A 10-handicap golfer once said, “I have never three-putted, I have merely one-putted many times from wherever the ball was.”
This quote echoes the classic golfing mantra, “‘one shot at a time”—which is sound advice when directed towards focusing on the current shot and leaving the previous one behind. All golfers can benefit from applying it to their iron shots. However, since putting has a definite outcome, golfers continually think, “this is my first putt, this is my second putt, and so on.” They believe that one-putting is great and two-putting is okay, but three-putting should be avoided at all costs, because in almost all scenarios, a three-putt results in a bogey or worse.
The process of “putt counting” produces an unfavorable mindset for golfers of any skill level. Next time you find yourself doing it, try changing your mental approach to “one putt,” where each putt is treated as a single event—because it is. Remember, no other putt, past or future, influences your “one putt.” Many golfers approach their “second putt” differently, becoming concerned about not making par. This negative focus causes them to be anxious and think about things unrelated to the putt, like missing.
This is known as ironic processing, and it’s a mental distraction. By trying not to think about something, we allow it to distract us from the task at hand. To combat this, I urge golfers to think of every putt as their first putt—which technically it is, since it’s their first attempt to sink that specific putt.
Golfers who adopt this “one-putt” mindset often report a sense of freedom and a release of pressure when they relate the number of putts to their overall score.
Here are some tips to effectively practice the “one-putt” mindset:
- Evaluate each putt as a separate stroke, taking into account all variables—line, speed, wind, grain, slope, etc.
- Define each putt as your first putt
- In rhythm with your breathing, repeat “one-putt, one-putt, one-putt”
- Regardless of the outcome, start the process again.