Section: The Golfer/Coaching & Psychology
“Better Understanding Putting Distance Perceptions & Goals”
Stephane Barras, Swiss & UAE PGA member. Residence St-Georges 3, ave du Temple 5, 3963 Crans-Montana, Switzerland, Tel: +41794461400 - firstname.lastname@example.org – www.sbarras.com
A Swiss PGA member since 1981, an UAE PGA member since 2007, Stephane Barras founded and operated the first Golf Swiss Olympic approved Boarding School, hosting more than 300 students. Mr. Barras authored the golf manual, The Difference, and was an invited speaker at the 1997 European Teaching Summit. In 2009, he was hired as coach of Chinese Master Player, Zhang Lian Wei who went on later to win the 2010 China PGA Championship. In 2010, he implemented a golf instructional program at the Haigeng Olympic Training Center, China. Since January, 2011, he has been coaching on the Ladies China Tour, One Asia Tour and European Tour.
Revealing Putting Quotes
“Sometimes it would seem almost desirable to return to the "hole-green" of two centuries ago. Then the short game had a proper relation to the long game. Today, when a putt of two feet can be more important than a 250-yard drive and, if missed, more destructive than a long iron shot into the rough, the putting green is not only far too large an area on the course but also of far too great importance in the traditional schemes of golf.” Geoff Schackelford - 2011
“Over the last few weeks I have been looking at my game to see what needs improving - one of the main areas is my putting from 10-20 feet. I just haven’t been holing enough from this range - from short range I am right up there with the best and the same once I get outside 20 feet. The 10-20 foot range is key to performing well as it is hard to get a full approach shot inside 10 foot. Lately I have spent a lot of time hitting more putts from this range, working on my reading and pace and just getting used to seeing the ball going in on the putting green.” Padraig Harrigton - 2011
“What’s to slow down for? I’m still good enough. This year I have played well, I’ve just not holed any putts. The scoring could have been very different this year.” Laura Davis – 2011
“It was pretty frustrating. I couldn’t get my putts going. Nothing went in” Michelle Wie - 2011
“I believe most amateur golfers would become better putters if they followed a few basic fundamentals and took more notice of the mentality of this game within a game rather than purely technique. Psychology plays a vital part in putting”. Luke Donald” 2011 world n.1 Putter
Definition: Perception is an individual’s reaction to what is sensed that may be universal or situation specific and based on one’s past experiences, history, beliefs, and conditioning. As such, Perception is learned and dysfunctional perceptions may be altered or improved through specific deliberate training to enhance performance
Putting Distance Definitions and Perception
The Golf Putt is characterized by a number of skills depending on the distance the ball is from the hole. Presently, there are no universal accepted definitions of short, medium, and long putts. This has implications on golfers’ perceptions and performance, as well as the kind of training that would facilitate performance on different distance putts.
1- Spontaneous attitude = immediate perception or 2-intellect attitude = thinking perception
Short, Medium and Long Putt and 1, 2, 3 possible Putts.
Short and/or near adding definition?
If standing in the middle of a room that is 5500 sq. feet, the average surface of a putting green, one perception may be that objects within hands reach are considered a short distance? Should the same perception apply on the putting green? That is, those putts that are within arm’s reach from the hole or as said “within the leather” 2 feet, be defined as short putts where success rate of holing the putt is close to 100 %? (Tierney and Coop). Shouldn’t this distance be referred to a “Tap-in” instead of a “Short” putt?
If this is the case how are medium and/or long putts defined? According to research (Tierney and Coop) significant 3-putts starts at 15feet. If we use performance criteria to determine putting perceptions, are medium-length putts defined as the distance where success in 1- or 2-putts are near or perceived to be 100% and long putts defined as the distance where the potential 3-putts increase dramatically? If so, should medium putts be defined as putts longer than 2 feet but less than 15feet and long putts over 15feet long?
Are these the real definitions among the current golf communities (amateurs, tour caddies, coaches, tour pros and experts)? If not, why? According to Pelz the definition of a short putt is within 6feet. At 6feet the probability rate of 1 putt is 69.35 % (Tierney and Coop). Tour players, caddies, coaches, and other experts have not been surveyed to determine their definitions, so there is no concrete consensus on the definitions of short, medium, or long putts hence the reason for this study.
Does putting failure occur as a result of golfers’ perceptions that, in general, success on short putts should be 100%? Thereby creating more pressure to succeed? Is then the problem, that golfers have not been trained to overcome the pressure of failure?
