Sinking a long putt for a birdie is one of the great thrills in golf. Conversely, taking three or even four putts on a green is one of a golfer’s greatest frustrations. Putting is just as much a thinking process as it is a physical activity. In addition to having sound fundamentals, you must develop a “feel” for how the ball is going to roll as it moves toward the cup.
The goal of reading the green is to get an idea of the slope of the green, which will affect how hard you will need to hit the putt and how much break you must allow for. Begin looking at the slope as you reach the green and walk up to your ball. Walk behind the hole, look back at your ball and check the slope from that angle. Go back to your ball, look at the hole and repeat the process. Take deep breaths as you walk around and read the green so you remain calm and combat any nervousness you may be feeling.
Building a Smooth, Consistent Stroke
Basics such as grip and stance are more of an individual choice in putting. You need to find the combination that makes you feel comfortable. Good putters agree that you should keep your lower body as motionless as possible as you putt. Don’t shift your weight as you would on other shots. In his book “My Golden Lessons,” Jack Nicklaus suggests taking your putting stance with your weight more forward, on the balls of your feet, in order to stay still. Swing the putter back low and follow through the ball with the blade low as well.
Short Putts: Building Confidence
Missing a 3-foot or 4-foot putt is particularly frustrating. Developing the confidence it takes to make them is the first step. Find an area of the green that has a degree of slope. Take a half dozen balls and place them in a circle 4 feet from the hole. Hit each ball in turn. This forces you to learn how to hit short putts from uphill, downhill and side-hill lies. Keep track of how many you sink as you continue this drill. You may make only a couple the first time, but once you get to the point where you are making five, your confidence will have greatly improved and you’ll be better able to sink them on the course.
Great putters take the information they acquired from reading the greens, and then envision how the putt will roll–both the speed and the break–as it leaves the putter head and moves toward the hole. This visualization is key because it allows the golfer to design the perfect stroke for the situation–the golfer “feels” the stroke during his practice swings and then simply executes what he has practiced. Developing visualization skills enables the golfer to gain additional focus, to eliminate distractions and concentrate fully on the path of the ball to the hole.
Three putting is often caused by over-concentrating on how the putt will break and forgetting the other important factor: how hard you have to hit the putt. In the book “Breaking 100, 90, 80,” instructor Don Hurter recommends that you make your stroke on long putts more of an arm and shoulder swing, keeping the wrists firm. This should allow you to get a better feel for the distance.