Putting is a fundamental aspect of every player’s golf game. Putting correctly can subtract strokes from your score, give you confidence on the greens, and provide a foundation on which to build your game.
Before putting, set up using the proper pre-swing routine. Remember CHEF (club down, hands on, eyes on the target, while setting your feet). When you bring the club down, be sure the putter face is perpendicular to the start line (the first foot of the target line). Keep your eyes over or inside the ball and on the target line.
CHOOSING A GRIP
There are as many different putting styles as there are types of golfers. Consistently good putters, however, share common elements of form that you can base your style on.
The grips used in putting range from the standard grips covered in chapter 8,
with various adaptations, to one of the most commonly used grips: the reverse-overlapping grip. In the reverse-overlapping grip, place all the fingers of your right hand on the shaft. Place your left hand at the top of the shaft in its normal position, but overlap the little finger of your right hand with the index finger of your left (figure 9.1a). Some players prefer to overlap more than one finger of the right hand, or even allow their left palm and fingers to cover the fingers of the right hand. The pressure is relaxed so that both thumbs point down the shaft of the putter (figure 9.1b).
CREATING THE FLOAT
To float means to lift your putter slightly off the ground (about one-eighth of an inch) to establish equal pressure in both hands and to determine the distribution of weight in your feet (figure 9.2).
Watch the putter head at the very moment you lift it. The direction it moves tells you if your weight is equally distributed in your feet:
- If the putter head swings or jerks left, your weight is on your left leg or your grip pressure is not equal in both hands.
- If the putter head jerks away from you, your weight may be too much in your toes.
- If the putter head jerks toward you, your weight may be too much in your heels.
Let the putter head stabilize. (It may shake slightly while hovering over the ground; that’s your heartbeat.) Then set it back down and notice how fluid and straight your backswing is. If you had not floated out those inconsistencies, that jerky movement would be present in your backswing and would almost certainly prevent you from keeping your putting stroke on the target line.
Another advantage of floating is center-to-center contact. If you were to set your putter and your ball on a table top, you would see the center of the ball contacting the top of the putter’s face. When you float, the center of the ball is more closely aligned with the center of the face.
EXECUTING THE PUTTING MOTION
The putting motion is from position one to position two, back and through (figure 9.3). The wrist function is none to none (see chapter 11). You’ll gain a feel for the length and strength of your stroke (soft, medium, or firm) as you try to roll the ball specific distances.
Toss the golf ball underhanded to different holes at varying distances from where you are standing. Feel the various energy levels in your effort.
When watching a professional golf match, pay attention to how a professional golfer putts. When addressing the ball, the professional golfer keeps the ball below the target eye and forward of the center of the stance. The professional arrives at the end of the backswing by swinging the club with the arms, not by taking it back with the hands. The arms are relaxed, and the professional maintains the address position (shoulders and arms forming a triangle) throughout the motion. The clubface is in the same relation to the hands at the finish as it was at address.
Deceleration is a very common problem, but you can avoid it by keeping your backswing smaller than your forward swing. This technique guarantees a greater chance of contacting the ball solidly. Do not have an incomplete backswing; simply make the forward swing longer. After you have set the putter face correctly to the ball and the start line, you only have to master the skill of rolling the ball specific distances. Learn what it feels like to roll the ball 4 feet, 10 feet, 20 feet, and so on.
Place the clubface at right angles to the intended path of the putt, allowing the sole of the putter to rest naturally. Position the ball at a selected point between the inside of your left heel and the center of your stance, according to your preference (figure 9.4). Set your eyes directly over the ball path to the target (figure 9.5). Move the club straight back and straight forward, holding your head and lower body motionless.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
A putting routine might include the following steps:
- Stand a few feet behind the ball and read the green. Notice the contour factors that influence the line of your putt (figure 9.6).
- Consider the distance between your ball and the hole. Think how the contour affects your target spot, and consider the degree of force with which you must strike the ball.
- Taking these factors into consideration, visualize a line from the ball through the target spot and to the hole.
- Maintain a sharp image of this line as you set up to the ball, setting the putter face squarely to it.
- Make routine movements with your feet, striving for body comfort and balance. Keep your eyes over the ball or ball path to the target.
- Recheck your aim, steady your body, and then stroke. Refrain from second guessing while you’re over the ball. Trust your original judgment and putt.
Remember that putts account for 50 percent of the total strokes in computing the par for a course. Only by practice and professional guidance can you consistently apply these fundamentals in a skill so vital to better golf.
Skills Challenge: Ladder Drill
Place golf clubs at three-foot intervals (see figure 9.7). Putt up and down the ladder: hit one ball to the 3-foot mark, hit another to the 6-foot mark, on up to 12 feet. Then go the other way: hit one ball to the 12-foot mark, hit another to the 9-foot mark, on down to 3 feet. Try to keep the balls within the central path between the two lines of clubs.
Skills Challenge: Putting to a Tee
Stick a tee in the green. Attempt to putt to the tee so the ball comes to rest within an imaginary one-foot circle around the tee. You can try this drill from various distances, but practice three-foot, four-foot, five-foot, and six-foot putts the most.
Skills Challenge: Best Putting Drill Ever
Putt, but don’t look! Guess where the ball finished, then look to see if you guessed correctly. When what you guessed is what actually happened, you’ve got it. Before you look, ask yourself where the putt stopped:
- Short of the hole? By how much?
- Past the hole? By how much?
- Right of the hole? By how much?
- Left of the hole? By how much?
Remember, the putting stroke is a miniature version of the golf swing. There is a backswing and a finish; contact is incidental. One to two, one to two, one to two. Always make sure the forward swing is longer than the backswing!
This is an excerpt from Coaching Golf Successfully.