The purpose of this study is to determine a practical definition of putting distance for short, medium, and long putts and more what players are really trying to do when facing those distances:
Keywords: short, medium, long, distance, perception
Putt well and you will score well ! Picture the importance of putting and more, understand how to master it and you will be fine. How many times do single handicap golfers hit 10 GIR and make the same score as if they hit 6 GIR. At the professional level only scores under par usually win tournaments and to score under par, professionals need to sink putts.
According to Richard & Tierney for World Class Players, the probability of 1-putt from 15feet is 25%. At just under 8feet, World Class Players have a 50 percent chance of making 1-putt (Broadie 2008). In 2011 the PGA Tour introduced a new putting measurement “Strokes Gained Putting”.
Distance control, directional cues, and confidence are the keys to successful putting. While the distance of the ball from the hole varies for every stroke, players recognize 3 putting distances: short, medium and long with 3 probability performance outcomes: 1, 2 or 3 putts.
The purpose of this study is to define more accurately the meaning of 3 accepted putting distances: short, medium, and long and eventually adding a new distance definition.
This study was conducted during the months of April, May, July, August, September, November and December 2011 where the author acted either as a caddy, coach or spectator at the following Tour events (Ladies and Men’s): China Open, Beijing CLPGA, Evian Masters, Omega European Master, Wuhan CLPGA Challenge, Sanya Ladies Open, Shanghai Masters, WGC HSBC Shanghai, Australian Open, UBS Hong Kong Open, Dubai World Championship, Dubai Omega Lady Masters.
During those Tour events the author monitored/recorded all shots played during at least 18 holes played by the following Tour players: Sergio Garcia, Paige Mackenzie, Bradley Dredge, HaiYing Zhang, Florentyna Parker, John Daly, Jim Furyk, Kegaan Bradley, Seung-Yul Noh, Kevin Na, Zhang Lian Wei, Wu Ah Shun, Mark Wilson, Stuart Appleby, Jon Senden, Anders Hansen, Anthony Brown, Chrisitan Cevaer, Stephen Dodd, Nicolas Kahn, Melissa Reid, Maria Verchenova, Michelle Wie.
To understand more about their playing strategies and decisions, the author also conducted individual interviews with several tour players among them World N.1 (as per 13.12.2011) Luke Donald and followed 2 times British Open Champion Padraig Harrington “news on tour” comments on his personal website.
At the same time, the author conducted further research by asking 80 players from four playing abilities categories* the questions listed below:
*experts (putting masters, master coaches, putting coach, sport psychologists etc), coaches, amateurs, tour caddies and tour pro among them formers and current majors winner + current world n.2 Lee Westwood and his Caddy Billy Foster.
Q1- Until what distance do you consider a putt to be a short putt? Past this distance it’s a medium putt)
Q2- Until what distance do you consider a putt to be a medium-length putt? (Past this distance it’ a long putt)
Q3- More comments?
As shown on diagram above two (Tour Pros and Experts) categories used the same average definitions/perceptions for short and medium putts with a short putt being defined as up to 6 feet (reference Luke Donald, World n.1) and medium putts being defined as up to 18feet (reference Lee Westwood, World n.2) (as per 13.12.2011)
It’s also noticed that most of the subjects/players have their own way/interpretation in their answers. Some coaches also believe they have their own secret/invention on putting description/performance.
Amateurs define short putt more as ball must go in versus Tour Pro defines more as ball should go in. Most surprise came from the Tour caddies who did not have the same answers/definitions of their respective Tour Players. (see diagrams)
Most of the Tour Pros had difficulty answering the questions in a straight forward way. They either had to think and comment “That’s a good question” and judge distance by feel or pace or to look at the hole before they could answer.
Tour Pro, Robert Karlsson had a very comprehensive answer concerning various distance achievements: “Short putt = Pace to go in, Medium putt = Intention to go in, long putt = Pace to get Close”. Stuart Appleby comments: “The limit of a short putt should be once the 50% success 1 putt rate failed”. Luke Donald comments on why he feels his medium distance putting perception is the longest 30feet among all participants “ because I still feel I can make it” and David Gleeson answer:” it depends if putting for birdies or pars.”
For the tour pros and experts the average response for a short putt was up to 6 feet and for a medium-length putt up to 18feet. It is also noted that among more than 80 stats options, the PGA tour Putting statistics (ShotLink) does not cover* those range distances as show on the result of this study. * does not cover: Total of one putts 2-6feet, Three Putts over 18feet, Putting from 18feet, Putting from 6 to 18feet, total 1 putts 2feet.
