Long, straight drives are something we all strive for. True, if you can consistently hit a long ball and find the fairways, you’re in business. However, many of us would benefit more by spending a few hours on the putting green.
It was Ben Hogan who described putting as ‘the game within the game’. For one of the game’s greatest ever ball strikers, putting was undoubtedly a source of frustration.
This might be something you can relate to. For all those booming drives and well-struck iron shots, you’re not shooting the score your game merits.
However, put these putting tips into practice and this could be about to change…
1. Pressure Practice – Gate Drill
It’s difficult to recreate the pressure of the greens during a competition, where every stroke matters. However, for many amateurs, especially those who fret over the two footers, there is a way of doing this.
Away from the heat of a medal round, form a gate with two tee pegs either side of the entrance to the hole. It should be just wide enough for the ball to pass through.
The challenge is to see how many you can make consecutively without brushing the pegs. You should notice the pressure growing with each successful putt, especially if you’re closing in on a personal best score.
There’s another benefit of this drill, too: it encourages you to be more precise. Make it a regular part of your warm-up routine and it should boost your confidence from short range.
2. Keeping Your Head Set Firmly Over The Ball – Marker Drill
We’re all guilty of moving the upper body, stealing a glance too soon to check whether our putt is destined for the bottom of the cup. You only have to watch the pros for a few minutes to see how still they are over the ball. Prime Tiger Woods never flinched – he remained still all the way through the stroke, back and through.
Keeping your upper body still isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially under pressure. However, when you do start to move, mistakes creep in. From here, the anxiety levels crank up a notch.
So, here’s another simple drill for you to work on. Place your ball on a coin or a marker. Then, take your normal set-up position and putt as you normally would. However, after each stroke, keep your focus on your marker after the ball has gone.
By doing so, you’re shifting your attention from the target to the ball. It encourages you to maintain a solid upper body through the stroke.
3. Be Sure Of Your Weaknesses – Make Notes
This is without a doubt one of the most important putting tips there is.
With all the latest apps and devices on the market (a pencil and paper still works), it’s easy to monitor your performance. As well as tracking long drives, greens in regulation and the number of putts you take, you can put useful stats to good use and make improvements.
Take putting for example. Next time you play, make a note of which side of the hole you missed, and whether it was on the high or low side of the hole. By understanding your common misses, you can then put measures in place to improve on them.
4. Long Distance Putting – Dustbin Lid Drill
This is one of the tried-and-tested putting tips, and a great one to spend a few minutes on if the size of your putting green allows it. What’s more, you don’t actually need a dustbin lid!
Firstly, take half a dozen tees and create a circle the width of your putter around the hole. Next, set about finding that circle as many times in a row as you can, from a range of about 25 feet – more for a greater challenge.
It’s amazing how many people elect to hit short-range putts before going out, without working on their feel from distance. It’s not always about holing out those short ones.
5. Green Reading – Clock Face Drill
Of course, putting gets even trickier when you factor in slopes – and we all have our own Augusta to deal with. Learning to assess the slopes is an art, but there are ways of developing your feel so you have more confidence when faced with a slippery downhill, left-to-right breaker.
Place four balls around a hole that has a slight slope. Think of a clock face and place them at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock. Start at two feet and continue to work your way out at one-foot intervals. This will help to understand the break. Before you know it, you’ll be tidying up neatly from all around the hole.