By Steve Donelly
If you want to score better, more than likely you would be best served by improving your putting. The top professionals average around 28-29 putts per round while an 18 handicap golfer averages closer to 35. Also, if you stop to consider that bogey golfers miss a lot of greens in regulation this means that they have several pitch and chip shots every round that should in theory result in some make-able one-putts. Regardless, the message is clear; the right putting drills can make a big difference in the average golfer’s score.
So, what then is the best tip for improving your putting? Well, there are a few different ways you can grip the putter, you can assume a wide stance or a narrow stance and nowadays you even have the option of regular, belly or long putters. As an aside if you do happen to opt for a long putter you will also benefit from the added length when measuring your two club lengths relief from hazards!
Back to putting though. What putting tip would benefit everyone regardless of any other factors? The ability to judge the speed of the green is the answer. This may sound very basic but please read on.
Every putt has two components; speed and line. Now just take a moment to reflect on which of these is the most important. Some people find it difficult to read the break of their putts but even if this is the case how often are you faced with a putt with more than two or three feet of break? When it comes to judging speed though everyone has been guilty of running putts 10 feet by the hole or leaving them 5 feet short. Working on your ability to judge speed will help reduce three-putts and leave you more tap in two-putts.
A great drill to help you get a feel for the speed of the greens is to take 3 balls to the practice green and place one 10 feet from the hole, one 20 feet and one 30 feet. The object being to lag each putt within a couple feet of the hole, ideally hole-high or beyond, by just focusing on speed and not line. If you hit even just 5-10 putts from each distance this will really help you to judge the speed of your putts once you are out on the course.
One additional piece of advice. You will of course be faced with uphill and downhill putts which will affect the speed of your putts. So what if you are not great at reading greens? First, look around you. If there is a hill or mound near the green the ball will tend to run away from it. If you see a pond nearby the ball will often run a little faster in that direction. The other thing you can do is rely on the ability of your feet to sense changes in slope by simply walking from your ball to the hole and then back.
This tip should really help you cut down on those costly three-putts but of course if you want to develop a repeatable, consistent putting stroke that will hold-up under pressure you will also need to spend time working on your grip, stance and putting stroke.
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