How Good Can Your Putting Get?

Anyone who’s taken my golf lessons or read my golf tips knows how important I consider putting. Since about 30 percent of your shots during a match are putts, improving your putting is among the fastest ways of lowering your scores and cutting your golf handicap down to size. Improving your putting takes practice. But the question remains, how good can your putting get?

Two factors hamper putting accuracy. First, despite the most intensive care, greens are still natural lawns. They’ll never have flawless surfaces, like those of billiard tables, which means you can execute a putt perfectly and the ball can still miss the hole by a wide margin. Because of these imperfections (or in the ball itself), putts don’t always go in the direction you aim.

Second, even when the shot is off, you can’t see from the course of the ball what went wrong. You could have angled the club to the left or the right at impact. You could have moved the putter during the stroke. Or, you could have mis-hit the ball at impact. Whatever the reason, you don’t get sufficient feedback, so it’s hard improving your putting while practicing. Taking golf lessons helps, but it ‘s not enough.

How Good Can You Get?
Thanks to these two factors your ability to sink putts-and lower your golf handicap-is limited. To test just how good a player can get at putting, experts conducted tests on well-kept greens using special equipment, designed to roll balls in the same direction and at the same speed every time. The experts used this equipment on numerous greens and from all sides of the pin, and were able to determine the maximum success rate from 12 feet (3.5 meters).

Most golfers would guess that the success rate was about 70 to 80 percent. No so. The maximum success rate is only 50 percent. That’s right, 50 percent. That means that from 12 feet (3.5 meters) a player can hit a ball perfectly every time and still sink only half of his or her putts. Even the pros’ statistics at this distance might surprise you. Results of research conducted by statisticians of the USPGA show that the average pro, under tour conditions, sinks only about 20 percent of his putts from 12 feet (3.5 meters) with the first shot.

Since most golfers think they don’t sink as many putts as they should, many alter their putting technique again and again to increase accuracy-which I see all the time with players taking my golf lessons. Thus, these players constantly readjust and make changes in how they putt. This approach promises little success and is completely unnecessary. It’s a major cause of the constant dissatisfaction of many players.

Improving Your Putting
Given the above scenario, what can you do to improve your putting in addition to practicing more? Develop a good solid per-shot putting routine and use it every time you putt. If you saw the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open the other week, you saw a classic example of this. Before sinking an easy 2-foot putt for the title, Cristie Kerr executed her compete pre-shot putting routine, even though she was 2 shots ahead.

While everyone’s pre-shot putting routine will be different, they all should include the following six elements:

1. Take your last reading from behind the ball
2. Hit your practice shots at this point
3. Go to the ball/Align your putter
4. Align your body at right angles to the putter’s face
5. Take a last look from the head of the putter to the target
6. Activate your “triggering mechanism” before stroking the ball.

Within these six elements, there’s room for variation. Some players like to practice while standing behind the ball. Others like to practice while standing beside the ball. Some players like to lift the club off the ground as a triggering mechanism. Others like to use the “forward press.” It doesn’t matter. When developing a pre-shot putting routine, find out what works for you and us it.

Always follow the steps of your pre-shot routine in the same order. Stay in motion, even though these movements are imperceptible. And never come to a complete stop before the shot. It gives you too much time to think about the putt. Finally, make sure no repetitions exist in the routine and that your subconscious always know where you are in the routine. Use this routine every time you putt and you may find yourself not only improving your putting, but also your cutting your golf handicap down to size.

Copyright (c) 2007 Jack Moorehouse