Learn To Putt Like This If You Want To Shave Strokes Off Your Game
PUTTING MORE PUTT IN YOUR PUTT
As a golfer, I know well the agony of 3-putting the green on a par 3 hole. Possibly the only thing worse than that is standing at the tee of a long par 5 and watching the best tee shot ever fly in a straight line down the fairway, catch a good bounce on a cart path and come to rest just on the green. Amazing!! On the green in one is Dream #2 behind a hole-in-one. I had a chance for an eagle, maybe even a double eagle. All I had to do was put the ball in the hole. As I stepped onto the green, I followed my own advice to my students and readers and put all that out of my mind. I studied the green like a pro – raising up the grip of my putter and sighting the ball and the hole together looking for uneven spots in the green, locating the natural break where the green starts its slope towards the fairway that lets the heavy rains drain quickly off the green.
I got down on all fours and put my face to the ground looking for any irregularity in the putting line I had drawn in my mind between the ball and the hole. I could see a break and I could see exactly where to hit the ball so that it would navigate the change in the green’s surface and then catch the little slope up to the hole. If I hit it right it should roll right to the cup and … voila!! A Double Eagle!! Again I pushed those words out of my mind and focused on the ball and the putting line.
As I approached the ball resting just inside the slight rough on the front edge of the green, I realized that I had to do what I taught golfers to do at that moment – Get Mental! I had to step out of my nerves and into my mind which was the only part of me that was capable of functioning without shaking. As I stood looking at the ball, I gathered every piece of me I could find and placed it all in my mind and said, “Now, get to work. You know what to do and you know how to do it. So do it.” I felt the familiar calming begin to work on my nerves while my mind started through its “putt-list.” That’s what I call my checklist for putting. It’s a lot like the checklist a pilot goes through before starting the airplane and I use it for the same reasons: 1. To be sure that every part of the putt is ready and able. 2. To catch any malfunction before it affects the putt. 3. To put my mind in control of the putt and not leave anything to chance.
So you’ll appreciate the story, I’ll share with you my “Putt-List” and how I used it on that memorable day when my future as a “Double Eagle Golfer” hung in the balance. I hope you’ll be able to appreciate how much this list helps me be a better putter – I like to think it puts more putt in my putting. That just means it helps me make “pure” putts – done by the book, with no fancy stuff – just good putting. Here it is:
Position on the green. Is it on the green completely or on the edge? Is it in the taller grass that is sometimes present on the edge of the green? Is it on the right side of the hole or the left? Where is the break? I usually go through this step as I am walking towards the green because I can get a wider perspective on the green and many times I can see the slopes and contours of the green better at a distance. It also helps calm my nerves so that by the time I reach the ball, I have a good idea of what I’m facing and am ready for step 2.
Lie. What’s under the ball – wet grass, soft grass, hard ground, dry and brittle grass? What’s the first thing the ball will hit when it leaves my club? This is the first thing I do when I get to the edge of the green. No matter where the ball is sitting on the green, I do a complete analysis of the green with special attention to the lie I have to deal with to get my ball to go where I want it to go. I check out the moisture of the grass and the ground – a golf ball travels at totally different speeds on a wet green than it does when the grass is dry and burnt from the hot sun. I always know when the last rainfall was and I check the board in the clubhouse for the condition report posted by the maintenance crew for each hole on the course. Nobody knows the course better than they do and I find their evaluation to be accurate and helpful.
Stance. I have worked long and hard developing my own particular style of golfing and I have discovered that when I stick to what I know and what works, I play consistently better and post lower scores. When I start wondering what Arnold Palmer would think of my stance or what Jack Nicklaus would say about my swing, then I start trying to play like someone else and this never fails to affect my game negatively, especially my putting. A putt is a much trickier shot than any other because there isn’t as much room for error on a green as there is on a huge fairway. Also, the slightest variation in the stroke or the smallest error in calculating the lie can lead to disaster. So I have found that the KISS principle works well – Keep It Simple Stupid. Just play your own game and don’t try to be something you aren’t. If you use your natural talent, your strokes will be more effective, your drives will be longer and straighter, and your putts will be – well, more like putts and less like an awkward and sloppy attempt to be something you’re not. I’m not Jack Nicklaus and will never be; but I’ll always be Dave, so I play like Dave.
Grip. Again, I have developed my own special grip for putting. It’s similar to the basic, standard by-the-book grip but I have found through many hours of practice that if I hold my club a certain way, I have more control over it. I think it’s due to a long-ago broken finger that isn’t quite straight. When I first started playing golf, I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t putt worth beans. Then I read a list of tips for improving your putting game and one of those tips suggested that finger size and length and particularly any irregularities had a profound effect on putting accuracy. So I looked at that finger again and realized that if I held the club according to the book, that crooked finger was making me pull the putter slightly as I moved it through the ball. So I moved that finger back on the grip to compensate and suddenly I was putting like a champ! So, the tip of the day is – Be Yourself. Play to your strengths and play down your weaknesses; develop your putt and use it.
Stroke the ball – don’t hit it and don’t push it. This “stroke” is a putt that propels the ball toward the hole with just the right amount of force. That is the best putt there is and the only way to achieve that is to spend more time on the putting green than on a driving range. Putt until you can do it with your eyes closed; in fact, practicing at night or blindfolded is invaluable at helping you to “feel” your putt instead of seeing it and this makes you much more aware of even the slightest aberration in your preparation for the putt.
Finally, when all the checks are done, it’s time to putt. I had done it all right. I had figured out the lie, calculated the breaks and slopes, figured out where to aim and how much force to use to stroke the ball. By then I was the picture of professional poise and confidence. I was ready; I stepped up to the ball, set my feet just right, gripped my putter the way I had taught myself, aimed at my spot, and sent forth the perfect putt. The ball moved gently over the break curving perfectly into the slope leading to the hole. I had given it just enough “putt” to move the ball up the incline where it dropped easily into the cup – a Double Eagle!! Two strokes on a par 5!! I felt higher than any eagle but when I came down to earth, I knew that it was all the result of my careful and laborious preparation which in turn was the result of hours of practice. There’s no other way to good putting.
Keith Matthews is keen to share more of his golfing tips and experience so sign-up for his free weekly emails at TopGolfTipsHQ.com.