No one’s shocked anymore when Tiger Woods drills a 20-foot putt to win a championship. He’s one of the best clutch putters in the game. But did you know that when he practices putting Tiger spends more time working on short putts than long putts. That’s right. One media sources estimates he spends about 65 percent of the time he spends practicing putting working on short putts.
Most putts are from 5 to 15 feet. These short putts probably make up about 25-30 percent of your total score. You don’t need a golf lesson to figure out that if you sink more of these short putts, you’d lower your golf handicap by at least a couple of strokes. Unfortunately, weekend golfers tend to commit too many mistakes when facing short putts. Here are some common mistakes golfers make when putting and some drills on how to eliminate them.
Confidence is the Key
Many golfers flinch when they putt. Or, they rush the putt so much their stroke becomes choppy and uneven. You can become a great putter if your putting stroke is smooth and free flowing. Creating good rhythm in your putting stroke is the best way of eliminating flinching and rushing. No matter what style of putting you use, if you flinch or rush you’ll probably miss lot of putts. Unfortunately, most golfers concentrate more on sinking putts than working on developing a smooth stroke.
Next time you’re on the practice green, make some smooth pendulum strokes with your eyes closed. As you make your stroke, count out a simple cadence “one-two.” “one-two.” Once you feel a good flow, have a friend place a ball at his discretion in the path of your putter head. No knowing when the ball is coming helps eliminate the flinching or rushing that can cause you to miss those short putts.
No Putting Ritual
Another common mistake in putting is a lack of putting ritual. If watch Tiger Woods, Fred Funk, or Sergio Garcia putt, you’ll notice that they all have a putting ritual. Their rituals are all different. One player walks all around the putt before stepping up to hit it. Another takes his practice strokes behind the ball. But the one thing that’s not different is that they use the same ritual every time they make a putt, regardless of the length or difficulty. Develop your own putting ritual. Base it on sound putting techniques and what makes you feel comfortable. And use it every time you have a putt. You’ll find that a ritual not only relaxes you and helps build confidence in your putting.
Worry about Outcomes
Weekend players worry too much about the outcome of a short putt. What if I miss the putt? This places a lot of pressure on the golfer. Since the pressure of outcomes is tied directly to the hole, try eliminating it when you practice to relieve the pressure. Next time you’re on the practice green, work on drills that improve your putting accuracy without using the hole. For example, place a scorecard over the hole and try to roll the ball over the card, so that the ball ends about two feet past the hole. These drills will improve your accuracy without the added pressure of sinking the putt.
Choking the Putter
A common mistake I see in my golf instruction sessions on putting is players gripping their putters too tightly. Some players grip their putters so tight, their hands almost turn white. A soft and constant grip pressure is vital to maintaining a smooth, free-flowing stroke and creating better “feel” when putting. For players who think they may be choking the putter, try holding an uncooked egg between your right index finger (or left index finger, if your left-handed) and the shaft of your putter. Now drop a few balls and stroke some putts. If your grip is too tight, you’ll soon know.
Another common mistake I see in golf instruction sessions on putting is players using too much of their hands in their putting stroke. Being too handsy eliminates the true feel of a smooth, free-swinging pendulum and cause jerky inconsistent putts. One remedy is to use a belly putter. Simply anchor the putter to a comfortable point on your midsection and swing away. Add a “one-two” count to the stroke to improve rhythm. This approach reduces the amount of movement in the smaller muscles in your hand and keeps the blade on plane.
Eliminating these common mistakes from your putting will not only build rhythm in your putting stroke, they’ll also help increase your confidence in your putting. That’s big. Ask any professional golfer what the key to great putting is and he or she will probably tell you it’s confidence. Great putters are shocked when they miss a short putt. That’s how confident they are. To improve your golf handicap, you need to work on things that build confidence and increase accuracy your short putting.
Copyright (c) 2007 Jack Moorehouse