*PRO ADVICE - From the putting green
Gary Player is a legend who we all admire. Be inspired as you listen to this discussion on putting and watch the ease with which he and another great, Ernie Els execute putts. 'Feel and subconscious'....there are hints and food for thought for us all.
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PRACTICE, PRACTICE AND MORE PRACTICE
THE PUTTING TOUCH
So you have honed and practised the putting stroke mechanics and after years of experience developed a 'visuality' for reading greens. This is the next most important and a key to consistency; the preparation-repetitive sequence before executing the putt. Some folk call it a 'pre-shot routine'. I prefer 'prep-rep' for putting as it has a balanced and regular sound to it like 'tick-tock'!
Having just arrived at the green with those powerful wood and full iron swings you need to adjust your focus and muscles to deal with a more delicate, fine motor skill action. Change of mood, change of pace. Golfers have various repetitive rituals for preparation of a stroke. I will outline a useful one here which can be adapted to suit your needs.
Let's assume we have already determined the target line. Now, lightly gripping your putter, you need to stand or crouch directly behind the ball and visualise where you intend it to end up.
Practise the stroke you will use. Look at the target again. at this point you may wish to single out a blade of grass a few inches ahead of the ball, along the putt path.
Then take your stance beside the ball a few inches further back from it and practise your stroke again to ensure you have the right length of sweeping stroke and that you are brushing straight through on the grass.
Step forward and address the ball by placing your putter face squarely behind it. Look at your target and that nearby blade of grass.
With steady pace and quiet mind, stroke the ball along the imaginary line.
The ability of Jack Nicklaus is legendary, so it is worth noting his view ...'Your frame of reference must be exactly the width of the cup, not the general vicinity. When you're putting well, the only question is what part of the hole it's going to fall in, not if it's going in.'
Most pros like to induce a trance-like state – ‘in the zone’ - to harness the power of their mind and focus purely on a putt. To find out more about how to induce 'in the zone' click on this link. Yoga exercises are becoming more popular to help in training your mind to be ‘quiet’ and yet alert. Certainly practice and confidence are key. ‘In the zone’ can be triggered by your prep-rep prior to the stroke. A repetitive preparation prior to the putt is like a comfort blanket and sets up your whole body and mind to work in synch as a natural reflex.
The more you analyse or think about your technique, the more the body may become choked. You aim to produce an effortless motion without conscious thought or control. This comes from hours of practice which makes the putting stroke a natural, second nature movement.
This state of effortlessness and easy strokes contribute to better scores.
Inconsistency is often brought about by over-analysing and thinking too deeply which reduces the desired fluidity and rhythm of the stroke.
This over-analysing extends to putting line as well. Too many ideas about which line to roll the putt can confuse your visuality and put doubt in your mind leading to a push or pull shot. Be 100% sure of your target and visualise the roll of the ball along the line. Remember your first instinct of direction is very often the correct and best line to take. If you make a pure putt, as you intended, you have ‘made a good putt’ whether or not it falls in the hole.
Pros, you are looking at getting on the green to within 15 feet in regulation. With short irons, inside 150 yards this should be less than 6 feet. You are striving for an up-and-down from within 50 yards.
There is no reason for excuses or regrets afterwards, just have conviction, commitment and purpose as you approach your putt. And yet allow for inconsistency in the terrain so if you lip out and the ball doesn't drop. As long as you made a good putt so be it.
Sam Snead once said: 'sometimes it seems like a man ain't the master of his own destiny.... the ball takes a funny little bounce here or a putt takes a funny little turn.'
So if you miss? Deal with it, let it go and move on. Harbouring a grudge with a missed opportunity drains and distracts you. Forgive and forget the missed putt immediately and this will energise and free you to stay in the moment with your next attempt.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE AND MORE PRACTICE
The road to victory always has many hiccoughs. Prepare, by practising rigorously, to meet these challenges. Refocus, recommit and keep going. Use experiences to grow stronger and more determined and you won't keep repeating the same mistakes. You'll feel more emotionally stable and invincible. Just get up there and put it in the hole!
THE PUTTING TOUCH
The clubhead should move forward squarely and smoothly with you quietly focussed and insulated from all around you except the ball and the hole. Again, yoga can help you achieve this almost meditative state. Many pros have claimed that training in yoga is helpful. Breath control can have a calming influence over a putt too. Keep a quiet mind and await the reassuring rattle as the ball falls securely into the cup.
Knowing the greens is an important part of being a top player. Players need to familiarise themselves with each green and its topography. Some make copious notes, others just 'send' to memory.
And so we come to the question; Is putting and ART or a SCIENCE? There are charts and methods to map every square foot of a green. There are gadgets like bubble spirit levels to identify each and every break. Measurements of each knoll can be recorded. Then there are players who just putt by feel and gut instinct. Who does better? Debatable.
I think that putting is somewhere between an Art and a Science, a bit of both. In the heat of competition it is reassuring to see an directional arrow in a yardage book marking the direction or fall line to confirm your visual assessment. You may feel more secure getting a second opinion from a caddie or playing partner. But as both DIRECTION and DISTANCE (target and pace) need to complement each other with 'feel' then the ultimate putt comes down to your own creativity.
Interpretation - Visualisation - Touch
PuttingSmart suggests that you...
a) check your tempo - A good drill is to place a ball behind your putter and concentrate on rolling it back with your take-away. Keep it unhurried, smooth and rhythmic.
b) remember that 'face aim at impact is the most important thing about putting' (Brendan McGovern, EST pro). - Stick a couple of tee pegs in the ground with the ball between them and 'stab' the face of your putter against them.
c) missing makeable putts? - Ensure you are relaxed and confident. Try the see & react approach to avoid getting bogged down in perfectionist behaviour. Trust your training, your practised stroke without being too meticulous and controlling. Commit fully to your putt path and make solid contact of the ball with the putter face. Be natural.
Target focus - Concentration - Solid roll