Hello again, this week we will talk about the great equalizer, putting. Putting is a different game; there is nothing similar about putting to the full swing in golf. The sad thing is a two-foot putt counts the same as a 300 yard drive. There is no recovery opportunity from bad putting. When you miss a short putt, you add a stroke to your score and have to putt again. Itâ€™s pretty simple; if you donâ€™t putt well, you donâ€™t play well!
There are a million different ways to putt and no one way is better than the other. The way best suited for you is what we want to find out. In putting we have many variables and personal preferences, just take a look at the professionals on television. We have long putters, belly putters, short putters, claw grip, reverse overlap grip, left hand low grip; I could go on and on.
There may be no single element of overall putting technique that every great putter agrees upon, but there are certain principals that the majority of them support:
- Eye line over or slightly inside the ball
- Set the club face square to the target
- Position the ball forward of center
- Keep the body motion limited
- Use an accelerating stroke
- Be comfortable
- Make solid contact by hitting the ball in the putterâ€™s â€œsweet spotâ€
Whatâ€™s Important in Putting
It is not the mechanical requirements that separate the poor from the great putters. With practice, anyone can develop a solid, repeating, mechanical stroke. There are requirements beyond the mechanical stroke that you must master. A successful putter must also have the ability to:
- Judge Slope
- The Sensitivity to feel the proper speed
- The courage to act on your decision once it has been made
Simply stated, what you must do to produce a successful putt is:
- Roll the ball on the correct path
- Do so at the right speed
I like the stroke to be a little inside on the back swing and straight down the line in the forward swing. It is also important for your hands to continue to the target, you want your arms and putter to travel at the same speed, and to continue down the target line.
Grip, Aim, and Set-up
The most popular and widely used putting grip is the reverse overlap (figure 1). Â Some other popular grips are the left hand low (figure 2), and the claw grip (figure 3). The key is to find a grip you are comfortable and confident with. Your teaching professional can help you decide. Your grip pressure can be very light, to firm. The important thing is to not let it vary during the stroke; you must maintain the same grip pressure throughout the putting stroke.
If you follow the advice and procedure below I can almost guarantee your putting will improve.
Treat all putts as though they are straight putts. Once you have determined your line, find your target. Your target is seldom the hole itself. Your target is one foot beyond the hole if itâ€™s a straight and level putt. If itâ€™s a straight downhill putt your target will be somewhere short of the hole. If itâ€™s a straight uphill putt it will be somewhere beyond one foot past the hole. Side hill or breaking putts are still straight putts. Due to the slope of the green, gravity is going to pull the ball left or right. You must determine how much the ball will break based on the slope, the speed of the green, and the distance.
Take a look at figure 4, his target is the dot left of the hole, you must focus on your TARGET not the hole.
Second item; Aiming accurately may be the most difficult and most important element in the mechanics of putting. 90% of putting has to do with â€œface angleâ€. Because of this, I teach aiming the same way in putting as I do in the full swing; I use â€œspot aimingâ€ for mid length and long putts. If you have been reading my earlier blogs we talked about this in the one titled â€œAlignmentâ€. Once you have chosen your intended line find something a foot or two in front of the ball along that line to â€œaimâ€ at; a dead grass blade, an old divot, etc. Do not even look at the hole or your â€œlong rangeâ€ target at this point. Align your putter face, feet, and shoulders square to your â€œshortâ€ target. You look at your long or actual target just before you make your stroke.
The last point I will make here is; allow for more break in the putt then you think. Most amateurs will miss their putts on the low side of the hole because they do not read enough break in the putt. Next time you are on the course count how many times your putts are missed on the low side verses the high side of the hole.
Take a look at figure 5; this is a proper â€œconventionalâ€ set-up. Ball is forward of center, eye line over the ball or slightly inside, weight focused and stabilized on the left foot. Club face, feet, shoulders and arms square to your target, and you are comfortable.
Just as in the full swing we want to create â€œaccelerationâ€ to and through the ball. I often times see just the opposite; deceleration. Deceleration: in anticipation of making contact with the ball, or from fear of missing the putt. Itâ€™s a stroke killer. Your nice smooth practice stroke should be your actual stroke!
Short putts, four feet and closer. Your stroke should be; back swing very short and more follow through (straight back, straight through). A good teaching aid is a three foot long 2×4.
Medium and long putts; In the forward stroke we need to keep the amount of energy (force) we use the same. We want to swing forward as hard as we can, without increasing grip pressure. The length of the backstroke is the only variable we need to change or deal with for distance control (read that again, if you can master this your 3-putt greens will drop significantly). For long putts we are looking to get the ball in a three foot circle around the hole, the 3-foot circle is your focus not the 4 Â½â€ hole. If the putt should go in thatâ€™s a bonus, but were not anticipating or expecting to make it. Here are a few statistics to illustrate why:
- 3-foot putt; we will make 97 to 100% of the time
- 4-foot puttÂ Â Â Â Â Â 90%
- 5-foot puttÂ Â Â Â Â Â 75%
- 6-foot puttÂ Â Â Â Â Â 55%
Some of you may be dealing with the yips. Its cause â€“ fear of missing. The fear of missing putts comes from having missed putts and remembering the misses! We seldom have the yips on long putts because we are not expected to make them. Its when the putt is short and your faced with bogey or double-bogey you feel greater levels of self-imposed pressure; the pressure to â€œnot failâ€. So whatâ€™s the cure?
