Perform On The Course: Improve Your Putting

by Kevin Haime, CPGA Teaching Professional, www.kevinhaime.com

Every golfer who has ever picked up a club is trying to find an easy way to get better.  Why not?  It’s human nature to try to figure out the easiest way to accomplish a goal.

Unfortunately, most players just don’t know the easiest way to lower scores.  Most of you think the simplest way to lower scores is through your wallet.  So year after year you buy another new set of clubs or another “newest/best” driver for hundreds of dollars and year after year you shoot the same scores.

The reality is that you need a lot more than a new driver to play better.  You need fitted equipment, a better swing through lessons and video, better feel and timing through practice, and better thinking and emotional control through coaching and experience.  You probably already know all this, you just hope there’s a quicker way–but there isn’t.  However, if you’re just looking to shave a few strokes off your score then there is an easy solution.  Improve your putting.

Average golfers think they’re pretty good at putting because the margin of error in putting is so small.  Even the worst putters get their ball close every time.  But the reality is that most golfers, compared with any tour pro, are as bad with their putter as they are with their driver.  It just doesn’t seem like it because even terribly struck putts never go out of bounds!

Better putting is the most efficient way to lower scores.  It doesn’t require improved athleticism, trips to the gym or hours of pounding balls but it will require a plan.  Here’s a 4 step foolproof plan that will work for any golfer.

1.  Make sure your putter fits you and your stroke type.

Different styles of putter head designs work with different styles of strokes.  So you’ll want a golf pro to help you figure out which head design is best for you.  You should also work with a pro to make sure the putter is the right length and lie angle for you.  Lastly, make sure your putter has the right amount of loft for your stroke and the greens you play.

2.  Take a videotaped putting lesson.

There’s no point in practicing unless you know exactly what to work on.  Make sure to have your putting stroke videotaped from both face on and behind.  Very few golfers ever have their strokes videotaped but it should be a must.  Your actual stroke and your perception of it are normally quite different.

3.  Develop a practice plan.

Your practice plan should include a putting schedule.  Putting makes up at least 30% of your game and you should devote at least that percentage of your practice time to it.  While you practice make sure you work on both stroke mechanics and feel.  Work on both short and long putts.  It’s a good idea to get a few good drills from your coach or teaching pro.  It’s also a great idea to find a practice partner so you can incorporate some fun games and contests into your practice plan.

4.  Work on your on-course putting.

Playing with better players or a pro can really help you out.  Learn how to read greens and develop a pre shot routine.  Approaching every putt the same way will help you with consistency.  In order to truly be a good putter, especially under pressure, you have to focus on the process (your routine) and not the result.

Key for the better player – Statistically very few putts are made from outside eight feet.  Even top putters are happy to make two out of ten putts from outside that range.  So focus the precision of your stroke and being a great short putter.  Wedge play is critical when you talk about getting closer to the hole.  We’ll tackle wedge play next month.

Key for higher handicappers – It’s all about distance control and feel for you.  Practice your lag putting often to avoid three putts.  Most three putts are caused with poor weight control on the first putt.

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