Matchplay tips: How to hole a three-footer for victory

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Jon Finn continues his series designed to help you cope with the kind of challenging situations we all face on the course

You have been playing great golf all day. You’ve driven the ball well, your iron play has been immense and your short game has been solid.

All you need to do now is hole this simple three-foot putt and your name will be placed on a board in the clubhouse. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? However we all know that it is not. This simple challenge has overcome golfers ranging from 28 handicaps to some of the best in the game’s history.

Here are some simple steps that you can take to give yourself the best chance of holing the putt.

Slow your breathing down

When you are taking a putt notice how you are breathing. Is it fast or slow? Because there is a lot at stake, if you miss these kinds of putts your body’s fight-or-flight response can kick in without you even noticing it. This will cause you to breathe faster and as a result your muscles will tighten up. This will make it difficult for you to make a nice smooth stroke.

Notice the manner of your breathing. To slow your breathing down, stop breathing in through your mouth, and start breathing in through your nose. Take nice deep breaths, exhaling through your mouth and relaxing your shoulders as you do so.

See the white line

When you are lining the putt up, picture it rolling into the hole, and hear it dropping into the cup. Try to imagine a white line on the surface of the putting green along the route that your ball needs to take to get into the hole.
Picture your ball rolling into the hole along a white line. Hear the sound of the ball dropping into the cup.

Nice and smooth

When the pressure is on we can over-complicate our putting stroke. Don’t focus on the mechanical details of your stroke. Instead think of your putting stroke like a pendulum swinging back and forth.
To help the rhythm of the swing use the phrase nice and smooth. Say ‘nice’ to yourself to initiate the backswing.

Say ‘and’ to yourself to signal the end of the backswing. And ‘smooth’ to yourself to initiate the downswing and strike the ball.
Think of your putting stroke as a pendulum, swinging to the rhythm of ‘nice and smooth’.

The neuroscience behind my tips

Your brain has a very sophisticated co-ordination system which has been developing for millions of years.

Our ancestors used it to hunt, whereas we use it to try and play golf! Putting a ball into a hole from a short distance should be a very simple task for our co-ordination system. However our limbic system – monkey brain – can make it difficult for the co-ordination centre to do its job.

Worrying about the consequences of missing, and thinking too much about technique will mean it is more likely that you will miss.

About pre-shot
  • Jon Finn is the inventor of the Pre-Shot training programme, a unique training approach which helps golfers shoot lower scores. He developed it in his role as Golf Psychology consultant to the PGA over the past nine years. Pre-Shot training can be accessed through iPhone apps, physical products and workshops. Visit
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