Manage Your Game

Think Better, Score Better

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Your putting routine should start when you’re 100 yards from the green. From there, it’s easier to see how the green slopes. Too often, people start to look only after they’ve marked their ball. Here’s how to do it.

First, look for the general slope—the high and low points of the green. When you get on the green, use your eyes and feet to tell you how the putt breaks. If time permits, walk the low side of the putt and feel the slope under your feet. Many times, our eyes will see one break, and our feet will feel a different one. As you take one last look behind your ball, it’s time to pick a target and see the entire line, including where the ball will enter the cup. Your practice stroke should replicate how hard you plan on stroking it.

The average player should aim for the middle of the green. If you have a normal shot pattern like a fade, then play for it. You should rarely aim at a hole that’s tucked on one side of the green, especially if it’s tucked behind a bunker or other hazard.

Imagine if your ball finishes in the middle of any green. The longest putt you’ll probably have is 30 feet. When you aim at the middle of the green, you minimize the chances of hitting it in trouble areas on the side of greens. Also keep in mind your skill level. What’s your average dispersion rate with the club in your hand? Unless you’re a low handicap, you’ll be better off playing to a target in the center of the green.

Many players fall short of their target at least 80% of the time because they overestimate their skill level. Just because you once pured a 7-iron 150 yards doesn’t mean you’ll do it on every shot. Instead play what I call the “10% Rule.”

Take the best shot you’ve hit with a club and deduct the yardage by 10%. Never take a club you feel you have to hit perfectly to get to your target. If your best 7-iron goes 150 yards, then deduct 10% (15 yards) and plan for a 135-yard 7-iron. You’ll swing smoother and make more consistent contact.

The worst-case scenario is that you’ll hit it too flush and end up on the back of the green, or have to chip from just over the green. Most courses are designed with trouble in front of and to the side of the green. You’ll take those hazards out of play by playing within yourself.

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