop of insanity of trying to be positive but then giving up to being negative.
It creates a wonderfully calm kind of neutral state that just gets immersed in the task at hand, which is to roll this ball here – in this unique moment in time – towards that hole over there.
This unique putt that you have never had before and will never have again.
Answering the "possible" question then gives you the opportunity to ask the second and perhaps even more important question to give you the best chance with the putt you are facing.
As you look from behind the ball, ask yourself: What does this ball need to do to go in the hole? Again: What does this ball need to do to go in the hole?
Your mind will go in search of the answer. It will start to create a line, it will sense a pace. It will come up with an answer. Will the answer always be the correct one? Perhaps, perhaps not.
But the more you ask this question, the more the habit develops and the more you will find your powerful supercomputer between your ears will start to come up with some good answers.
You may notice that after you have answered the question an image forms in your mind.
At times the answer will come instantly to you. At other times the answer will take a little longer to form in your mind but, for sure, if you ask the question you will start to answer it.
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.
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