8-Second Countdown

How to make the most of those crucial moments before you putt.

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Standing over a putt for too long (and freezing up) can seriously impact the fluidity of your putting stroke. To make sure you don’t get this overanalysis paralysis,
I suggest you don’t wait too long in between your last practice stroke and your actual putt. In fact, it should take you a maximum of eight seconds! Anything longer than that, and it’s hard to retain the desired feel for the putt at hand.

Unlike action sports like basketball, soccer and football, a round of golf includes lots of downtime in between shots. On the one hand, this can be a good thing—there’s more time to converse with your playing partners and take in the scenery; on the other hand, it also can be kind of dangerous, especially for people who tend to overthink when they play.

I like to remind my students that golf is a sport, and if they dwell on shots for too long, they can contract a condition called overanalysis paralysis, where so many technical thoughts swirl through your head that you can barely swing the club.

Putting, in particular, lends itself to overthinking, for the very reason that you start from a very still position. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people freeze up to the point where they can’t even bring the putter back!)

Obviously, this isn’t any good, and one way to keep things flowing is to build a solid routine. Part of that routine is what I call the eight-second countdown.

The countdown takes place between your last rehearsal stroke and your actual putting stroke. During your rehearsal strokes, you should develop the appropriate feel for your putt’s length and break. Once you get the feel for how long your stroke should be, start counting. If you haven’t stroked your putt by the time you reach 8, then you’re standing over your putt for too long. Why? I could give you the scientific explanation, but the easiest way to put it is that the longer you stand over the ball, the easier it is to forget the feeling you created during your practice strokes. It’s absolutely vital that you keep this gap between strokes narrow to retain your feel because that’s what putting is all about.

Jeff Ritter, PGA, teaches at the ASU Karsten Golf Academy in Tempe, Ariz., and is the author of Golf by Design. Visit golfbydesign.net.

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