After considering the various answers and comments by the study participants, the author realized that the definition of “Tap-In” putts was used to define 2 feet putts. This definition was highlighted by Tour Pro Dustin Johnson after his second round 66 at the Australian Open where he comments “Today I missed a few short ones. Most of the birdies I made were or three to four footers” The author also heard the same description by TV commentators during the US Open when tour pros were finishing those 2feet putts.
The main purpose of this study was to find the relationship between short, medium and long putts and their respective possible score as 1 ,2, or 3-putts. Also it was to understand more about what the players are trying to do when facing variable distances and to define with better accuracy the meaning of “Short putt” because this is where players need to be successful to save par and make birdies.
Once players are within 2 feet of the hole they should consider/call it a “Tap-In” rather than “Short” putt, by doing this they will define a better and clearer psychological barrier between must go in and will go in. Thus, a more precise way to describe putting distances would be to add “Tap-In” to short, medium and long putts definitions.
When facing variable distances the player should have his “think mode” more task oriented than score oriented as > (0-2feet) Tap = ball will go in the hole, (2-6feet) Short = ball should go in the hole, (6-18feet) Medium = ball can go in the hole, (+18 feet) Long = ball need to get to the hole. By adopting this concept, the players should make more one-putts and less 3-putts.
When speaking about putting statistics/achievements players might considering as an alternative to use more range/zone “think mode” like range/zone1 (0-2feet), range/zone2 (2-6feet), range/zone3 (6-18feet), range/zone4 (18feet +). As per the Author observations, Tour Pros success depends more on how many times they reach zones 2 and 3 with their approach shots. An average Tour pro hitting approximately 12 GIRs where 8 times he should be within zones 2 and 3 with 4 birdies as the outcome. Those 6 greens that are missed should result in 4 save/pars for a total score of -2. Those statistics would result, over 4 days tournaments at a total score of -8 and regularly place in the top 10.
Special Request from the Author
According to his findings, the author would suggest to add to official putting statistics the following categories:
“Average score from 0-2 feet, 2-6feet, 6-18feet, + 18feet, one-putt score from 2feet, 6feet, 18feet, three-putt score from range 18-36feet and over 36feet. Adding those statistics would provide better references on Tap- Short- Medium- and Long distance range.”
Can golfers save more pars and make more birdies if they change their appreciation of various distances and start to practice more selected distances as opposed to random distances ? After this study, Mr. Barras thinks so.
“After reading this study, I can only agree with its findings and suggestions and can testify that I myself regularly practice selected distances of 3 feet, 6feet, 9feet, 12feet, 15feet and 18feet” Christian Cevaer > 2009 European Champion.
“I agree with those findings because it gives a better understanding about how putting works and therefore should free you up mentally” Robert Karlsson > 2010 winner of DP world Dubai.
A special thanks for the following body > Swiss PGA and more others participants > Luke Donald 2011 World n.1 Golfer and Putter, Swiss PGA apprentice Leader Karim Baradie, Phd putting Master Tony Pipero, Swedish PGA putting Master Jon Karlsen, Swiss Engineer Didier Bonvin, Nidra Yoga Master Bernard Bagnoud, Tour Champion Robert Karlsson, Tour Champion Stuart Appleby, Majors Champion Jim Furyk, focus Master Colin Cromack, Lee Westwood’s caddy Billy Foster, n°1 total putts statistic leader on 2004 & 2005 European Tour & 2009 European Open Champion Christian Cevaer, master Teacher Peter Cowen, golf Writer Timothy Callwey, golf Psychologist Vicky Aitken, master Trick shots Karsten Maas, European Masters Golf Promoter Christian Barras.
Science and Golf III Robin C. Jackson and Robert J. Willson “Using Swing Thoughts to prevent paradoxical performance effects in golf putting”
Science and Golf III P.H. Beauchamp “Peak Putting Performances: Psychological skills and Strategies utilized by PGA Tour Golfers”
Science and Golf III David E. Tierney, Phd and Richard H. Coop, EdD “A Bivariate probability model for putting Proficiency”
www.padraigharrington.com on tour weekly comments.
Perception Edition “Que sais-je”By Robert Frances
Assessing Golfer Performance using GolfMetrics Mark Broadie Columbia University
Tigermetrics “Roland Miston”
David Pelz website
Dec. 2011 Copyright Stephane Barras