Visuality In Putting


imgp0228What is Visuality?

Visuality is a blend of visual methods and cues combined with mental and physical interactions.

A footballer knows just how hard to kick a ball to travel a specific distance. Likewise a bowler alters his arm swing to roll a ball to the required target. What you see is pretty much what you get. Exertion is in direct relation to what your eyes perceive the distance to be. BUT in putting, similar to batting and racket games, the person holding the club is only indirectly linked (through the grip and shaft) with the putter-head so the ‘force exertion’, as measured by our eyes, is challenged. Putting is not reactionary, like batting and racket, as we are approaching a stationary ball. We need to retrain our eyes with a different perspective.

Success in putting is not determined by the choice of club in your bag. Hopefully you have a putter which inspires confidence when you stand over a putt. Therefore you only need to concentrate on pure contact like a pinball machine. That is why technique suggests that the arms and hands work as one with the club. You can use your ‘inner’ eye to judge the pace and rattle the ball into the cup. Putting uses the eyes differently where pace is all important and in direct relation to length/strength of stroke. The eyes have to relate the estimation of pace (according to putting surface and read) and allow the stroke to be determined by the exertion of regulated power. 



Proficient putters use a multi-sensory approach to their game which, although using all five senses, I believe should rely dominantly on the visual perception. 

    • Hearing – listen to nothing…blank out extraneous noises. In the zone.
    • Speaking – positive self-talk … and then quiet
    • Feel and touch – sensual; walking beside the intended puttline to gauge distance
    • Smell – take time to breathe freely
    • SIGHT – probably the most important… although blind putters perform well!

As with all senses, sight is inextricably linked to brain; you act and react on what messages it delivers through the optic nerve. You naturally duck if something is about to hit your head, instinctively cover your face if being splashed with water, extend your arms to catch when a missile is thrown towards you, lift your feet up for a step. It uses cause and effect or in other words trigger and release. So in putting, when we create a trigger we should activate a natural, unthinking response – the stroke.

Why use Visuality?

When you learn to use visuality effectively it will provide a foundation of imagination and creativity to your putts. By using the process of effective visuality, you will increase the possibility of making the right choice – a mental image, an internalised picture, and thus reduce physical mistakes and mental errors. 

See it, feel it, trust it. A rhythmic pendulum putt should send the ball rolling on its way. Forcing the ball can cause ‘distortion’ problems. We are looking for natural instinct to react and be backed up by visuality. The old adage ‘what you see is what you get’. We need to learn to see…learn by imitation (imitation gleaned from our imagination) – not limitation.

Sight is a powerful sense – people often refer to foresight and hindsight and insight but we should not overlook the essential element of outsight where we ‘form a relationship’ with real visible objects; the ball, the club, and hole. When setting up to the ball and taking your stance it can be advantageous to keep your chin up and thus provide subliminal peripheral view of the ball path. Golfers who crouch over a putter with heads bent down and eyes rigorously ‘over the ball’ restrict their view of the putt path.


See the benefits of Visuality!

An increase of focus through visuality inspires sharper and more solid play whereby you can more easily achieve being in the zone. Relaxation through visual methods also contribute to a sense of well-being and confidence which heightens your pleasure of the game. The pressure of a putt – and your desire to perform well – can create tension and nervous energy which results in hurrying and messing up! You may push, pull or jerk your putts. So consider the advantage of using a prep-rep, a practised repetitive routine, for optimal performance. Watch any basketball player do similar before a free throw.

You can start your preparation…the day before or the hour before: Take a ‘virtual tour’ of the greens in your mind’s eye – visualise the holes, – those that are easy/challenging. Imagine the putt rolling into the hole. Using a smooth tempo, slightly slower than you would normally use, rehearse the feel and look of your stroke in your mind. If you have a video or suitable mirror use that also – without a club. Be aware of the putter-face returning solidly to connect with the ball. 

A prep-rep (preparation-repetition) is for use immediately prior to the stroke execution and vital for consistency: Choose one you are comfortable with and suits your rhythm. People tend to process thoughts and stress reduction at different rates. Then every time you approach your ball on the green you need to go through the comfortable tried and tested process. First spend time analysing and discussing the putt; surface, slope factors and line with your caddie or in your mind. If appropriate recall your pre-round rehearsal shot. Have a visual image of the ball tracking towards the hole and focus on ball, focus on the putt.

When you are fully prepared and confident that you have made a sound decision then you can move into your practised prep-rep which should come as naturally as driving a car. This is where you should go into auto-pilot for the send-off of the ball! Take a practice stroke if you need a memory jolt, but also it is advisable for feel, pace and tempo.

