a white golf ball and a putter on a green grass
1 6 mins 12 mths

What is the most important shot in golf? Some would state your next one. I would say your last one on every hole. Most times that is going to be a putt. You see, when we are on that green in range of the hole, there is no more room for laying up or playing a recovery shot. There is but it cots us a stroke on the score card. The fascinating thing about the game of golf is that the closer you get to the hole the simpler the stroke required in many instances, but, also, the more it matters to get it right.

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Golf’s Most Vital Stroke

We start off hitting the big drive with the club with the longest shaft making it more of a production than most other shots. Incrementally, as we approach the target the clubs get shorter and the shots simpler if we hit fairways and greens. Until we reach the most important shot in golf – the putt. Most putters are the shortest shafted clubs in the bag, with the exception of those almost outlawed long putters. Therefore, we should be able to agree that putting is the simplest and easiest stroke in golf. Many golfers would find that to be the case, but there are also many of us who struggle with the short stick.

Putting Is Ultimately Golf’s Big Ticket Shot

Known also as the flat stick, the putter, has the mind numbingly simple job of rolling the ball over a smooth surface to the hole. However, it is due to that simplicity of stroke that many golfers struggle with the whole concept of putting the golf ball into the hole. This, in concert with the fact that a miss on the green costs you a whole stroke despite the relative nearness to the target. We have traversed a vast distance on a par 5 or long par 4 to arrive at the green. The expectation is to economically finish the hole by making the putt and anything less feels like a big fail.

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Putting messes with my head when I am missing makeable putts during a competitive round. It ruins all the good work put into getting onto the green in the first place.

If you are hitting greens in regulation and walking off with bogey it sucks. Indeed, if you are close enough to the hole and exiting with pars it can begin to frustrate. The psychology of putting can tip you over the edge during a round. A couple of very makeable misses can put a golfer in a bad frame of mind right at the outset. It should be easy and the outcome should be assured. These assumptions can set us up to fail. At the same time confidence on the greens is pretty important too.

So, what is the answer to making the most important shot in golf? Be humble and attentive to the process.

Yes, believe in yourself by all means but don’t get beyond the process. Treat every putt on its own merits and do not turn a missed putt or two into a story. Human beings love to stitch together disparate events into a narrative. There are 18 greens and 18 holes – treat each one as a unique opportunity. The psychology of putting puts a lot on the line and it is easy to get down on yourself after a few misses. Yes, you can learn things and can correct mistakes in your application if truly required but don’t go creating an epic song and dance out of it.

Golfers on the 2nd green at Galashiels Golf Course
Golfers on the 2nd green at Galashiels Golf Course by Walter Baxter is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

I played with a good young golfer the other day, after I had come back after a break from the game. It was my first real competitive game for quite a few weeks and I was striking it pretty good. On the greens, however, I was making a mess of things and this young fellow pointed out that I was coming out of my putts before completing the stroke. I had missed a few and my confidence was down. Unbeknown to me I was sneaking a peek ahead of time. I applied the fix and sunk the very next 12 footer.

Putting is such a simple action that it is too easy to treat it with a lack of respect. If we don’t commit fully to the set up and stroke we can be a degree or two off and that over 15 feet can mean missing by inches.

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A solid solution is to develop a putting set up at address that tells you that you are fully committed. Find some physical indicators that you can check off. Remind yourself to stay in the stroke and don’t look up until you hear that ball fall into the hole. Take your time over putting without being ridiculous. Own the space because it is the most important shot in golf.

Wisdom from The Stoic Golfer: Finding Inner Peace & Focus on the Fairway by Robert Sudha Hamilton

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