It’s a seemingly easy stroke, so simple a five-year-old can do it, but, as any Sunday of a Major shows, putting can be the difference between a shiny trophy and texts of consolation. Even with its importance, this part of the game is grossly under-practiced. More than just rolling out some balls and knocking them around, bring intention to the practice green with these drills:
1. Find your balance.
Assume an athletic position. Putting your weight on the balls of your feet and thighs, rather than your butt and heels, will take the tension out of your shoulders, allowing you to be more relaxed and have more feel for the stroke, says Matt Kilgariff, instructor at the Butch Harmon School of Golf.
2. Work on distance.
Hit 6 long lag putts across the green to get a sense of the speed. In the beginning of a round, you’re not completely dialed in, and you’re more likely to see a 40-footer before a tap-in, Kilgariff says. As with playing catch in baseball, keep your eyes on the hole, not the ball, to work on the visual aspect of reading. Doing this can cut down the needed putts from 3 to 2, says Eric Alpenfels, director of the Pinehurst Golf Academy.
3. Make a target.
Along with technique and distance control, reading the green is the third essential part to good putting, and people usually underestimate the amount of break. To improve that skill, put a tee 15 feet from the hole and another where you think that the break is. Aim for the tee and you’ll quickly tell how accurate you are and can make the needed adjustments. “The whole goal is to see what you’re not seeing. The subtle undulations play more of a role,” Alpenfels says.
4. Go solo.
Golfers often use multiple balls to practice, but it’s easy to become casual with a shot if you have another ball ready. Instead, play six random holes with just one ball, going through your usual routine with each shot. You’ll experience a variety of angles and be prepared when it counts, and using only one ball increases your focus and replicates what will happen on the course, Kilgariff says.
Working on your putting is necessary, but it lacks the needed element of competition. Play 9 holes on the practice green that involve bets with your friends. With a lunch on the line, you’re going to play just a little harder and practice has become a lot less boring, Kilgariff says.