- Employ a selective memory. Forge the bad experiences and shots , focus on the good ones.
- Get things in perspective. Making or missing a putt has little influence on mankind or the course of history. A miss will not cause you to lose your life, health, family, etcâ€¦
- Change putting styles
- Change putters
- Develop a routine that totally occupies the mind, example; a counting system that you hit the ball on 6:
1)Â Â Â Â Â See the line
2)Â Â Â Â Â Rehearse the distance
3)Â Â Â Â Â Square the face
4)Â Â Â Â Â Set the feet
5)Â Â Â Â Â Exhale, and
6)Â Â Â Â Â Stroke the ball
- There are some very good books on the subject, one that I like is â€œYour 5th Clubâ€ by Dr. Bob Rotella.
Choosing the right putter is very important, when you set-up to the ball and your looking down, your putter needs to SCREAM CONFIDENCE! Knowing that every putt you stroke is going to fall into the hole.
Selecting a putter is a very subjective exercise, what looks good to you looks horrible to someone else. Do you get a blade, a mallet, a heel shafted, or center shafted putter, the options seem endless. Here are a few tips to narrow your search:
- If you typically play slow greens choose a heavy putter with a little more loft (standard putter loft is 4 degrees). Fast greens, lighter putter, less loft.
- If you â€œforward pressâ€ (like Phil Mickelson), you need a putter with more loft. The more you forward press the more loft you are taking off the putter. Just the opposite if your hands are behind the ball at address
- If you are LEFT EYE dominant you may perform (putt) better with a center shafted putter verses a heel shafted putter. The exception to this is if you have difficulties squaring your club face, if so, stick to a heel shafted putter.
- Here is a test you can perform to determine your eye dominance:
Place a golf ball on the ground. At waist height form a circle with the thumb and forefingers of both hands. With both eyes open, center the golf ball in the circle. Now without moving your head close each eye individually. Whichever open eye has the golf ball centered in the circle is your dominant eye.
- A good starting point for what length your putter should be:
- 6â€™2â€ and tallerÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 35 â€“ 36â€
- 5â€™8â€ to 6â€™2â€Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 34 â€“ 35â€
- 5â€™8â€ and shorterÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 33 â€“ 34â€
I like two of them. Figure 6 is Dave Pelz â€œPutting Tutorâ€. It features guide lines to help aim your putt on your chosen line for your putt. It also has two marbles at the front edge, which tel you whether or not youâ€™ve made a good stroke and started your putt on line, or not. If you dislodge a marble, it means your ball started off-line.
Figure 7 is the Momentus â€œinside down the lineâ€ putting aid. I am an avid believer in this putting concept. The putter goes a little inside during the backstroke, after contact with the ball the putter head continues straight forward toward your target or down the line.
I also like the idea of an alignment line on the ball (figure 8). It is one more thing to assist you to get the ball started on your intended line.
I like Phil Mickelsonâ€™s 3-foot and 6-foot circle drills. The 3-foot drill incorporates my â€œshort back swing, more follow throughâ€ (straight back, straight through) stroke I spoke of earlier. Phil calls it his 25/75 stroke, back 25% through 75%. Place a number of balls in a 3-foot circle around the hole (figure 9) (use a standard length putter to measure). You donâ€™t leave this drill until you sink 100 balls without missing (just kidding).
The 6-foot drill is one to spend some time with because 6-feet is where the break of the putt is much more noticeable. Still use the 25/75 stroke, it is just a little longer. You have to read these putts perfectly, and have perfect speed to make them. Also remember at 6-feet you will typically only make 55% of your putts. If you want to score well get this percentage up.
Additional Important Thoughts about Putting
- 60% of the break of an average putt is going to occur within 3-feet of the hole. Except in unusual cases the slope at the beginning of the putt has very little influence. This means study more closely the finish portion of the putt.
- Judge the speed so if the ball were to miss it would finish one foot past the hole.
- Off-center hits on the putter face have significant effects on the distance and direction the putt will travel.
- X-out golf balls are generally the most poorly balanced and can affect a 6-foot putt by as much as three to four inches on either side of the hole.
- On a putt 2.5 feet from the hole the permissible error in alignment is generous, plus or minus 4-degrees, indication these putts should be automatic â€“ were it not for indecision.
- Focusing on a spot an inch or two in front of the ball on the correct line helps to start the ball on that line and encourages hitting through the ball.
Hope it helps youâ€™re putting, have a great day.
Al Pehrson, PGA Professional