We stand back to ensure we have the correct information in sight before our prep-rep. Then tunnel vision precludes distractions and blurs out superfluous peripheral vistas; it removes hazards and undesired possibilities. It makes you concentrate and focus purely on the upcoming sphere of influence; that is the solid execution of putting a roll on the ball. It is like closing an aperture on a camera to a specific target while also muting all external sound.

So after teeing up, stand behind the ball and narrow your focus, create and visualise a specific path or route towards the cup. Use your putter to reinforce your visual image of line up by pointing it in the direction of your target. We absorb and process what the eyes tell us. To set your stroke in motion have a trigger word or thought or physical wiggle or waggle… then approach the ball keeping a brisk, purposeful tempo, and allow your putt to be instinctive, natural…without fear or interFEARance creeping in!

Use your eyes to focus on the target and just glance at the ball to remind yourself of its exact position as of course your rhythmic back and through will need to strike squarely.

Look at the target just before executing your shot. Jordan Speith has also proved it is successful to keep your eyes on your intended target while executing the putt. If you want to copy this method you will find that it generally works best on shorter putts only. Most golfers keep their eyes over the ball position. Be precise when visualising the target; the exact place the ball will fall into the cup. 


How does Visuality help? 

The primary function of sight is to look, to see. But it can also influence! This is perception. We can produce a retinal image scored in the mind. We use sight to reflect, sometimes to imitate…and copy what we see. We can benefit from verification of what is seen – optimal optics. Sight is a powerful sense: We can use sight like a photo or film which replays in our head and transfers to our movements in real time. 

Visuality for enhanced performance is helpful: Seeing the intended putt helps massively. Being visually attentive when you approach a putt is key. You have practised the mechanics so when actioning a putt you need to focus on visualising your putt.

In training we can supplement this by developing visual imagery to increase accuracy and ease of execution for the swing: We create these from our familiar experience base.

  • Following a string line drawn to the hole,
  • An imaginary heavy green scorch mark to give the line to the hole.
  • Considering a clock pendulum as your putter, keeps the arms moving correctly. 

Developing Visuality

As you approach a green start with a wide focus  and you should already be considering the possible putt line. See the ball, the hole and the peripheral lay of the green; the whole picture. Establish intuitively the distance and line, creating a target- which may not be the hole – to aim at. In your mind create an initial impression of the putt, then confirm it by observation and checks. After lining up with a clear visualisation of the path of roll, take your normal comfortable, light putting grip. Take time to align your stance, ensuring a consistent ball position. Chin up.

Next comes narrowing your focus to a tighter and more detailed view – the exact accurate line. Imagine the ball rolling along that line. Picture it rolling to the target, taking any break for which you have allowed and dropping into the hole. Have a smooth touch and be firm and solid along the line; not too timid and not too bold. Be casual, relaxed but engaged and accurate, improvise like jamming jazz musicians. Improve your chance by preparing and repeating your trained stroke, then the results are out of your hands and you should have no regrets.

Try using ‘Magic Eye’ pictures to focus your eyes with pin point accuracy. Concentrate hard and a 3D image should reveal itself.


Using Visuality 

If you prepare thoroughly, the ball will go in the hole. So consider only being uncompromising with the process, not the result. Way to go, let it flow, let it roll! Breathe to clear your mind. Absorb a mental picture of the hole then roll it in. Play briskly, without delay. Don’t stand over it thinking for too long. You should already have visualised the putt and know your target. Commit to it, engage and little conscious thought is needed. If you are an amateur you may like to imagine and imitate your putting hero; “a Freddie putt”, “a McIlroy putt”, “a Mickelson putt”. If you are a pro, then you ARE your own putting hero!

Don’t over-read greens. You can study the last few feet of a putt. It depends on speed as to how many cups right or left. You control both the direction (line) and the pace (speed). You can hit different speeds on same line and ball will react differently, so you need to putt imaginatively and creatively.

Speed, touch and pace come from experience and practice and are an automatic reaction. Your thought should be ‘target’. Trevino suggests that with a very long putt it is best to get on with it quite quickly, using your initial impression.

With most putts you can choose a target near the hole or only a few inches in front of the ball; a blade of grass, an old pitch mark or discoloration. Imaginary lines can help you to visualise the path of roll to the target. You must have a target which you can see, be sure of and use to prompt the right touch. If there are pronounced contours or breaks on the green to consider, that target could be outside the direct line to the hole. With tunnel vision, maybe cup your hands round your eyes, “burn” an imaginary line between the ball and the hole; see it as a dark streak on the green, or a narrow trough. Look at your target before you make your stroke. Aim to make every putt you attempt, to reach the hole, not just to put it close.