If you really want to get the most out of your putting practice sessions, you must practice with purpose. To actually improve at putting, you must arrive at your putting practice session with a plan, taking a structured approach. Mindlessly knocking balls around isn’t really going to help you much. Presented here are three drills or “mini-games” that can help you develop your putting mechanics, grant structure to your practice sessions, and boost your confidence. So let’s take a look at each one in detail…
Why on earth would you practice 1-foot putts? Those are easy peasy, and you can’t learning anything from them, right? Humor me for a moment.. put several balls in a circle about a foot from the hole. Then putt every single one of them into the hole. You should easily sink all of them. So what’s the point? Do you know how good it is for your confidence to sink every single putt, to see it drop into the hole, to hear it rattle around in the bottom of the cup? This is a confidence building exercise designed to strengthen your golf psyche. Get used to seeing, hearing, and feeling the golf ball go into the hole. It’s a basic exercise that you should continue to practice forever. So give it a shot; make it your warm-up drill when you first step onto the putting green.
PUTTING TO THE ROUGH?
Putting can be broken down into two fundamental components – line and ball speed. If you hit the ball along the right line with the appropriate speed, it’s going to go in. Of these two, speed is the more important parameter. Misread the break by one foot, but hit the ball with good speed, and you’ll be left with a one foot putt. But read the break correctly and hit the ball at the wrong speed, and suddenly you’re left with a putt that’s either 5 feet short or 10 feet past the hole.
So we need to hone in on the speed of our putts. One great way to learn how to control your ball speed is to putt to the rough. Ok, not the rough, but the fringe around the green. Here’s what you want to do:
- Place 5 balls or so at various spots on the green, ranging between 5 and 20 feet to the fringe.
- Putt each ball in turn, aiming to get it as close to the fringe as possible without actually touching the fringe.
- After each putt, close your eyes, and try to imagine in your mind’s eye where the putt is going to come to a halt.
- Look up, and see how close your guess was.
- Don’t stop until you can roll every ball within 5 inches of the fringe without going off the green.
What we’re developing here is a feel for distance, and over time, your guesses will get better and better.
Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)
While line is secondary to speed, we mustn’t ignore it. Starting the ball on the right line and actually hitting your chosen line is something you’re going to learn through trial-and-error feedback. Here’s an exercise you can do to refine this skill:
- Place a quarter on the green.
- Place a ball 18 inches from the quarter, and roll it over the quarter with your putt.
- Progressively move back to three feet, six feet, nine feet – all the while aiming to roll the ball over the quarter.
- Every time you miss or even roll the ball off the side of the quarter, reset back to 18 inches.
- Listen to your body’s feedback every time you miss, and make adjustments to your stance or putting stroke.
Once you feel like you’ve grooved your putting stroke and are making lots of easy roll overs, take note of your mechanics. Perhaps even have a friend film you with their cell phone, and review your posture, distance from the ball, eye to ball position, and so on.
So there you have it – three drills you can take to the pratice green next time. Running through these drills will give your practice time structure and purpose, and will help you develop confidence, a good feel for ball speed, and a knack for putting the ball exactly on the line you want.