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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Putting Problems? Try This Drill


If you want to lower your score you need to reduce your number of putts. This is how I did it.

Whether you play golf for bragging rights or money - I confess right here that I play for both - you know as well as I do that half your strokes, more or less, are going to be made with your putter. I don't care if you're a scratch golfer, a bogey golfer, or just one of us who prays to break 100. That flat stick should be your best friend.

When I came back to golf after a three-decade, career-building hiatus I faced a lot of relearning. The game had changed in some subtle ways and equipment had changed dramatically. I bought a gently used set of clubs and then launched a search for the perfect putter. Three flat sticks later I accepted that I couldn't buy a good putting game and put myself in the hands of Mr. Billy, a natty octogenarian who taught me how to read greens.

Mr. Billy also gave me a goal: 15 putts per 9 holes. And he convinced me to keep track of my putts, hole-by-hole, the same way I keep my total strokes. It didn't take long for me to buy into Mr. Billy's basic thesis: If I wanted to lower my score fast I could do it by eliminating 3 and (gasp) 4-putts.

By the time I got to Mr. Billy I'd tried several different flat stick design and settled on a fairly basic blade putter. Mr. Billy convinced me that I had a user problem, not an equipment problem!

Once I learned the basics of reading greens and grasped the nuances of different grass grains I was still left with two basic putting problems, direction and distance. I was long. I was short. I grazed the left side of the cup, then the right. I'd gotten to the 2-putt level but the coveted up-and-down 1-putt eluded me. And I needed some 1-putts to achieve Mr. Billy's 15 putts per nine holes target.

I shifted to a new teacher - some times you need a new teacher to learn some new tricks. One of the tricks I've learned from Tommy has become my favorite and regular putting drill. I regularly use this drill as a part of my warm-up routine. It takes about 15 minutes and more often than not I'm able now to reach Mr Billy's 15 putts per nine holes target.

Here's the drill:

Using 3 balls, on the practice green before I tee off for my round, I putt from 10-15 feet. I putt the first ball long, the second ball short, and the third ball to the cup. Holding my finish for three slow beats seems to eliminate my tendency to let my club head wobble and reduces my near misses; and the long-short-center sequence helps me calibrate green speed.

I perform this 3-ball drill five times: up hill, down hill, with a right break, with a left break, and on an essentially flat approach without a break.

Then I'm ready to play golf. I don't think much about my putting during my round. I relax and let muscle memory take over.

Give this drill a try and let me know how it works for you.