Putting is neglected the most. Around 5% of the people I teach will come to me specifically for a putting lesson.
I might include something about putting if the client wants a series of lessons and part of the package includes short game but the number of people that will actually just come specifically for a putting lesson is very low. If you think about how significant a putter is to reduce your score in a round, that is a sad epitome of the game.
People place a lot of importance in a putter but don’t follow through on it. Tour players spend a lot of time on the putting green. Amateurs will drop a ball on the way from the car park and off they go.
They are not working on their stroke, pace, or anything. Very few people will go and spend 30 minutes on their putting. Few people have dedicated passion to practise their putting, so I’m never surprised that the putting stats for amateurs are so poor.
1. There’s a reason you leave it short
A lot of amateurs tend to look ball-to-hole, and that’s it. But there are stats out there that show the majority of amateur golfers come up short with their putts. The philosophy behind that is that, because they haven’t looked behind the hole, they don’t know what’s there, nor do they have any confidence. It’s almost like the unknown.
The metaphor is this: if you walk into a room with all the lights on, you’ll walk in quite confidently. If the lights are off, you’ll walk in a little bit gingerly. Naturally, you’ll be a bit more cautious if the lights are off and you’ll be more inclined to feel your way around.
So, if you’re not aware of what’s beyond the hole, it won’t allow you to execute a free-flowing stroke and you’ll be hesitant to hit into the unknown.
Tour players are great in the way they analyse the whole putt. I’m not trying to promote slow play in any way, but if you at least recognise what is behind the hole before you hit your putt, mentally it will give you the opportunity to deliver a slightly more committed stroke.
2. Accelerate your stroke
To have a good putting stroke you need consistency and repetition. It doesn’t matter whether your stroke is in-to-in or square-to-square, you are looking to have an accelerating stroke.
What you are not looking to do at any time is for the putter to slow down at impact. That will only add to the skid. You want a slightly accelerating stroke. At the very least, the stroke should be the same length at either side of the ball. Ideally, the through swing should be just fractionally longer than the back swing.
3. Try one-handed putting
One-handed putting is used by lots of tour players these days but it’s certainly nothing new. Tiger Woods, for many years, was one of the best putters in the game and he has done this quite a lot. Many players putt one-handed to get a better feel for the greens.
At your own course, your green speeds will vary from week-to-week so my advice is to just hit a couple of long putts, from 15ft to 25ft, just get a feel for the putter. Try to get a feel for the weight of the putterhead as the ball comes off the face. Using one hand and not two will help you judge the pace and get a better understanding of the correct feel.
One more tip…
If you grip is too hard your forearms will tense up and this will reduce the amount of feel you have. There is all sorts of nonsense on how hard you are meant to grip the club, but here’s an easier tip on how hard to grip it.
If you were going to grip it as tight as you can - where you think you’re going to snap the shaft - you would class that as ten on a scale of 1-10. If the putter is falling out of your hand, you would class that as 1. You want to be 3 or 4 on that scale when it comes to grip pressure. Because there is no great change of pace in the movement you don’t have a firm hold on the putter.
You want to make sure it’s not twisting through impact - but you want to maximise feel so you’ll need a lighter grip. Reducing tension in your forearms allows your shoulders to rock - they won’t be inhibited. This will improve your feel and performance, particularly on longer putts.
Andrew Jowett is the Head PGA professional at Gleneagles. For lessons, call Andrew on 01764 694343. Follow him on Twitter @andyj1504.