LINE UP THREE BALLS about 10 feet from the cup. Stroke the first two while keeping your eyes focused on the hole. Don’t look at the ball; just make good strokes and look at the cup.
Next, address your ball normally, but rather than becoming ball bound, I want you to retain the image you had when you looked at the hole. That is, in your mind’s eye, I want you to picture the cup while you make a stroke. Feel the difference?
Staying visual like this improves not only your distance, but also your accuracy. Its bonus benefit? It eliminates unnecessary technical thoughts, too. Stay visual!
ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT keys to good putting is to be able to roll the ball end over end. It seems simple enough to do, but if the ball isn’t struck solidly, it’ll wobble and go off line.
A great way to practice this is to draw a line around your ball with a Sharpie (see below). Once you’ve done that, find a straight putt and aim the line at the hole and see if you can get it to roll end over end, staying straight the entire length of the putt. If the line doesn’t stay straight, you’re not putting a solid, centered stroke on the ball.
Continue practicing this drill until the ball rolls and the line doesn’t wobble from side to side. If you can consistently do that, then you’ve found a stroke that’ll stay on the line you’ve intended.
BEFORE YOU STROKE your putt, take a Sharpie and mark a line on your ball with the Line-M-up tool (finetunegolf.com). That’ll help you align your ball exactly where you want it to go.
AN OFTEN OVERLOOKED part of putting is how to make solid, center contact with the clubface. Without successfully doing that, it’s hard to know in which direction the ball will travel.
A great drill that’ll help you make solid contact is my gate drill. First, set up to a 10-foot putt, then put two tees in the ground about an inch in front of the heel and toe of your putter, and two tees about an inch behind the putter. What you should see is a small box around the putter like in the above left photo.
Once you’ve set it up, simply swing your putter through the gate without making contact with any of the tees. Continue to do this until you’ve missed the tees on at least a dozen putts. Then remove them and swing freely.
If, as in the photo at right, you hit any of the tees, you’re not hitting the middle of the clubface. Continue to practice from many different distances (so your putter swings back and forth for various lengths) until you consistently don’t hit the tees.
|HOW TO CHOOSE A FLATSTICK
There are two types of putters: blades and mallets. Blades travel on more of an arc, mallets go straight back and straight through. (That said, straight is relative.)
Of course, the easiest way to know which style is right for you is to visit your local pro shop and test one out. Ultimately, while we suggest getting fit for a putter, a lot more factors should figure in your decision-making process, like Do I like the way it looks? and Do I like the way it feels?
While advancements in weighting technology, clubhead shape and face texture have spawned modern and unusual shapes, the old classic Anser styles work just as well.
Then there’s actual classics, like the Bulls Eye Corey Pavin uses. Yup, this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup captain still plays with a 1984 Bulls Eye. Hey, at the end of the day, the objective is to get the ball in the hole in the fewest number of strokes. Whatever works!
FULL SWING VS…
IN THE TWO PHOTOS left, I’m addressing and swinging my 7-iron. At left, my posture is picture-perfect for that club. Its sole is flush with the ground, its shaft and my chest form a 90_¡ angle, there’s a slight bend in my knees, my chin is up a bit, and my back is flat but not rigid.
In the next photo, I’ve started to swing the club back, allowing my body to react to me swinging the club. The butt end of the shaft points toward my torso, and the shaft remains on the same angle it had at address. I like what I see–for a full swing–but it’s not the right setup and execution for putting.
NOW TAKE A LOOK at my putting setup. The first thing I want you to notice is that it’s okay to be bit hunched over when you putt, as opposed to having a flatter back for a full swing.
In the above two photos, you can see that I still bend from my hips first and then let my arms fall into my posture as if I’m bending over to touch the ground. After I do that, I’m already in a good putting posture, and all I need to do is hold onto my putter’s grip and let my arms swing back and forth to make a perfect stroke.
Why does that happen? The putter is the shortest club in the bag, so you naturally stand closer to the ball. This allows your arms to hang down freely and your eyes to look straight down on the ball. As a result, your arms should swing back and forth, rhythmically and without much body movement.
The takeaway: Don’t set up for a putt as you would for a full shot. It’s okay to hunch so your arms hang freely.
ON LONG PUTTS, finding the right speed is key. To help improve your speed, take three balls and set up about 25 feet away from the fringe.
Start by trying to putt your first ball as close as possible to the fringe; then putt the next one about four feet to the right of it, again trying to get it as close as possible to the fringe. Do the same for the third ball. If done correctly, all three balls will be close to the fringe and about four feet apart from each other. Now repeat the drill doing it on uphill, downhill and breaking putts.
Now, remembering that drill, stand about 25 feet away from the hole and putt to it while trying to visualize the fringe at the back of the hole. If you visualize the fringe at the front of the hole, you won’t putt the ball far enough. However, by imagining the fringe behind the hole, you’ll get the ball to the cup and give yourself a good chance at making the putt.
As in my earlier tip in which you pictured the hole when you putt, keep a strong image of the fringe in your mind’s eye to putt the right distance.
|DID YOU KNOW? PUTTS PER ROUND
PLAYER’S WHO DON’T properly release the putterhead miss a lot of putts because they either hold the face open or turn it over too much through impact, pushing or pulling the putts right or left.
If that sounds like you, here’s a great drill to practice. First, set up one foot away from the hole (yes, only one foot). Next, line up your putter blade directly against the ball. From there, simply push the ball into the hole–no backswing, just push the ball into the hole. If you’ve executed this drill properly, the putterhead should finish over the hole, and its toe should be turned in slightly (see photos, right).
