Taking the last first, distance control is, by far, the most important. The length and pace of the putting stroke determines how far and at what speed the ball rolls so you don't catch that hill staring at you and go right back down onto the fairway or simply go past the hole for a second putt longer than the first.
|When you need someone to make a crucial putt, is there any doubt who that person is?
Before you stroke, and it is a stroke - not a hit, with each putt you must be clear in your mind how far you are trying to roll the ball, not necessarily to the hole but to the distance after which the ball will activate a mind of its own. Look at the hole when you are practice swinging. Decide whether you are putting uphill or downhill, which is the biggest influence on the ball speed. 'Feel' and practice the length and pace of the stroke before you decide to putt. Determine the 'line' on which to roll the ball. You will 'read' the line better as your distance control improves.
The stroke should be smooth, rhythmic and somewhat accelerating every time your hands move forward and those same hands are not to go back, and back, and back. Alignment and posture strongly influences the stroke. Eyes over the ball, hands hanging straight down and below your shoulders, tip forward from the hips ever so slightly "feeling" tall and balanced, even weight on both feet. We want to create a smooth pendulum stroke, moving arms and shoulders with no wrist or lower body movement.
Aim the putter face square to the target line, with the sole of the club flush to the ground. Arms and shoulders are to hang parallel, or square, to the target line. The stroke is slightly inside to straight through as club face introduces itself to the ball [slightly back inside on longer putts].
The follow through is as long as or longer than the back swing which will garner you any frequent flyer miles so keep that in mind.
The face is always square to the slight arc upon which the putter swings.
Green reading is visualizing the roll and curve of the ball path, when that very curve or bend comes into play. What you are 'reading' is the terrain, slope, grain, grass conditions, speed, and overall picture of the anticipated roll of the ball even though you are not a landscape architect.
|Phil Mickelson is one of the hardest workers on the putting service on the PGA Tour. |
Once you have decided on the line, stay committed to that alignment and stroke the ball on that line at the right pace...the one you have determined. Do not give up the hole - do not come up short. Your goal should be to never three putt, and roll the ball so close on your first putt that you can't miss the second. In addition to the mechanics of the stroke it is imperative that your eyes are "quiet," focused on a point on the ball, until you've actually struck the ball.
End of instruction notes.
I am going to follow on from that last sentence. Keep your eyes "quiet" as you have undoubtedly begun to wonder about just how much noise you can make by blinking. Go back to the replays of all those putts Tiger made at Torrey Pines. His eyes never moved once he took the last look at his target and then returned his eyes, and attention, to the ball. He waited the same amount of time every time on each and every putt before he struck the ball.
I have recently met a PhD sports science psychologist who is working with several Tour players, someone that explained to me the importance of "keeping your eyes quiet." I have taught this forever but it is especially gratifying to see Tiger walk my talk. Back to the PhD, in addition to the quiet eyes, Dr. Ryan Caserta has researched how long the eyes stay quiet. Waiting too long is just as bad as not waiting long enough. Huh?
Here's the test. Go through your routine, read the green, pick a target, take a couple of practice strokes, aim your putter, look back at the target, THEN return your eyes to the ball. It is being proven that the best putters watch a spot or line on the ball for 1.75 - 2.0 seconds. Wait over 2 seconds and negative thoughts creep in. Don't watch the spot long enough, less than 1.75 seconds and rush the stroke to a miss.
Go back, watch Tiger, and discover that this is absolutely true.
Am I giving away the secret? Maybe but Tiger you are not. Pussycat you can be. Each individual needs to find the optimum "quiet time" to putt to their potential. You knew there would be a catch. There it is. You will have to search out myself and Dr. Ryan in Scottsdale, AZ to benefit from this revolutionary finding in person but, until then, re-read the above, think of Tiger in your mind now that he has withdrawn for the year and/or drop me a note and let me know if you have taken the test. Did it help? At worst, following the above will help your routine and improve your consistency. Honest.
All contributions will be gratefully accepted...such as 20% of all your winnings from now on?
Good Golfing. Now go make some putts.
Donald Crawley, Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy at the Boulders Resort & Golden Door? Spa in Carefree, Ariz. Crawley, a veteran of 29 years of teaching experience, is the newest contributor to The Sports Network with regular features that range from tips on improving your game to etiquette at the course. He has established 40 golf school sites in the United States since 1980,previously as vice president and director of instruction at John Jacobs' Golf Schools, consultant to the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, and presently at the Boulders Golf Resort in Arizona.
Crawley is recognized among the "Top 100 Teachers in America" by Golf Magazine and one of the "Best Teachers in Arizona" by Golf Digest. As both a Class A U.S. PGA member and a British PGA member, Crawley has been recognized for his outstanding teaching abilities. In 2002, he won the Southwest Section PGA's Teacher of the Year Award. He also received the Horton Smith Award for education in 2000. In addition to teaching over 60,000 students, Crawley has co-authored video instruction tapes with John Jacobs and BBC/ABC golf telecaster Peter Alliss.