I managed to shock a few people while playing a couple of tournaments on the Aussie circuit before Christmas. The reason? I was putting right-handed with a short putter. For someone who’s left-handed and used a broomstick putter his entire career, that’s a pretty dramatic change!

It started just over a year ago when I played nine holes right-handed for a bit of fun because I’d always wanted to see what I could shoot from the other side. I lost a ball, made a few double-bogeys but did OK, carding a 48. What surprised me the most was how I putted. My stroke was smooth and completely free of expectations, so I thought, Hmm, there might be something in this.

I’m actually right-handed when it comes to using one hand – writing, throwing a ball, playing tennis, etc. Anything involving two hands I do left-handed: golf, batting in cricket, baseball, etc. If I roll a golf ball to a hole I do it with my right hand, not my left, so the notion of putting from the right side kind of made sense. When I was struggling with putting a few years back, my coach did suggest to try right-handed, but I said, “Don’t be silly!” As usual, I wish I’d listened to him sooner.

Nick Faldo re-tooled his game for the sole purpose of winning Majors.
Nick Faldo re-tooled his game for the sole purpose of winning Majors.

In the beginning it felt completely foreign and I hit some pretty wayward putts to start. However, knowing I was on the right path, I stuck with the change. I also got some confused looks from playing partners and after a few holes they’d finally twig saying, “You’re putting right handed!” It took some work, but now I’m putting better than I have in a long time, mostly because I challenged myself to make the change and stick with it.

That’s the thing about making a change. You have to fully commit and own it if it’s going to become part of your game. Going in with anything less than 100 percent will only result in reverting to your old ways. That’s why I’ve always admired golfers (and anyone, really) who go out on a limb and challenge the norm. A great example was Nick Faldo, who completely revamped his golf swing with David Leadbetter in the 1980s. At the time he was one of the top golfers in the world but wasn’t satisfied with that. He wanted to be great and etch his name in history, which he did by capturing six Major championships after rebuilding his swing from scratch.

I’m not saying you have to re-invent the wheel (or in this case, the golf swing), but making a change involves getting completely out of your comfort zone and putting yourself in awkward situations. You’ll probably look foolish at times, but if you fully believe in what you are doing, that won’t matter. Sometimes to move one step forward, you have to take two steps backwards, and get worse before you get better. That’s what the practice area is for. Hit all the shanks, tops, chunks, slices and duck hooks there that you like. Over-exaggerate the change you’re implementing so that when you’re on the course, you can just play your normal way and the change will slowly ‘bleed’ its way into your game. It takes discipline (and trust in your coach) to continue on that path, but the rewards are worth it in the end.

Nick O'HernTo get your copy of Nick OHerns new book Tour Mentality: Inside The Mind Of A Tour Pro order online at www.nickohern.com.