Friday, January 09, 2009

The perfect putting stroke

Developing the perfect putting stroke is not trivial!

Any coach who can take two sedate, overweight, arthritic folks and turn us into competitive golfers is a remarkable teacher, and these are my notes on developing the perfect putting stroke. Janet and I are very lucky to have a PGA Master for your coach (Brad Clayton, author of the book Puzzleduck Golf and 2009 PGA Instructor of the Year for the Carolinas).

People travel from all over the world to take lessons from Brad Clayton, and for good reason. Janet and I play daily, and Brad has allowed us to get glimpses of what it;s like to be a scratch golfer. Even Janet shot a birdie last week on a long par-5 hole!

Make no mistake, golf is the world’s second hardest sport, and it requires constant practice, rain or shine, sun or snow:

Aim Small, Miss Small

When practicing putting it’s important to aim to win. Beginners often imagine the cup as being five feet wide, and that great for getting into the neighborhood, but not so good for consistent two-putting.

Don't visualize a large cup - Aim small!

The aim-small, miss-small is also great advice for sharpshooters, and it really works in putting too. In addition to the putting tops below, Brad stresses that you must practice until you can putt like a machine, consistently and without any variation.

Here are my swing thoughts on the perfect putting stoke:

- Examine the breaks - Like Ben Dover says, get down there and see where your breaks are.

- Set-up in a uniform fashion - Make sure that your eyes are directly over the ball and that your elbows are open to facilitate a machine-like stroke.

- Drill the line - Walk an imaginary ball backwards from the cup to the club head, and back again. When putting uphill, resist the temptation to come-in "jot" with less break. Plan the arch at the highest point.

- Set the stroke distance - While you always aim small, you want your second putt to be a tap-in, so you gauge the amount of swing to use to get you where you need to be.

- Last minute checklist - Just before initiating the putt, remember to follow through exactly the same distance that you draw-back, accelerating into the ball, and remind yourself to keep you head down until the ball is well underway.

This last point is especially important. If you commonly miss to the left, it may be that you are "peeking", watching the ball leave the putter face. It takes practice to keep your eyes stationary, but it's worth it!

See my full notes here on mastering the perfect putting stroke.