Earl Cross is one of those golfers who’s never satisfied with his game. In other words, he’s like all golfers. So, the Grass Valley, California resident embarked on a mission to create a practice system that would build on his decades of experience as a teacher of youth and adults. And do that, he decided to focus on the part of the game that produces the most strokes per round: Putting. The result is Perfect Practice Putting, a true game improvement system for all.
“I have been playing golf at a high level for a long time and the products were developed to help me continue to improve without having to practice daily,” Cross wrote Golf Tips in an introductory e-mail. “My putting has improved dramatically since developing and practicing with my tools!”
Cross’s e-mail pitch was intriguing enough to get Golf Tips to meet up with him personally for a demonstration of all six aids, which are sold individually for $5.99 to $19.99 each, or as a set. They’re simple, lightweight, refreshingly lo-fi and can be set up quickly on any practice green, or in some cases indoors — making them a natural for winter practice, too. Here’s a look at each based on Cross’s demonstration at The Ridge Golf Club in Auburn, California.
Resembling an alignment stick (in fact, you could use it as that, too), the Rhythm Stick is designed to groove your rhythm by teaching you to keep your backstroke and through-stroke equal in distance, thanks to color-coordinated sections along the stick — yellow for short putts through red for longer putts. It’s an apt place to start every Perfect Practice session because it helps golfers avoid jerking the putterhead back too quickly, the dreaded “decel” coming forward, or a too-long follow-through. “Rhythm is equal distance back and forward and the best way to improve your rhythm is without hitting a ball,” Cross says. “This is a great visual tool.”
This is the first tool that Cross designed, and really the basis for the entire line of training aids. It consists of three items — a plastic triangle, a sharpie and several golf tees (Photo 1). First step is testing your alignment on a 10-foot putt with a bit of slope; place one tee 10 feet from the cup and a second tee on your expected aiming point (circled in white in Photo 2). Then place a ball next to the first tee, line your putter face to the intended line, and replace the ball with the triangle (Photo 3). Then take the putter away and step behind the triangle — the line on top will point to your actual line and show if you tend to aim too far left or right. Repeat the process from 20 feet to see how far off you’re aligned from a longer distance.
Then you return to the 10-foot tee, point the triangle directly at the tee next to the hole, mark its back edge with a sharpie (Photo 4), and make practice putts with the face aligned to the sharpie line (Photo 5). That will reveal the “correct” line — same deal with the 20-footer — and give you feedback on what proper alignment feels like.
The second item designed to be used without a ball and also great for indoor practice on a smooth carpet, this aid is just a plastic cylinder that’s about the same length as most standard putter heads. Just nudge your putter face up behind the cylinder (Photo 1 below), address it as you would a ball, and make a stroke (Photo 2). If the cylinder rolls straight off the face at impact, you’re hitting it square. If it veers left as in Photo 3, you’re closing the fact and impact (for righties). If it veers right, you’re opening the face at impact. It’s that simple, and it’s invaluable feedback.
COLOR CUP REDUCER
This is a great aid for gaining confidence over short putts — 6 footers and less. The standard cup is 4 ¼ inches in diameter, but this little gadget, when placed into the cup, reduces it a full inch, and is ringed with half-inch-long color sections that help with focus and aim. For instance, if you have a slight right-to-left breaker and there’s a green section on your intended line, you concentrate on rolling the ball to that section. That leads to gauging better speed, too — a ball “dying” over that green section and falling into the cup is better than hitting it too hard and missing the putt or power-spinning out. Finally, remove the reducer and the whole looks huge … another confidence builder.
The idea behind this aid is to help you putt without overanalyzing line and speed by letting the brain’s natural “putting computer” take over based on first-impression look and feel. Here’s how Cross says to use it:
- Putt 3 balls directly towards the Speed Chip, but do not take into account up, down, or side hill movement, because you are teaching yourself the speed and slope of the green. Example: If you tossed the chip uphill, then all three balls should come up short of the Speed Chip and vice versa if tossed downhill — below the chips for a side hill putt.
- Take the next Speed Chip and toss it in a new direction to make it a downhill or sidehill putt. Putt the ball directly at the Speed Chip and read how far it rolls past the chip. Example: Toss the Speed Chip 20 feet uphill and putt all three balls towards the Speed Chip and all 3 ball come up 2 feet short. We just learned that with this uphill putt we need to look and putt the ball 2 feet past the hole to keep the same rhythm and have the perfect speed to make the putt.
- Take what you’ve learned with Chips to putting at actual holes, aiming to specific spots short or beyond and stroking without manipulating the putter.
- Always finish your practice putting by practicing exactly like you play. Read a putt and stroke it like you would on the golf course, this will lead to building more confidence and making more putts on the golf course.
This aid is all about keeping the putter face on center going back and through impact and maintaining a stance that’s consistently square to the target. Again, it’s very simple: Find a straight and flat putt, put one “pole” behind the hole, extend the string along the putting line until taut and punch the second pole into the turf, place a ball directly under the string, align your body parallel to the string, and start putting along the string to the target, as Cross is doing in the photo. Work on making several putts in a row before wrapping up your practice session.
For Cross’s teaching blogs and info on purchasing the Perfect Practice Putting system, visit www.perfectpracticeputting.net