If your blade opens (photo at left) or closes, you may miss the hole entirely…from a foot away!
Continue to make good push strokes so your blade finishes over the hole and then back up a few feet and make a normal stroke. When you make a putt for real, you should feel as though the putter goes over the cup in front of the ball (even if the cup is just a figment of your imagination).
ONE OF THE reasons golfers have trouble gauging the right green speed is that they’re unable to make the proper pendulum-like putting stroke, where the putter travels the same distance back as it goes through. (I often see golfers make a giant backswing, then slow down at the ball, or a tiny backswing and a long followthrough. Both lead to inconsistent strikes.)
To ingrain a pendulum stroke, match your stroke to your stance width. Start with a short putt about four feet from the cup. Set your feet six inches apart, and make a practice stroke, going back to your right foot, then through to your left foot. Next set up to the ball and do the same while actually putting. Now try a longer putt–say 15 feet–and spread your feet farther apart so your longer stroke matches the longer putt. Using your feet as a reference will help you make a pendulum-like stroke and find the right speed.
READ THAT GREEN
TO BEST LEARN HOW YOUR PUTT WILL BREAK, start looking at the undulation as you approach the green. Look for bodies of water or depressions into which water might drain, and bunkers (into which water doesn’t drain). Sizing up the larger picture will help you narrow your focus when you squat behind your putt and look for more subtle elevation changes.
Another factor to consider is grain. While arguably the most subtle and often most difficult ingredient to consider when reading greens, grain can play a huge factor in how fast or slow your putts are.
Toward the end of the day, in particular, keep an eye out for how the grass grows toward the sun and factor that into your putt’s speed. Putts going into the grain slow down; putts down-grain speed up.
WE’RE LUCKY to play golf in the 21st century. Think about it. A modern hybrid is about the same size as an old persimmon driver. Putters have grown too, from light offerings with small faces, to expertly weighted wide faces. The game has gotten a lot more forgiving…for some.
Still, for most of us, the game is a challenge. In particular, putting. This toe drill is meant to challenge your practice sessions and improve your feel.
Simply putt with the toe of your putter. Using a small clubface area helps you concentrate more and forces you to hit it solid to make the putt. After making a few strokes, flip your putter back the normal way and stroke away. You’ll hit the ball in the center of the face every time.
PRACTICE WITH A PURPOSE
DURING PLAY LESSONS with my students, I often see them take practice strokes that don’t match up to the shot at hand. Usually, if they have a short putt, their practice swing is too long. Or if they’re going to lag a putt close to the hole, their stroke is better off for a three-footer.
Whatever the case, when they stroke their putt, it often doesn’t match what they’ve just rehearsed. It’s a bit like a runner doing sprints when he’s going to run in a marathon.
It’s important to keep in mind that the point of a practice stroke is to get a feel for your putt’s distance. Don’t just warm up with your practice putts; rehearse as if you were making the putt. It’ll be a lot easier to walk up to your ball and make the correct stroke once you’ve felt it a few times.
RIGHT ARM ONLY
PUTTING WITH ONLY your right arm helps you feel the putter through the ball and generate a smooth, end-over-end roll. Why? Often, it’s easy to manipulate the club with two hands and make jabbing or decelerating strokes. With one arm, however, you have to allow your arm to work as a lever back and forth.
Putting with your right arm also promotes a pendulum-like stroke, which improves accuracy and consistency. When you stroke it with just one arm, you have to let the club go down the target line because it’s hard to stop the momentum of the putterhead with only one hand.
The third benefit of one-armed putting is better distance control and touch. Your wrist must be steady through the putt or you’ll mis-hit it badly. When you get wristy in your stroke, you add flash speed, which makes it hard to judge the distance.
If you hit the putt solid with one arm, your wrist was in a good position.
Finally, one-armed putting creates confidence. When your consistency, distance control and accuracy increase, so will your belief that you can make anything you look at.
DON’T BREAK DOWN
A LITTLE EARLIER in this story, I showed you how to make the perfect pendulum putting swing. There are two important reasons to swing the putter with arms in a relaxed position and leave your wrists out of your stroke:
1. IT’S HARDER TO CONTROL your putt’s distance with your wrists. Too many things can go wrong when your wrists play a dominant role.
2. OVERACTIVE WRISTS LEAD to off-line putts. Your putterface is much harder to keep level and straight when you’re flipping your hands during your stroke.
To ensure that your wrists remain quiet, try my sleeve drill. Take a full sleeve of golf balls and place it between you forearms about four inches above your wrists. Next, make a stroke so that your wrists don’t break down (and the sleeve doesn’t buckle). By keeping the sleeve firmly in place, your arms will work together to make a stroke that doesn’t put too much emphasis on your wrists.
ALIGN THE FACE FIRST
I OFTEN SEE golfers walk up to a putt, then place their putter behind the ball and readjust their stance. Usually after all these adjustments, they think they’re lined up perfectly, but in reality, their body lines, target line and putter lines are all crossed. Why? They didn’t line up the most important component first.
After you’ve figured out which way your putt breaks and lined up your ball to the break, walk up and place your putterhead behind the ball and aim it toward either the hole or a spot on your target line (whichever is most appropriate). See a line extending from your ball into the hole. Then (and only then) should you line up your feet on a line parallel to your target line. From there, just make a stroke. It’ll be a lot easier to start the ball on the correct line when your body lines are parallel to your target line.
PGA pro Nick Kumpis teaches in Southern California.