Tips for becoming a better putter
When I look at the differences between the good and bad putters that I have known during my almost 40 years in competitive golf several things stand out:
• Good putters have a concept for their stroke and stick with it
• Poor putters change their technique and/or their putter frequently
• Good putters concentrate more on distance and feel
• Poor putters focus on their stroke and the line
• Good putters have confidence
• Poor putters don't, even when they are making some putts
I was an instructor for the PGA of America in more than 20 Playing Workshops, which are five-day golf schools for golf professionals. I always taught the section on putting. One of the other instructors, who is currently listed as a top 100 instructor, frequently joked: "I don't know why we always have Mike teach the putting, he hasn't changed his technique in 20 years, I change my technique several times a round, I can show the students a lot more ways to putt."
I divide putting into three separate areas; you must be skilled and consistent in all three to become a great putter.
Improving putting technique
The goal is to find a method that is simple, swings the putter in a consistent arc and strikes the ball in the same spot on the face every time.
• The movement of the putter is completely created by the rotation of shoulders around your neck. This movement will create a consistent arc.
• Your hands and arms must be relaxed and quiet during the stroke. Any movement from your hands and arms will create inconsistency.
• Your lower body and head and neck must be motionless during the stroke. Again, any movement will lead to inconsistency.
A couple more items: I recommend that you hold the club in your palms so that your forearms and the shaft are on the same plane; this makes them work as one unit. Your shoulders should be parallel to the target line. The back of your neck should be close to horizontal, which will allow your shoulders to move more up and down, which makes the putter swing in a straighter line. It is important that you understand that the set-up will allow the putter to swing in a straight line; you should not try to manipulate the putter with your hands and arms.
Good putters have a great control of distance and can adjust easily to different speed greens. There must be both a lot of feel drills in your practice and an emphasis on distance control when you play.
Feel drills: Feel resides in your sub-conscious mind. There are two keys for successful drills.
• Use three to six balls and hit each ball a different distance.
• Make several rehearsal strokes prior to each putt trying to feel the energy needed. An example is to place three balls on the same line at 20, 25 and 30 feet from the hole. Take your time and try to make each putt, then repeat the process from different directions and lengths for uphill, downhill and level putts.
Develop a consistent putting routine
• Gather information about the shot. I like to walk around (before it's my turn) and especially walk near the line from the hole to my ball to feel the slope.
• Choose a line and commit to your choice. I like to choose an aiming point to the side of the hole.
• Take several rehearsal strokes with two goals: visualizing the ball going into the hole and feeling the energy needed for perfect speed.
• The stroke: Set-up to the ball. Rotate your head so your eyes track in a straight line to your aiming point and back (not the hole except for straight putts). Make your best stroke. Keep everything still until the putter stops then rotate you head to watch the ball. Hold this position until the ball stops rolling.
April 22, 2008