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Putting Slumps and What to Do about Them

The 51st Secret

There is no more demoralizing condition in golf than to be in the throes of a putting slump. When the putting is bad there develops a chain reaction which can cause a general blowup. If our short putts are not going down, we make a desperate effort to get the long putt or chip so close that we "can't miss." This adds a pressure variable that brings about flubbed shots. Next we make a great effort to steer our iron shots so that they will land on the green. This results in pushed and pulled shots which make the short game even more difficult. Finally, we try to hit the drives so far that the iron shots will be so easy that we won't have to worry further. This pressure variable weakens the drive by upsetting our usual timing. The result is golfing chaos. What can be done?
All of the methods which we have previously advocated for coming out of a general slump apply to putting slumps. In addition, there are special factors involved in putting which bear closer examination.
First, there may be no slump. In this case the putting is not really worse and hence no changes should be made. The "slump" may be due to some temporary forgetting by the muscles. A voluntary or involuntary layoff is the usual cause of this condition. Such golfers returning to play should not change any of their golfing techniques—no matter how poor the results—until they have practiced enough to regain the touch which deteriorated because of lack of practice. Generally, this touch can be regained rather quickly.
A delusion that one's putting is worse often comes about when course conditions change temporarily. I have noticed that when the greens are in poor shape, many golfers go into a frenzy of experimentation with form and putters. As they do so, their putting goes into a further slump, and this slump will persist even when the greens return to normal, for they now have new techniques which have "bugs" they are unfamiliar with, and these techniques are not as well-learned as the older ones.
False slumps are produced when we do not have objective records of how well we actually are putting and under what conditions. Also, we are apt to misjudge the situation when we play with generally poor putters, or good putters who have deteriorated. Our standards of comparison are relatively affected and we don't know where we stand. The best measure is how we compare with our own past performances, and this requires records.Second, the slump may not be genuine because it is a tem¬porary statistical variation. There are times when a coin is repeatedly tossed and only "tails" shows up. With putting, nothing but misses can occur at these times. Examine your records and you will find that this type of "slump" is a regular occurrence. It should be sweated out philosophically.
Third, the slump may not have been a true one to begin with but is now. The slump was originally perhaps just an off day or days. Excessive experimentation then produced a genuine slump. Go back to your old form, and stick with it indefinitely. You cannot prevent the averages from swinging back to normal.
Fourth, the slump may be genuine and, in addition, you may not be satisfied to return to your old level of performance. In order to achieve results, you must combine better form with greater practice. The realistic way of doing this is to seek out a teaching professional who is an excellent putter, and model yourself after him. From then on, persistent practice will accomplish the task. If you relapse, you can always return to your model to iron things out again.
To obtain and maintain high putting skill, one must recall the competitive element in golf. To putt well is not enough. You must putt better than others. You must be willing to make the sacrifices that others cannot or will not make.
Gross muscular skills are easily remembered, but the finest skills of muscular learning require indefinite polishing and are quickly forgotten—almost from one day to the next.
Fine singers, pianists, violinists, and billiard players must practice three or four hours daily to maintain and improve their skills. Those who wish any particular degree of skill in putting, must pay the equivalent price in practice. Any other attitude is unrealistic and unproductive.