What’s the best way to learn and practice the game of golf? Many teachers would say it’s from the hole back. Tough to argue the point: A three-inch putt counts just as much as a 300-yard drive, so why not get that shot down first, building confidence as the hole moves farther away and the margins of error get tighter? That will definitely lead to some great golf.
Here we’ll do just that thanks to these quick-read but indispensable tips from longtime Southern California-based PGA teaching pro Bobby Hinds. He knows his stuff and his straightforward style will have you dialed in for summer’s long days of play and practice. Enjoy.
PUTTING PART 1: LAG TO GET COZY
I like to use the term long putt rather than lag putt. Whatever length of putt you may have, the goal is to make the putt!
I like to pick my spot by taking a look from behind the putt first (Photo 1). Taking a rehearsal stroke to get the feel for distance is always good to figure out pace.
Next is to take precise aim at your intended spot (Photo 2). Reading greens takes close attention to watching the ball roll rather than keeping your head and listening for the ball to fall. You never develop an eye for break if your head is stuck to the ground! My head is steady through the stroke but notice that I am watching the ball roll toward the hole (Photo 3). I think the most exciting part of putting is seeing the ball roll towards the hole then disappearing! (Photo 4)
PUTTING PART 2: PRESS TO RELAX
Making putts is the key to shooting low and staying positive on the course. When we miss putts we tighten up and get the yips.
Next time you’re on the practice green, address the ball as usual with your hands directly over the ball and the putter shaft pretty much perpendicular (Photo 5) Try a slight forward press of the hands just before pulling the trigger (Photo 6). This small movement helps eliminate tension and get the arms and putter swinging smoothly.
A few top players that use this as a trigger to start the stroke are Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson.
CHIPPING: GO HYBRID TO GET TIGHT
When you are close to the green and have a tight lie it is easy to chunk or blade the shot. Try using a putting technique with a hybrid for best results (Photo 7). I use a standard putting grip (Photo 8) and play it like a putt (Photo 9). The loft on the hybrid gets the ball in the air then it rolls out like a putt (Photos 10-11).
PITCHING: HEADS UP TO SPIN IT
The greenside pitch is just a chip shot with a wrist hinge (Photo 12). Don't feel like you have to stay down, as you can see that freezes up my body turn and causes my left wrist to break down at impact (Photo 13). Keep your head up so the body can turn and catch the ball with forward shaft lean (Photo 14) which gives you control of the distance and more backspin (Photo 15).
IRON GAME: COMPRESS TO APPROACH
Only by compressing the ball with forward shaft lean at impact can you control the distance and direction of your approach shots (Photo 16). In order to do this, the transition from backswing to forward swing must be initiated with a shifting of body weight from right side to left side (for right-handers, Photo 17). Using your legs and hips, not just your hands and arms, is the key to compressing the ball and getting that feel of solid contact (Photo 18). To help students get to the “pro side” on their downswing, I use a Smash Bag (Photo 19) and a Tour Striker iron (Photo 20) to get them to wake up their legs and learn the proper pivot — which automatically produces the feeling of proper impact position.
Bobby Hinds is a well-known PGA teaching professional based at Woodley Lakes Golf Club in Van Nuys, California. Reach him at [email protected]