Unlike the golf swing, there are almost no centrifugal forces at work in the putting stroke. Therefore, whatever you do at address pretty much determines what you’ll do with the putter during the stroke. In studying the best players on Tour, it’s easy to find common denominators in both their setup positions and strokes. Obviously, there are exceptions to every rule, but for the most part, common traits run rampant in the setup positions of great putters. Specifically, they establish four key setup lines.
A square putterface and a straight-back, straight-through path are crucial fundamentals for a solid stroke. These two elements control direction, which is undeniably one of the two most important aspects of good putting. However, perhaps the most important fundamental, rhythm, is often overlooked. Rhythm establishes the steadiness of the putting stroke and is the main factor in controlling distance and speed. Rhythm is the heartbeat of a good stroke, and is at least as important, if not more so, than any other aspect of successful putting.
They don’t keep stats for it on the PGA Tour, but all pros excel at hitting the mid-range lob. It’s played with your highest-lofted club (usually a lob wedge) from around 30 yards, and it’s one of those shots that, if you pull it off to save par or make birdie, can energize the rest of your round.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the famous Sam Snead tip, “Hear your putts.” To ensure that he didn’t come out of his putts too early, the “Slammer” held fast in his putting posture until he hopefully heard the ball rattle the bottom of the cup.
The chipping and putting motions are linear in nature. By that, I mean the face remains square to the target line throughout, never opening or closing like it does with full swings from the fairway and the tee. Moreover, the path of the stroke shouldn’t deviate from the target line. Realizing these facts can save a lot of amateur golfers a lot of headaches around the green, where the majority of less-than-skilled players chip the ball with a full-swing technique and leave themselves with a lengthy putt.
If you want to increase your ballstriking ability, you need to understand how to rotate your hips properly in the golf swing. Most amateur golfers rotate their hips too far during the backswing, which makes it difficult for them to get their hips to open up to the target at impact, a key component of a successful swing.
Even good golfers with sound, grooved swings come untracked now and then, especially if they lose the flex in the back leg trying for distance. If you stiffen your back leg during the backswing, your body will likely tilt out of balance, making it tough to re-flex the knee just the right amount in time for impact. If you can play some great golf, but consistency is your problem, it might be that you need a dose of Special K. Here’s how it works.
A key element to becoming a better player is learning to create different ballflight trajectories on command. It’s this aspect of your play that will allow you to effectively tackle a variety of situations ranging from lob pitches to knockdowns to recovery shots. Here are six “factors of flight” to help you learn to throw it high or keep it low.
If you want to take your scores even lower, you’ve got to be able to control the spin on your golf ball, and that means being able to curve it when you want to. This skill is called “working” the ball, and it takes practice. But most low-handicappers don’t rehearse this part of their game correctly—they’ll hit 20 draws in a row, then hit a bunch of fades. This practice sequence doesn’t realistically represent what you’ll face on the course. In golf, you only get one chance, not 20. That’s why I recommend the Diamond Drill. The Diamond teaches you how to work the ball “on demand” using the geometry of the setup.
When you want to get some extra distance out of your drives, it’s natural to think that your right or dominant hand (for right-handed golfers) should supply the power. In reality, however, maximum power is a result of a left-hand lead.
Growing up in Oklahoma, my golfing buddies and I had more than our fair share of wind to deal with on the course. As a PGA professional on the island of Maui, I still rely on different techniques to cheat the breeze and set up more scoring opportunities.
Any golfer worth his salt dreams of trying his hand on a true links golf course. Turnberry, Kingsbarns, Royal Dornoch, even Carnoustie—they all present challenges that inland courses, protected from the elements, simply can’t muster. The soft fairways that prevent errant drives from running into the rough don’t exist. Spongy, well-watered greens that receive approaches of all kinds just aren’t there. It’s a whole different style of play that favors putting over pitching and low, authoritative punch shots over high, spinning floaters. Above all, links golf demands imagination.
When playing golf, there are some days that no matter what you try, you can’t get your upper and lower body to work in sync. On these days, you’ll find that the hips trail too far behind the shoulders, and the shoulders trail too far behind the arms and hands. The Dead Shot is an effective drill I use with my students to promote balance, timing and synchronization from the takeaway through the finish.
Sometimes the best way to get out of a bunker is to not hit the ball at all. Try putting it instead. Like all shots from the bunker, you must first assess the situation and determine if the putter is the right choice.
Take a look at 99 percent of the putters designed today and you’ll notice that if you hold the face up to a flat edge, the shaft actually leans away from the target. Manufacturers use this design to ensure that you press your hands forward at address, preserving the loft of the club and promoting more consistent impact. The key to understanding and using this fact to your advantage is to make sure you’re setting up in the correct fashion at address. To accomplish this, press your hands forward to the belt loop of your pants, just to the target side of your belt buckle.
There aren’t many shots that touring professionals fear, but if you had to choose one, the buried lie bunker shot would probably take the cake. It’s a shot even more feared among amateurs who have no idea how to approach it, let alone how the ball will react off the clubface and once it hits the green. I’ve always believed that a buried lie isn’t a cause for despair, but rather an opportunity to demonstrate your short-game prowess. With some adjustments to the normal bunker setup, you can accomplish the goal of getting out of the bunker and onto the green every time.
Few shots on the golf course are more satisfying than a well-executed flop shot. Unfortunately, unless you’re Phil Mickelson, the risk is probably not worth the reward. There’s very little margin for error. With the wrong lie, you can swing the club under the ball without advancing it. And, with such a big swing, you’re liable to hit an 80-yard screamer if you catch it thin.
Golfers who are confused about the amount of body action normally associated with a pitch shot can learn from the simple mental image of pitching horseshoes. During this underhanded motion, the arms and body work together in response to the target. The body parts don’t need to be consciously controlled; rather they should react naturally to the command of pitching the horseshoe based on what the eyes see as a target.
The following pre-putt alignment routine is one that I developed with Patrick Burke and teach to each of my students. Its success has been so dramatic that many have adapted it to the full swing. It’s easy to learn and remember as long as you think in right angles.
The keys to great putting are really pretty simple. You must hit the ball squarely with the putterface, keep the putterhead moving level to the ground and square to your target line, and swing the putter at the proper speed to roll the ball the desired distance. To accomplish this more consistently, I recommend a grip that’s a bit revolutionary, but extremely effective.
Even though we all do it from time to time, there’s really no excuse for missing a relatively straight four- to six-foot putt. Here’s a visualization trick I use with my students to help take the anxiety out of these putts.