There is an old saying in golf: “Drive for Show and Putt for Dough”! Any golfer can hit the ball long off the tee, but how many can make crucial putts to win a tournament or even a club match. That one putt on the 18th hole might also help you post your best score this season.
More strokes are wasted on the putting green than on any other shots on the golf course. The shortest shots in golf are the most important and need to be mastered so that you can improve your performance on the golf course.
To be a good putter you need to have confidence, a consistent stroke and must try to follow four basic rules:
Rule #1 Determine the Correct Target Line
Rule #2 Roll the Ball at the Proper Speed
Rule #3 Establish a Consistent Set up Position and Stroke
Rule #4 Give the Ball a Chance to Go In
Reading the greens does take some skill, but it is more about practise. Unless the path to the hole is perfectly flat and level, then the target is usually either left or right of the hole. You need to aim to the high side of the hole so that your ball can roll to the low side of the hole. Always squat down behind your ball and get your eyes down lower so that you can see the undulations between your ball and the hole. Next visualize a line from your ball to your primary target and make sure that you commit yourself to rolling your ball on that line. Gravity will eventually bring your ball back to the secondary target which is the hole.
The speeds of all greens are slightly different and they can change during the course of a round. To roll at the proper speed, understand that the ball must be decelerating as it approaches the hole. To learn how to roll the ball at the proper speed, practise rolling the ball from eight feet away on a perfectly flat line to the hole. As your ball leaves the face of your putter it will be accelerating as it rolls. However, when it reaches about the halfway point in its journey the speed of the ball should change, to that of deceleration. If you are faced with an uphill putt then the point where the speed changes should be closer to the hole. Conversely, a downhill putt should change its speed at a point closer to your ball.
Proper technique can be achieved by a proper set-up. First position your nose so that it is directly over the ball. This will allow you to clearly see the line and allow you to swing the putter with your shoulders and your arms. Your arms should hang naturally down from your shoulders and you should be feeling an even pendulum motion as the putter swings. Holding the putter softly will allow you to achieve this. Think about swinging the putter evenly back and through along your target line.
Good putters maintain a very still position with their heads when they putt. This is because they never see the ball roll when they putt. Instead they keep their heads down and still and only listen for the cheer of the crowd as the ball falls into the hole.
“Never up, never in” means that you have left your ball short of the hole after a putt. If you want to start making more putts then you have to at least roll the ball to the back of the hole. On the practise green, place the shaft of another golf club directly behind the back of the hole. Practice rolling balls so that all of the balls roll either to the back or into the hole. Remember that the width of hole is as wide as three golf balls. Always work on rolling the ball to the back of the hole. The ball when rolled at the correct speed can go either in the front, side or even the back door of the hole.
It is a good idea to keep track of your putts for each round of golf that you play. Thirty-six putts over eighteen holes means that you are an average putter, while less than thirty means that you are exceptional on the greens. If you take forty or more putts during a round of golf than you better work on your putting. It may also mean that you need to work on your short game chipping and pitching!
A putting lesson will help you not only improve your technique and your performance but also your confidence. Practise will also help you improve and make golf fun again!
Next Week: Great Games to Play in Golf