“Half of golf is fun; the other half is putting.”
– Peter Dobereiner
The most important shot in golf is the putt. For a good golfer, putting comprises roughly half of his shots in a round. Master the skill that is suggested in this article, and you will greatly reduce your handicap. This article will be dedicated to one thing and one thing only: to teach you to sink more putts.
As the wise Mr. Dobereiner (above) so eloquently puts it, “putting can be tedious at times.” I suppose the real difficulty in it is that on the surface it appears to be so simple. It is just a little white ball that needs to go in a hole that is nearly 3 times bigger than the ball itself. But then we bring in grain, drainage, roads, mountains, the movement of the sun, speed of the greens, and another variable or two. Whew! To create a list of all the things that could influence a putt is truly a daunting task! So let’s stop there and get back to that first idea. Putting is really a simple act. I worked with an instructor who said “It really ain’t that hard… you just got to put the (expletive) ball in the (expletive) hole.” I watched him give this as an actual putting lesson several times and have been shocked at how many times it works. While his delivery may be a little coarse, the idea itself is sound. In this article, I am going to tell you the first thing you need to know to sink more putts.
The title of the article begs a question. What do you think is more important, the speed of the putt or its line? Take a second to think about it. If a putt is dramatically off line, then it will not go in. At the same time, if the putt’s speed is no good, it won’t go in either. Don’t worry, this is not a “chicken or the egg question;” there is an answer. And our answer is this: The line of a putt is not nearly as important as its speed. This is true of almost all putts. The reason behind this is simple. We are unlikely to hit a putt DRAMATICALLY off line. If you don’t believe me, put a ruler on the ground and the ball about a foot from the edge of it. I will be willing to bet you that at least 7 or 8 out of 10 times you can putt the ball off the end of the ruler without it falling off either side. This clearly shows you that the initial line of your putts is relatively good. What you really need work on is distance control, power over the speed that you hit a putt.
Imagine a 12 foot putt. It has roughly 4-6 inches of break, depending on the speed that it is hit. If you barely get it there it may even break 7-8 inches, and if you hit it really hard it would barely break at all. Given only the speed and line variables, the scenario above gives us a number of ways to make this putt. There are many, many lines and speeds that could be married to give this putt a chance to go in. But for each line chosen, only one speed will give it its best chance for success. I recommend to students that they try to find a consistent speed, something in the neighborhood of 18 inches to 2 feet past the hole, and try to hit every single putt they hit that speed. The reasoning for this is simple. If you start to “see” that speed for every putt, it reduces your choices of lines and eliminates a lot of confusion. Three and four footers become a lot easier too when they are hit with this consistent speed. Please see the video associated with this article for a better visual representation of what I mean.
Here is great drill for distance control. Find a 10-12 foot putt with at least 6 inches of break. Grab three balls, and pick three different lines. One will be the die in the hole speed, one will be a much firmer speed (almost too hard to go in), and the last one I like to call “tournament speed.” This putt should be hit the speed that you are comfortable hitting putts in competition. Ideally, it should be somewhere between the speed of first two. Try this out, and you will make a lot more putts in your near future.