The topic of this month's article is about how to “dial-in” or rehearse your short game and putting strokes for programming in the proper distance control for the shot at hand. There are two opposing schools of thought on this issue, and both can work very well. The first is called the Rehearsal Method, which is the most common among both tour pros and good amateur players, requires the golfer to pre-determine – through his or her Feel Channel – the desired length and speed of stroke to make the ball go the required distance. Hence the terms “dialing-in” or “rehearsal” strokes that are performed prior to actually hitting the ball. The conscious mind is “searching” for the proper feel for distance and cannot proceed to the next step of actually hitting the ball until and unless he or she has clearly determined that feel.
The second procedure, which in many ways is superior to the first method discussed above, does NOT require the golfer to pre-determine the feel for the length and speed of stroke in order to achieve the desired distance control. I call this the Trust Method since you surrender all thoughts of conscious mind “rehearsal” and just “let go” of conscious control. You trust – 100% - your Intuitive or Creative Mind (which is part of the Unconscious Mind) to achieve the proper distance control. Children naturally use this method and are often amazingly effective at distance control in putting and the short game. Although adults can certainly learn how to use this method as well.
Both methods have their strengths and weaknesses. The obvious major weakness of the Rehearsal Method is simply this – what do you do when you can't “find” the feel in your rehearsal stroke for the proper distance? You can't just keep making dozens of strokes, desperately trying to find the correct feel, because of slow play considerations. And there will indeed be days when you feel sense is poor to non-existent. The major weakness to the Trust Method is that sometimes you just will find it nearly impossible to truly “let go”. And if you don't “let go” 100% - you will not hit that putt or chip the proper distance.
Some of this is a personality thing – type A personalities will instinctively dis-like the Trust Method and likely find it very difficult to let go. The Rehearsal Method is a better fit for them. Type B's will do much better with the Trust Method and may find that they are “getting in their own way” when using the Rehearsal Method, ie trying too hard or thinking too much.
I have used both methods to great success, but favor the Trust Method. I have played my best rounds when using Trust, but some days I just cannot let go, and so will use the Rehearsal Method on those days.
I discovered a very effective way to increase the power of the Rehearsal Method, which takes the “dialing-in distance” concept to a much higher level. Let's say you are facing a 60 foot putt. Here is what you do during the Rehearsal stage – first take one or two strokes with the feel for length and speed of stroke that will send the ball 50% of the way to the hole, or 30 feet. Then take one or two strokes that would send the ball to a point 30 feet beyond the hole (again 50% of the total length to the hole or 30 feet). Those two radical extremes – 50% too short and 50% too long – will create very clear boundaries for your conscious mind working through the Feel Channel. The exact middle point of course is the hole. Your mind is hard-wired to find a middle balance point by using the two polar extremes as boundaries. After you have mastered the 50% method, which should likely take a couple of months of practice on the green and use on the golf course, I suggest you refine the technique by using 25% instead of 50% to determine your two “poles”. 25% too short then 25% too long. This will greatly increase your ability to hit the ball the proper distance.
The key to the Trust Method lies in clearly identifying your strategy for letting go. In other words, when you do in fact let go and trust, what are you feeling, seeing and hearing? What is your emotional state? Once you can answer those questions in sensory-based language, ie NOT theory or analysis, but concrete feel, auditory or visual images such as “I feel a warm sensation in my hands, then I tell myself 'you are a great putter', and then I “see” a brightness to the putting surface all the way to the hole, and then my body feels “time to go” (start the back stroke). As I stroke the putt, I feel emotionally very much at peace and certain that my putt will end up either in the hole or very close.” Then you simply practice those images, in that exact seqence, until you get really good at repeating it, even under pressure.
Our Rip It to the Target and Breakthrough mental game golf schools cover this issue as well as the other vitally important parts of the Pre-Shot Routine.