March – Week 1 – Putting
Our first session will focus on putting with the professional to the professionals – Tim Abalsom (view Tim’s website here). There is an age old saying you drive for show and putt for dough. In my experience putting is perhaps the most important aspect of the game, it is all very well and good being able to get to the green in 2 shots but ruin it by taking 3 or 4 putts to get the ball in the hole. It amazes me how much golfers focus on their long game, yet spent very little (if any time) working on the aspect of the game where they hit the most shots. Over to Tim.
Hi everybody, welcome! I’m delighted to have been asked to be part of the Junior Golf Scotland Academy, being first up comes with some pressure. Thankfully, I get to guide you through some basic but very important elements of putting. Regularly I see golfers who are having problems on the green with their putter, some at a very good level, that are missing the basics. I am going to run through some tips to make sure you have the most basic part of putting correct then we will look at some drills to help make sure that you’re putting is sharp. Looking at some of the venues you will be visiting this year, I know you will need to make sure your putter is working!
A square putter face
Put simply this is us ensuring that your putter face is aiming on the line you wish the ball to travel on. Time and time again I see golfers start their putter face a little open or a little closed and this will make a difficult part of the game even more difficult. Keeping your putter face square to the line you wish to hit the ball on is key to getting the ball started on the correct line and will maximise your chances of holing the putt.
How do we make sure our putter face is square?
There are various techniques that you can use in order to make sure that your putter face is square.
- The 2 ball method – line 2 golf balls up on your club face roughly 5ft from the hole. Using your normal putting stroke you should be able to get both balls in the hole from one putting stroke.
- Knitting needles and string – tie two knitting needles together using string and on a flat putting surfaces stick the needles into the ground to give a straight line, again, using a short putt of approximately 5ft. Most modern putters have lines on the back of them – make sure that you have the central line on the back of your putter on the string line. Perhaps adding a small chalk line might be useful to make keeping the putter face a little easier to visualise.
- Using the triangle template – I have asked Gregg to attach a simple copy of a putting triangle that I have used for the last 20 years (see lesson materials) . Simply print this off and use it on the putting green as shown in the following photo. You might need someone to help you with this. Line yourself up with a ball and when you feel you are square to the hole ask a friend or family member to come in and move the ball and replace with the triangle, once the triangle is in place, step back from the putt and check to see if you are square to the hole. Keep practicing until you feel you have things right.
These techniques will help you make sure that you have your putter face square, there is very little point looking at anything else as far as the putter is concerned until you can make sure that your putter face is square. I tested this on Gregg, he has a bad habit of leaving his putter face slightly open and often tries to correct this during his stroke, if he times the correction well then the putt will still go in, but if he isn’t quick enough the ball will miss to the right or if he over compensates then he will miss to the left of the hole, and this is the (one of many) reason Gregg isn’t on the European Tour. Putting is all about repetition, once the putter face is square then you can be confident to step up and repeat the same stroke over and over again and you should have consistent results.
I recommend using all these techniques above initially, the more you train your brain to recognise the putter face is square the more you will recognise when it is not. Once you feel confident your putter face is square then remove the training aids and come back to them regularly to make sure everything is where it should be and you can look forward to a better round of golf with less putts. It is amazing how having confidence on the greens can take the pressure off the rest of your game and improve your scoring dramatically! The average mid handicap golfer averages 40 putts per round, the tour pros average 28 on greens that are far more difficult and quicker than what we putt on! Imagine shaving 12 shots off your score!
As well as the drills above to make sure you have a square putter face, there are various drills that you can do as part of your practice plan to help build up your confidence.
- Improving your feel for the speed of the greens – very rarely will you visit two courses that have greens at the same speed, in fact you are likely to find your home course won’t have the same speed two days in a row. It is important to get a feel for the speed of the greens each time you visit the course, I suggest that instead of aiming for the hole (where the ball will drop at various different speeds) you putt to the edge of the green trying to get the ball to nestle against the taller grass at the edge of the green. The aim is to allow the ball just to roll against the edge so you get a feel for the speed, once you have successfully rolled 3 balls just to the edge of the green then you can move on to the holes aiming for with a better idea of the speed of the greens.
- Clock Putting – I am sure everyone knows this one, but it is a good drill for improving your putting. Place 6 balls round the hole at “2 hour” intervals 3ft from the hole, once you have holed all 6 putts (without missing one) move out to 6ft at the same “2 hour” intervals. Once you have completed the 6ft range move out to 12ft. If you miss one putt at any of the ranges you need to start back at the 3ft ring. This will give you a great feel for putting with different breaks.
- Tiger’s Gate Putting Drill – Tiger changed the way the professionals golf, there is plenty that can be gained from following some of his practice drills. This drill involves placing two tees just wider than your putter head roughly 3 ft from the hole. This creates a putting gate for your putter head to move through ensuring that you have control over the putter head. He would spend hours on this one alone, as a right handed golfer he would hit 12 putts holding the putter with just his right hand then 6 with both hands. If you’re a left handed golfer then do the 12 putts with your left hand before 6 with both. This is a real confidence builder as you watch the putts drop. Set your own goal, but Tiger would often aim for 100 in a row!!
- Lag putting – Getting long putts up to the hole is a tricky one. Many people give the advice of imagining a hoop round the hole of 5 feet, I don’t feel this advice always helps, because if you miss the “hoop” then you will feel the pressure to hole the second put instead I would suggest:
- Don’t spend too long reading the putt, many people fall into the trap of worrying too much about the break then forget to hit the putt.
- Look at the hole while practicing your stroke, this is a good way to visualise how hard to hit the putt.
- Focus on speed and try and get the ball to reach the hole.
- Try and hit 10 longer putts on the green before heading out just after getting a feel for some distance putts, of course you will hope that you are within 12 feet on each green, but that isn’t always how it works!
Hopefully all of the above will help give you more confidence to hole more putts when you’re out on the course, do not forget to pay attention to your putting as part of your practice, it’ll save you plenty of shots, especially if your long game is a little off. If there is anything you’re struggling with then just let Gregg know and I am sure I can work on a follow up. I wish you all the very best for the season and look forward to hearing how you all get on. If you are looking for some specific advice then you can contact me at Playsport Golf.