You step up, eyes gravitating automatically to the target. The visual is clear, concise. Your mind is uncluttered, focus seems effortless. The attitude of your body is steady, yet relaxed. Without undue delay, you pull the trigger at the dart board. BULLSEYE!

Though not too hard to imagine, this scenario probably happens pretty early on in your pub crawl, before too many wobbly pops are under your belt. Even though you may not be an accomplished dart player, you knew at some level you could close out with a bulls-eye. There was a level of belief, trust even. So it's not much of a stretch to take this hypothetical and relate it to the golf course, where you may well have much more experience. Golf is just another target game with no time clock and a stationary target.

The easiest golf parallel we can make from games like the bean bag toss and darts is with the putter. There is no great prerequisite for strength, agility or balance when we stare down a short putt with a gentle left-to-right influence. Therefore, it's an easier transition for most people when examining their thought process on the golf course. Think of the best putting you have ever experienced, be it nine holes, eighteen, or perhaps for several days in succession. Was it at all similar to the hypothetical I laid out for the BULLSEYE? If so, you've discovered something that all tour players train to gain - trust.

A lack of trust leads to doubt. Doubt leads to searching. Searching without instant gratification leads to panic. Panic is not a state of mind you want for performance-based golf, or any sport. So here's your blueprint to clear, logical thought in target-based games, and you can start your training with short putts from various angles around a single golf hole.

First, make it a priority to fill your mind with thoughts of the target. Without this basic discipline, you are susceptible to distractions. With it, you can putt with the freedom of a nine-year-old. You will have intent, and you will be present, oblivious to consequences and concerns tied to a future based on an unwanted result. For short putts, I recommend you zero in on a specific point on the back of the hole. Second, allow yourself to believe. Have you done something like this before with success? To borrow a quote from the mentor of a friend, "If it has been done before, it's probably possible." Third, connect your visual to a feel. The most responsive learners I know are paying close attention to their kinesthetic senses. Finally, trust your process. Trust is sometimes elusive. For a clear example of trust-building, listen carefully to live golf tournament telecasts. In particular, listen for occasions where you can hear the exchange between the player and the caddy. Almost without exception, the last interaction between the caddy and the player is in reference to trust and targeting. The caddy knows his job is to re-focus the player on the important stuff just before the start of the player's pre-shot routine.     

So there you have it:

  • Target
  • Belief
  • Feel
  • Trust

Again, start your training with eight short putts of equal length from various points around a hole. These should be of a distance where you can make 75%-100%, with the intent of making every putt you face. Train with your full pre-putt routine, and end your training session well before you become disinterested. The intent of this training is to build your process. The percentage of putts you make is not of primary importance. Nonetheless, be very careful with the length of the putts you choose for training. Too easy and you will have no reason to focus, too difficult and you will practice missing putts more than you will practice making putts. You can slowly move back from the hole (to add challenge) in the weeks and months to come as your putting improves. This type of process-based training has an important side benefit for other facets of your game. If you focus on target, belief, feel and trust on short putts, you are building your template for your chipping, pitching and full swings!


Brian Hann

PGA of Canada Professional