I’m going to let you in on one of my favorite putting secrets.
In 1981, when my Florida Southern team arrived at Hop Meadow in Simsbury, Connecticut just outside Hartford, we encountered a long, tight course with deep rough and fast, undulated putting surfaces.
At our team dinner after our first practice round one of my teammates turned to me and said, “Well, TP, it look like it’s not gonna be your week.” I looked at him knowing he was having a go at me and asked, “yeah, why’s that?“ He replied, “much too long for you and the rough is tough.” Understand I have never been blessed with the gift of speed therefore yards were never in my favor.
All my teammates where long and strong. I, however, explained matter-of-factly that those exact reasons where why I thought I’d do very well that week. For one, it was tight and I drive it straighter then the average bear. Second, I can chip, pitch, and hit bunker shots at a very fairly high level. More than anything else, I can putt my rock like nobody’s business. I told my teammate simply that I hoped he could keep up. They all laughed, but I was sure the others thought he was right and I was fantasizing.
Well, at week’s end we had won the 1981 NCAA ll National Team Championship by a whopping 35 strokes. My teammates all played well. Mr Short Ball, yours truly, had captured the individual National Championship with an extraordinary putting week. As predicted.
Below I’d like to share a few of my most favorite putting secrets and drills that I have learned and used both for myself as well as my students the last 36 years. At age 58 I continue to putt the ball beautifully most days.
It’s the old chicken and the egg thing. Putt better, confidence grows. Have confidence to putt better. I have always approached so many challenges in life with the attitude that most all things are in fact possible. I have never considered myself a dreamer but in fact a realist. Of course, I do agree sound mechanics and a foolproof practice routine clearly need to be part of the overall equation. I know so many folks with great mechanics who still do not putt well ONLY because the belief condition is flawed. Believe, therefore achieve! If you develop sound fundamentals and a solid practice routine you WILL become a good putter. Believe in the process.
Do you have to be fast to be a good putter? Do you have to be strong to be a good putter? Do you have to be able to leap tall buildings with a single bound to be a good putter? The answers to all of the above is a simple NO! So let me ask you, then, why can’t you develop a putting game as sound as Jordan Spieth, Ben Crenshaw, Zach Johnson or Steve Stricker? I fully believe you can, and if you did, how many shots a round would you save? The first thing you have to want to embrace to become a great putter is a full-time commitment to the amount of time/reps needed to fully excel at the skill. Putting is feel based. Reps are critical. No short cuts.
The beauty of putting versus the full swing is that there are far fewer moving parts and those that do move, move at a much slower rate of speed. The three most common ills I see with the recreational golfer during the act we call putting are a poor set up condition (ball position, position of the eye line, a balanced set-up condition, a grip that will allow the putter face to properly behave through the impact zone, hand and arm tension levels) a moving head or body, and left wrist breakdown.
The Putting Set Up
I like a balanced set-up with the weight equally distributed both right and left as well as heel to toe. My preference is that the eyes are located either over the ball directly or certainly over some part of the extended target line. I like the ball to be positioned under the left breast. My wish is that the grip is a unified condition and that the tension levels are such that the putter head can swing freely and therefore release through impact without manipulation. See Photo 1 for my set-up.
Keep the Mind Quiet
I believe it is 100 percent critical that the head remains still and quiet post impact for as much two seconds.
I call this my putting insurance policy. Of course, this should be true of the lower body as well. A quiet coconut ensures center face contact which is vital to the player’s athletic brain calibrating speed control. Speed control, I feel, is the most critical skill to be developed to become a great putter long term.
Left Wrist Breakdown
Left wrist control is in fact face control. Control your left wrist through and post impact and control the club face. Developing a flat left wrist will put you immediately on the road to many more putts starting on line.
MY FAVORITE DRILLS
The Lag Drill
I like to put four tees forming four feet by four feet square on the green. I then take 10 normal strides away from the square (approximately 30 feet ). I place a tee in the ground. Then, in three-ball increments, I putt the balls toward the square. I must have 18 balls (18 holes ) in a row finish in the square; if any one missed I have to go back to zero and start again. Keep in mind that if a ball finishes in the four by four square and, in theory, the hole is in the center of the square, the longest second putt you could have is a two-footer.
The Gate Drill
If my Lag Drill is all about speed control, my Gate Drill (Photos 2-5) is all about the ball starting on the correct line. For any ball to start on line, clearly the face/path relationship has to be pristine at the moment of truth we call impact. I set two tees a shade wider than the size of a putter head, then place the ball centered between the tees and simply rehearse making a solid center face square contact. Once that occurrence becomes somewhat consistent I’ll build a second, slightly wider gate half way between my starting gate and a hole five feet away. I then ask the student to get 9 balls (9 holes ) through the second gate and, again, if they miss they must go back to zero and start again. It’s amazing how well the eyes start to aim the putter face in relatively short time.
Now imagine 30, 60, or 90 days having worked on these two drills. One drill is basically a speed control drill (The Lag Drill ) and one is an On-Line Drill ( The Gate Drill ). Let me ask you, how many shots better would your bottom line on the scorecard be?
Let’s not oversimplify, but when you break it down putting is only two primary functions: The ability to control speed and the ability to roll the ball down a desired line.
Embrace the artform we call putting! Develop a sound mechanical form along with a solid set of drills to develop the necessary form to hole more putts.
And most of all, believe.
Tom Patri is president/founder TP Golf, GolfTips Magazine Top 30 Instructor and PGA Quarter Century Member. Reach him at www.tompatri.com