Friday, February 16, 2007
No-Frills Putting Drills
Nine easy ways to lower your scoreA quiet body, a ball at rest, a short back-and-forth motion—how could something so simple cause so many headaches? Its a question that occupies the minds of touring professionals and weekend warriors alike. Wouldnt it be great if putting was as simple as it sounds, where every round was as automatic as the clinic Aaron Baddeley put on at Harbour Town this year (97 putts over 72 holes)? Jeff Ritter, director of instruction at the ASU Karsten Golf Academy in Tempe, Ariz., believes putting isnt complicated. And to help solve your putting woes, he has put together his No-Frills Putting Drills—nine straightforward, no-nonsense exercises intended to be practiced on your own, without the aid of an instructor. Practice these drills and, before you know it, youll actually look forward to working with the flatstick.
Have you ever noticed how smooth a touring pros putting tempo is? Its as if his or her stroke was a pendulum swinging back and forth—rhythmic, free-flowing and uncomplicated. This kind of uniform movement eliminates any herky-jerky motions that might adversely affect a putts length and direction.
A great way to develop Tour-quality rhythm and tempo is to practice with a metronome. Simply place the metronome on the ground and time your stroke so it matches its tick-tock sound. On the tick, your putter should be at the end of your backswing, and on the tock, it should be at the end of your followthrough.
A metronome has adjustable speeds, a feature that makes finding the appropriate tempo a snap. Once you find the speed that matches your natural stroke, continue to practice matching your tempo to the metronome until you can consistently reproduce it.
The next time you play, I suggest grooving your tempo while making a practice stroke. Its easy. Just repeat to yourself, tick-tock, as you putt. When you step up to the ball, your rhythm will be right for the putt at hand.
Some players like to feel as though one of their hands is guiding the stroke through impact. For example, Tiger Woods wants his dominant right hand to control the stroke, so he frequently practices with only that hand on the handle. Whatever your preference, practicing with just one hand is a great way to unlock the feel and flow of a pure putting stroke.
Hold the putter with one hand only and make a stroke. At first, the sensation of a one-handed motion might feel unusual, but as you practice, youll find its actually fairly natural. As you practice from a variety of distances, dont be afraid to put a little wrist action into your stroke, as it promotes a true roll. Also, allow yourself to be loose—a tension-free stroke usually produces the best results.
Remember, a natural wrist cock is common in every ball sport, whether the motion is hitting, swinging or throwing. Its no different with putting. Rigid wrists make it very difficult to develop the desired soft touch needed on the putting green.
3 On Track
If you tend to push or pull your putts, your clubface or putter path is probably going to be off line at impact. Misaligned putterfaces cause your putts to veer off line by many feet, so keeping your clubface square at impact is paramount.
To keep your putts on line, practice this simple flagstick drill. Place your putter on top of a flagstick so its alignment aid (the hash mark on top of the putterhead) is centered with the flagstick. Although its okay to have a little arc in your stroke, try to keep your blade as square as possible. Practice this motion for 30 seconds or so and then move your putter off the flagstick and onto the green, where you can actually stroke some putts. Try to re-create the square stroke you were making on the flagstick as you practice, and continue to alternate between this drill and stroking putts.
4 Speed Reader
If you play a lot of different golf courses, you know that green speeds can vary widely from day to day and course to course. Obviously, it can be extremely frustrating when youre not accustomed to the speed of new greens, particularly if theyre significantly different than those on the course you last played. A very effective but simple technique to combat this problem is to exaggerate your practice stroke. In other words, if youre playing greens that are significantly slower than youre used to, take your practice stroke from a greater distance than your actual putt. This will force you to ingrain the feel of a longer, more powerful stroke. On greens that are faster than normal, take your practice stroke from a spot closer to the hole than your actual putt. Then simply go back to your ball and use that same sensation to make your stroke.
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