Instruction tip: Four Skills to Effective Putting
Last month I spent an afternoon with one of my Professional students working on his game. We spent two hours on the putting green before heading to the range to work on the full swing. During that time I noticed another professional hitting balls during most of the time we were there. Before he left however, he went to the putting green, dropped down three balls and hit a total of no more than 25 putts from random distances before calling it a day and heading home. Not coincidentally, that particular player has been struggling with putting. His performance on the putting green is the major factor holding him back.
When it comes to putting, very few golfers practice enough and even fewer practice effectively. I see the problem here is that the practice sessions tend to be unstructured and therefore become unproductive and boring. Sessions become unproductive because you are not working on the specific skills that you need to develop in order to reach your goals. Many golfers that want to become better putters do not truly understand what they need to do in order to become better.
Like any other part of the game, there is a list of skills that all great putters have. Clearly, not all great putters look the same so it is not a case of one style of putting but rather owning a skill set that will allow you to hole more putts and avoid three-putts. Understanding your personal skill level is the first step to creating effective practice sessions that will move you to your goal.
In order to be a great putter, you will need to become skilled in the following areas:
1. Aim. Being able to aim your putter consistently is an important step to developing a solid putting stroke. You do not need to aim perfect but you do need to aim consistent. I would rather have a player that consistently aims 2 degrees right of the target than a player who sometimes aims perfect, while other times aims 1 degree left and 1 degree right.
2. Rolling the ball on your intended line. With consistent aim, you then have the opportunity to develop a stroke that rolls the ball precisely down the intended line. The challenge of starting a breaking putt on the intended line is extremely difficult for many golfers.
3. Rolling the ball at the proper speed is the next skill of putting. Rolling the ball at the proper speed will allow you to avoid three-putts. It will also allow you to make more putts. I like my students to think in terms of time rather than speed. Giving the ball the prescribed or pre-determined amount of time to reach the hole will allow you to see how the line and the amount of break you determine all fit together.
4. Being able to read the putt at hand. Accurately predicting which way the putt will curve is just the start of reading putts. Knowing how much it will curve will allow you to become an expert. How much a putt will break is a function of the severity of the slope as well as how long the ball rolls across the slope.
Those are the four skills you need. So which of those skills are you proficient at? Which of the skills are you worst at? How would you even know? Test yourself. By isolating one skill at a time you will be able to identify which skills you are good at and which skills need improvement.
George Connor is the Head Golf Instructor at Farmington Woods Country Club in Avon, CT. 860-830-6969 or George@ConnorGolf.com