Every single shot in golf is equal. Whether it's a 300 yard drive, or 1 foot putt, on a scorecard, both shots are equal. Time and time again though, I see players whacking driver after driver out on the range, completely neglecting the putting green in their practice sessions. Your putter is intended to be used for half of your shots in a round of golf ,practicing with it, will ultimately lower your score a lot faster than the extra 10 yards you've gained with your driver. In this post you'll find the top 5 faults I see in amateurs who suffer on the greens.
Number Five – You don't know how to practice
Working on your putting doesn't involve tossing three balls on the green and putting to random holes of varying distances. You need to practice as if you were on the real course. I prefer to see someone use one ball on the practice green, mark it, kneel down to take a look at the break, go through their entire pre-shot routine and then try and putt. This is actual practice and this is what will help you improve the play with your flatstick.
Furthermore, when you're practicing, you have to be realistic as to the most common putts you will face while on the course. To get a feel for the speed of greens, practice a few long distance lag putts, but mostly 20-25 footers. Finish with plenty of putts from within 5 feet as this where most of your putts will take place from… and it also help to build up your confidence.
To really improve your putting, give this drill a try. Start with three balls and a cup about two feet away. Complete your entire pre-shot routine and putt each ball into the cup. If you make all three, move a foot further away from the hole. Continue this drill until you miss, then start back at your two-foot distance again. Or as the picture shows above, try hitting progressively longer putts to the hole, if you miss re-start the process. With practice, your short putts will become automatic.
Number Four- You’re not accelerating
This fault plagues golfer's of all ages and skill levels… and if you're one of those unlucky players who suffers from the yips… this is most likely one of your problems. The dreaded decel as it is commonly called, is a menace, especially on short putts and downhiller’s. I understand why it's tough to accelerate on a really short putt, or have the confidence hit a tricky downhill putt firmly… but the truth of the matter is, the latter is much more damaging to your psyche and your score.
If you're not accelerating into your putts, they will stray off-line and your ability to judge distance will suffer. A decelerating putting stroke is usually characterized by a longish backswing and a short follow through… it's no wonder we usually describe this 'technique' as a stab or choppy stroke. The ideal putting stroke has both a short backswing and long follow-through, or and equal amount of both.
If you’re having problems gauging distance and are missing a lot of short putts, give this drill a try. Setup about three feet from the hole with a couple of balls. Perform your entire pre-shot routine and address a ball. Instead of making a backswing, simply perform your follow-through… you’ll be effectively just pushing the ball towards the hole. Practice this drill from varying distance, but no more than 10 feet away or so. After some practice try and incorporate this accelerating motion into your normal putting stroke.
Number Three – You can’t aim
I’ll admit, aiming is rather difficult for golfers in comparison to sports like pool, darts, and basketball. This has to do with how we align ourselves to the target. In all these sports your eyes are looking straight down the line at our target… but in golf, we are looking at everything perpendicularly. Sam Snead used to putt side-saddle, much like a crochet player, he straddled his line of putt which enabled him to look directly down his target line. He had some success, but the USGA became involved and soon made such a stance illegal. But truth be told, Sam was on to something.
Before putting, almost every golfer will kneel down behind the ball and take a look the break. This is the only moment in which you are looking directly down your target line and have the best chance of setting your alignment properly. But the next thing they do is put the ball on the ground, set up and whack it, without using this information to their advantage. Dave Pelz, once did a study and found that golfer’s routinely miss-align themselves even when they feel they're aiming at their target.
I implore you to really use the information your pre-shot routine gives you to your advantage. Use the logo or even draw a line on your ball; while it’s marked, aligned the ball so it runs along your target line. Double check that the logo is aligned, by kneeling behind the ball again, then go ahead and align your putter to the line on your ball, finally your stance. Afterwards, all you have to do its trust your alignment. If it feels ‘wrong’, then that tells you that your original way of lining the ball up was incorrect.
Number Two – You’re too tense
Tension is killer in every aspect of the golf game. An effective putting stroke is smooth and controlled, not rigid and choppy. If you’re a poor putter or suffer from the yips, I’ll bet you are using a death grip… or at least during your stroke you’re tightening up. Let me make myself perfectly clear, trying to steer your putts at the last minute doesn’t work… period.
Your putting grip pressure should be light, probably a 3 on a scale of 1-10. The club is not likely to fly out of your hands and end up in the lake on that 10-footer… so loosen up. Try practicing hitting balls with one hand to different targets, switching between your left and right hands. Feel the putter swing back and forth on the stroke… you should notice a dramatic difference in your distance control and consistency immediately.
Number One – You don’t have a set pre-shot routine
A solid pre-shot routine, gathers the necessary information to perform a specific shot and helps to invoke relaxation and calm. If you routine is repetitive and effective, you will be ready for the task at hand. If it routinely changes, or you forget to check certain details, you will fell unsure and have little confidence in your preparedness.
Putting pre-shot routines vary, however most will have similar characteristics:
– Take a look at the break from at least two perspectives, looking towards the hole and looking from behind the hole towards the ball. You may also consider looking at the break perpendicular to your target line; this is called triangulating.
– Generally, most players align the ball’s logo or a drawn line along their target line to re-enforce the information gained from looking at the break.
– Perform practice strokes while looking at the hole to gauge distance.
– Take note as to how much the putt is either uphill or downhill, also take some consideration into the grain of the grass.
– Remember that balls tend to break towards water, or down mountains or hills.
– Align your putter first, then your feet and stance (this one varies).
Putting pre-shot routines are quite individual and vary drastically from player to player. The point here is to have one and repeat it from beginning to end for every putt. This
will invoke confidence, routine and consistency on the greens.
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