“A systematic approach to improving with the short stick”
Whilst in a waiting room recently I was idly scanning through one of the magazines and came across a page that was entitled “easy steps to baking a cake”. Although I know that to become an accomplished pastry chef requires much experience and hard work however it did strike me as a good systematic approach to helping you achieve a desired end result. With this in mind I have laid out this article in 5 different steps you could work on to improve your putting.
Before we go to the steps just a quick look at the word pressure and the two ways we will define it in the following stages.
1. Physical force exerted on or against an object by something in contact with it.
2. Mental stress or anxiety.
Also I want to say that for me putting has 3 main controllable elements – Direction control – Distance control – Green reading. It would be reasonable to think of mental control to be a separate factor but I think this can be linked into the other areas.
This step can be a little difficult to begin with as it requires you to get a good understanding of how well you control the pressure you place on the ball at impact. Perhaps another way to say this is look at how you are striking the ball with the putter. Take 3 or 4 golf balls to the putting green or on a suitable carpet. Without picking a target hit the balls one after the other trying to repeat the same shot and without looking at the results of each putt until you have hit all the balls. Try to notice or focus on how well you have struck the ball and how consistent were you with each of the balls. Another way of doing this is to give a mark to each shot in relation to how solid the strike was (perhaps 5 = very good, 1 = very poor). In our full shots it’s a lot easier to notice when we have struck the ball badly and the negative results we will get from bad hits. It’s the same principle with our putting but some golfers may not be as aware how poorly they are hitting the ball with the putter. Keep repeating this often until you are very aware of being able to apply good, controlled pressure through the ball. Needless to say this is a very important step and it may get you to look at the effectiveness of your overall technique.
This step requires you to go the putting green. From a position of about 4 to 6 feet away from a hole see if you can see where the straight putt will be. Once you have made your decision hit a number of balls to the hole to confirm you have been able to read the green and if not move to a position until you find the straight putt. This position now helps you to work on your clubface control at impact that will in turn give you directional control. If I was playing golf and I had a small amount of time before teeing off, I would try and visit the putting green and start with this drill. Once again I would be trying to make sure I made good contact as in step 1 as well as hitting the ball straight. Perhaps a good thing to check here is the alignment of your putter face in relation to the hole at address. It helps if we can aim straight to begin with then less compensation is needed during the stroke, but you may need another person to help you check this.
Mark the 4 to 6 foot straight putt and then with the same length of putts move around the hole in a circular fashion. Try going in a clockwise direction and putting from each point of a clock face. The idea here is to find the starting line (straight line) still and try to hit the ball solidly on this line. If there is some kind slope around the hole your starting line is now going to move from the middle of the hole. This is also going to help you practice reading the putts but the key here is to get your start line and try to hit the ball on this line just after impact.
Now return back to your straight putt that you started with. This time stay on this line but take each putt from an ever increasing distance from the hole. If you hit a bad putt try to resist from repeating the same putt and just move to the next distance. What you are trying to gain here is consistency in being able to control the distance each time. You may need to find a hole that lets you move back each time while still keeping a reasonably straight putt. In simple terms it is competence in this step and good green reading that make us proficient on the greens, we then only need to master the last step.
We now come back to PRESSURE again but this time it is trying to add mental pressure to our practise. Try adding a competitive edge to what you are doing, for example you could go to the straight putt and give yourself a target of holing so many putts out of ten and not leaving the putting green until you have reached your goal. Playing competitions on the putting green is a great way to simulate the environment we play golf in. The most effective place to have our focus eventually in putting is on the target. This is far easier said than done but if you have a bit of patience and follow a path it is quite often easier to get to your goals rather than having no structure.