Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Using the Offseason to Improve your Putting

At a golf show a couple of years ago I took some time way from our booth to listen to a local instructor discuss his theories on the golf swing. He spoke for over an hour on the subtle details of hitting a golf ball. After all of that analysis and expertise he opened the floor to questions. The first questioner acknowledged the instructors knowledge of the golf swing and then said, “I struggle with my putting, do you have any advice to help me putt better?” The instructor smiled and said, “Putting is an individual thing, best advice I can give you is to go practice.” This guy could write volumes on his opinion of full swing technique, but one sentence for the other half of the game. I shouldn’t fault this instructor; he is no different than the rest of the industry. Do an internet search on golf instruction and see how hard you have to dig to find advice on putting.

Our instructor is no different than the average golfer. We all have a tendency to credit our putting success to luck and superstition rather than knowledge and skill. I personally believe this is the one reason golfers don’t see the improvement in their games they would like. In every lesson I give I inquire to the player’s perceived weaknesses and more often than I care to count they tell me putting is the problem when they have come to see me for help with their full swing.

Winter is the perfect time to work on your putting skills. It requires a little time and a surface to roll a ball. Let me start by saying that all we can work on in the winter is mechanics. I will often have people build indoor putting greens with a straight putt of about 10 – 15 feet. They will then brag about heir ability to make 50 or 100 in a row on that surface. Then start the season and miss the first putt they hit. The reason is while they have learned how to make the indoor putt they have only developed the skill to start the ball in the correct direction at one speed. This doesn’t address the task when you play. Every putt you hit when you play has different requirements of speed and direction. We need a way to learn to control direction at a variety of speeds.

Try this simple drill. On a flat surface put a dime about 18 inches in front of your ball. Now roll the ball over the dime, each time using a different length stroke. Focus on the length of stroke you make and do it in a similar timing and tempo. Slow for the short strokes and faster for the longer strokes. Don’t worry about the results or that you don’t have a target down the line. This practice is about controlling what you can control, the initial direction the ball starts and learning how to develop the proper speed.

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