Sunday, June 1, 2003
5 Driving, 5 Wedge Play and 5 Putting Mistakes
Fix common errors in three key areas and watch your scores plummet
Putting is for scoring. You won’t need to drive the ball on every hole, and you don’t need an accurately placed wedge shot on every hole, either. What you do need is a solid putting stroke, one that continually gets the ball within tap-in range at the very worst. If we all three-putted less, our scores would be much lower without having to make a single change to our full swings. Avoid these mistakes on the putting green at all costs.
Mistake #1: Putterhead Deceleration
You have a three-foot putt to win a match on the final hole. It’s a straight putt. A no-brainer. But it comes up short or drifts just below the right edge. What happened? If you’re like the majority of recreational players, you decelerated, the worst of all putting errors. It’s easy to do on short putts, where we’ve all been guilty of trying to “baby” the ball into the hole.
Your putting stroke, regardless of the length of the putt, should always be accelerating at a constant rate. The manner in which you alter distance is by changing the length of your backstroke and throughstroke. Whatever the length, your putterhead should gain speed through the contact zone.
Mistake #2: Open Face
You can’t set up to putt with an open face. If you do, you’ll miss to the right every time (for a right-handed golfer), regardless of the quality of your stroke.
Look to the leading edge of the putterhead to align your putter perpendicularly to the target line, or make use of the club’s painted sight lines or natural aiming lines. Consider these lines when shopping for a new putter. Find a putter that feels good, of course, but also one that’s easy to align. We’re all likely to try something that works well for our playing partners or our favorite Tour player. Don’t fall into that trap. Experiment and find a putter that works for you. It may be something you’d never consider owning.
Mistake #3: Bad Reads
Green reading is a tough area of the game to teach. It takes practice. It takes experience. But even golfers with long playing careers fail to judge the appropriate break because they look for break in all the wrong places. Most focus solely on the area around the hole.
True, the ground around the cup will influence the roll, but don’t forget about other break influences, such as the area where your ball lies or collection areas off the green. Look for drainage areas. If the course sits near a large geographical landmark (an ocean, mountain, etc.), keep in mind that these will greatly affect break. Plan accordingly.
Mistake #4: Poor Stance
Putting is personal, and you should adopt a stance that provides the most comfort. But I suggest you follow the stance fundamentals pictured here. If you do, you’ll be in a lot better position to make the kind of stroke that produces the truest roll and putts that stay true to the line.
Don’t make the mistake of making comfort and ease your primary concern when putting.
Mistake #5: Right Shoulder Stops
Contrary to public opinion, the putterhead should “release” along the target line, much like your iron or driver head does in the full swing. This release is a natural reaction to the putterhead accelerating through impact and moving the ball along the intended line. One of the reasons why golfers fail to accelerate is that they stop the movement of their right shoulder after impact.
To properly accelerate and release the putterhead, the right shoulder must continue to move down the target line following contact. If you stop your right shoulder, your right hand will take over and lift up the putterhead and increase the chance of striking the top half of the golf ball, producing more skid than roll.
Senior Instruction Editor Marshall Smith has taught the game of golf for more than 50 years. He currently instructs at Miami Country Club and Peoria Ridge Golf Club in northeastern Oklahoma.
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