Touring pros work endlessly on distance control when putting. To putt like a pro, the two most important aspects of distance control are:
- Hitting your putt consistently in the center of the club.
- Maintaining the sense of even tempo back and through and matching the distance you take the putter back with the distance you follow through
We have all seen the tee drill that the pros use to help with hitting solid putts. This drill not only does the same but also makes you aware and helps you focus on path and distance control.
Get that dozen of your favorite golf balls you purchased recently, and let’s use them as a teaching aid. Start with a straight 5 or 6-foot putt which, by tour standards, is made approximately 70 percent of the time.
Set 2 sleeves parallel to each other, leaving anywhere from a quarter to an eighth of an inch from the toe and heel of your putter head (Photo 1). Then, set the box behind the hole approximately one foot (Photo 2).
Practice making strokes without hitting the sides of the sleeves, which will train your eyes, arms and shoulders what a straight back and straight through path and hitting the ball in the center of the putter face feels like. Even if you are an open-and-closed arc putter, you still need to keep the face square through the hitting area the length of a sleeve of balls (3 pack)!
Once you’ve mastered the path and “centerness” of hit, pay attention to tempo and length of stroke. We do this with the sock to sock drill (Photo 3). The juniors in our program turned us on to the Stance sock craze and we have used that to create this fun but effective visual and physical exercise to improve your putting stroke. We want to have the sense that you match the distance you take the putter back with the distance you follow through. Hence, sock to sock (Photos 4-5).
We see players either take the putter back really short and accelerate or push the ball to the hole, or take it back long and stop or hit at the ball. Either way leads to inconsistency in distance control. You also want to pay attention on an even pace going back and through, either a short and fast pace, á la Brett Snedeker — or a long, smooth stroke like a Ben Crenshaw and Phil Mickelson. The reality of what is happening in this drill is that the putter head will travel a little farther than you take it back due to momentum and the actual speed through will be double the speed going back. But, you want to FEEL like you are matching the distance and speed you are going back with the distance and speed you are going through.
Now, put it all together with this drill set up (Photos 6-8). Find the combination of length of stroke and tempo without hitting the sleeves of balls and going past the box on the 30 percent of putts you may miss during this exercise. Move the sleeves back farther and farther to work on lag putting. The one last mechanical tip is, keep your head down and actually listen for the putt to drop into the hole.