The Importance of Putting
Your putting is vital to achieving better golf scores. Improving your putting is the simplest way to enhance your golf game and lower your scores. By eliminating even a few putts, you can expect to save three or four strokes every round. And the more putts you can successfully sink from 8-10 feet from the hole, the more likely it is that your scores will greatly improve.
But how do you improve your putting? Sure, you have to practice, practice and practice some more. But there are also plenty of mental elements to good putting technique. So let's tee off with a few of them.
The Culmination of Every Hole
Putting is the apex of each hole on a course. Everything that you’ve done on the hole has led you to the point where your putt (or putts) will complete the hole successfully…or not. But you have to be focused and you have to believe in your ability.
The Mental Game
Golf is a mental game. If you can sink a good putt after a rough start to the hole, you have gone a long way towards mastering the mental part of putting. You have to learn to put everything that's led up to the putt behind you. Maybe you sliced the shot off the tee or crashed into a bunker on the way down the fairway. All of that is now in the past. As you address your ball on the green, none of it matters. This is the time for your putting skills to take over.
A Combination of Skills
Putting isn’t just one skill. It's a combination of different movements, practice time and dexterity. Effective putting mixes control, stance, grip swing and strategy. You need to have practised every aspect of your putting game endlessly. Most importantly, you have to have confidence in your abilities on the green.
Confidence is Everything
According to former tour professional Ernie Els, you have to believe in yourself. “If you don’t believe you can make every putt, why bother?” he wrote in a Golf Digest article in 2012.
Your putting confidence can be backed up by a mental checklist of steps that you can follow as you approach, prepare for and complete every putt.
Forget About the Cup
Unless the putt is a short, dead straight tap of less than a foot (which, if you’re over-confident, you can still miss), forget about the cup. Instead, you should focus on a spot somewhere along the line that the ball will travel. Focussing on the cup distracts you from the goal of rolling the ball along a specific line.
Eye on the Ball
This is true for every sport or pastime that requires hand/eye coordination. Even catching a ball on the beach requires you to keep your eye on it. So it is with putting. As you take your stance, stand with your eye over the ball before you begin to position your putter to make the stroke. This will enable you to start on the correct putt line and make the best strike on the ball.
A common error on the putting green is for golfers to position their bodies before they position the putter. Doing this makes you lose track of the intended path that you want the ball to travel along and misalign the face of the club in relation to the ball. To avoid this error, place the club on the ground in the exact position that you want it to be in before you settle your body into place for the shot.
Think About the Contact
Before you bring the putter back at the beginning of the shot, visualise the point of contact on the ball. This brings your entire focus back to the ball and helps to keep your head still during the stroke. By peeking along the line of the shot before the club impacts the ball, you may lose control of the club’s trajectory and this will invariably result in a mis-hit.
Read the Putt and be Patient
Putting is something that you should be practising as often as you can. At home, in the office, anywhere you can find a spare moment. Consider every putt on every course to be the same: all you need to do is to apply the same set of rules to each one.
These are two fundamentals to work on during practice:
Read the Putt
Reading the putt’s distance and alignment is fundamental to effective putting. A good way to learn to judge distance is to fix a point on the ground 20 feet or so away then close your eyes and point to it.
Even people with good vision tend to be “depth deficient” at first but after a while you will be able to point to the spot correctly by imagining its location. You can then apply this skill to judging the distances between your ball and the hole when you are on the green.
When judging putt distance, survey the land around the ball, the grass between the ball and the cup, and any other parameters such as wind or dampness. All of these things need to be factored into your putt.
Learn to be patient. Practice establishing a tempo to your stroke by using a rhyme such as “one potato, two potatoes, etc..” This will gradually educate your brain to subconsciously follow the same tempo and pathway during the entire course of the stroke, from the moment you begin your backswing to the time the club contacts the ball.
Teach yourself to block out all the distractions such as noise, spectators, your golf buddies, and even the sound of the birds and the wind. This is all part of learning to be patient during your putt. After each round, spend a while practising any aspect of your putting game that you feel you made mistakes on. These post-round drills will help improve your putting while the faults are fresh in your mind.
Putt for Dough
Let’s leave the last word on putting to the great Jack Nicklaus.
When you’re putting well, the only question is what part of the hole it’s [the ball] going to fall in, not if it’s going in.”
If you have confidence in your putting ability, and you’ve “putt” in the practice, every putt will go into the cup and your game is bound to improve. For more help and advice with improving your putting game, get in touch with the crew at Back2Basics Golf. We can assist you with all sorts of gear and practice routines to ensure that you not only drive for show but that you also putt for dough.