Practicing Putting
I've shared my putting woes with you here, so now I want to share some new insight into that part of the game that I have just gained.

I've always been a "range rat" — I just love hitting balls and learning more and more about my swing. As a result, I've always been a pretty solid ball-striker. My driving and iron play have been my strengths my entire golf life. It probably goes back to the advice my father gave me when I was very young. "There's nothing wrong with your game that another 5,000 practice balls won't fix," he would repeatedly tell me. And I took that to heart and pounded balls by the hundreds daily it seems.

But I've never applied that same philosophy to my putting. Duh. I've been struggling with the yips, and have had plenty of advice on how to beat them, mostly unsolicited. But this past week, two things I have learned in my life seemed to come together to give me a new perspective.

First, last fall I had the opportunity to listen to a full day presentation by Dr. Rick Jensen, renowned sports psychologist. Part of his topic was on the subject of "you're not good enough to choke." What he meant was that most are too quick to apply the "choke" label, when what really happened is that the golfer didn't have his or her skills polished to an adequate level. It was a very interesting angle on the subject. I highly recommend his books.

The other piece of the puzzle came in a small book that I received over the weekend. In "How To Make Every Putt", Dr. Joseph Parent advocates practicing your putting like you do everything else. Work on your fundamentals, where a hole is not even in the picture. Approach learning how to make solid, sound putting strokes like you do making solid, sound full swings.

So, putting these two together, I took my 100-ball bucket to the practice green Tuesday afternoon and hit about 500 putts. Various distances, no target ... just making good solid strokes, evaluating and correcting, until I felt my routine and technique were gelling to something I could count on. It was as much fun as going to the range, to be honest. A concentrated practice session that was totally focused on the process, not the outcome.

Yesterday, before our tournament practice round, I took that same drill to the practice green. I put down six balls and putted them different distances, but never to one of the holes on the green. Just practicing my technique and routing, rhythm and tempo. Then I finished my putting warm up by making about 15-20 putts of not more than 2 feet. I wanted fresh feedback of the ball going into the hole.

The result was one of my better putting rounds in recent history. The tournament starts today and I'll let you know Tuesday how this carries into competition.
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[ comments ]
Anti-Mulligan says:
Great article Terry. I too need to work better on my putting and I will try this.
joe jones says:
Keep it going Terry. For one who had the yips in the late 1960s I completely understand where you are coming from. Forty three years after solving my problems I am like a recovering alcoholic. You will have good times ahead with your determination.
birdieXris says:
A very timely article for myself. Been doing that lately too. Hopefully my routine holds up tomorrow and i also have the best putting round this year!
DoubleDingo says:
A few months back I was walking up to the club, and on the practice green a guy was snapping a chalk line on a dead straight putt. He had balanced about 40 golf balls and drew lines on the balanced point. He said it is a good indicator of how true your stroke is. Square at impact the ball travels down the line, and the line on the ball stays true, and the ball goes into the cup. A little off, it veers off line. I tried a couple and hit it straight but vag-ed it short a few times. We finished our 18 and he was just finishing up.
jrbizzle says:
Great article. I keep telling myself year after year to practice more putting, maybe ill finally do it.
onedollarwed says:
The single biggest improvement in my scoring came after learning to practice putting. Perhaps a little like Terry, I was never that interested in putting. I wasn't bad, but could let holes get away at times. Plus, the number of misses on "makable" putts was annoying.
I knew that practice would help, but never found the time or the interest until I LEARNED TO PRACTICE. For me this meant playing competitive putting games with my pals - this held my attention, and I would play as often as possible. That was the key for me.
My friend Mark used to play a game with his brother (while waiting for a round to start): On the putting green, winner picks a shot (like HORSE), and putts, then the other guy goes. Whoever is closest gets to put the leave of his choice, and keeps putting until he misses - something like that. Well, we created a bunch of spin-offs, and started keeping footage instead of sinks.
onedollarwed says:
This first guy I met with a super-long putter said he got it because he could practice putting longer without hurting his back. He was quite tall, and putted very well that day. Something to think about if you're going to go the repetitive route.
GBogey says:
My wife bought me this silly novelty golf rug for Father's Day one year. It has a picture of a golf hole (tee, fairway, green) with a cup that velcro attaches. I've been known to practice hundreds of putts a day, especially in winter. I figure that if I can consistently make straight level 7 footers (length of rug) that I'm going to be solid on the course, and I have in fact reminded myself of this on the course that a putt is no different from the ones in my home office.
cdismuke90 says:
Howdy Terry! I'm interested to hear your thoughts on the recent Anchoring Ban announced by the R&A and USGA... fits nicely with your recent emphasis on putting!
Tim Horan says:
That no target thing sits very well with me. I went to a golf clinic a few years back and Nick the pro got me putting to the fringe. No hole, no directional stimulate other than the fringe. Three balls only and then change direction. The point being to hit the fringe and run on only 6" in. He also got me looking at the fringe while putting (not looking down)it is surprising how your body knows how hard to hit it when your "target" is in your eye. It is also surprising how few miss-hits you make. I have not had the courage to take this to the course but it does help with your distance control.
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