The Art of Golf: Putting

The Art of Golf: Putting

 
By: Nick Bockenfeld, PGA
⌚14 Minute Read

Introduction

Golf is a really, really hard sport, and each part of golf is an art in and of itself. Hitting drives is an art form in itself, for example, just watch Rory hit driver, it's an art form, and he is the best at it right now. If you want an example of the art of putting, well, Cam Smith at the Open Championship was a freaking putting machine, but it goes deeper than that. What Cam did during the open was pure art. He was making putts from everywhere. He made it look like the hole was 2 feet in Diameter while everyone else was putting at a regular hole. This made all the difference in the world. This is what stole the Open from Rory. I remember seeing a tweet from No Laying Up, saying if Rory took care of certain holes, Cam Smith would need to go 7 under on the last 13 holes to win, well, he made everything he looked at. Yes, he hit it close a bunch, but on 17, not a soul alive thought he could get that up and down from where he was, but he did. It let him go on to shoot 20 under in a Major Championship. So let's talk about how you can get better at putting.

 

The Tool

Let's talk first about putters. What putter you use will influence how you set up, what kind of arc you should use, and your stroke. Or all of those should influence what putter you use but say you already have a putter and you don’t want to buy another one; we can help there. So the first thing to note is the balance of the face. Pick your putter up, and balance it face up on your finger. Note if the face stays pointing up, that means the putter is face-balanced, depending on how much the toe hangs is, of course, how much hand that putter has. Think of it in degrees. Now with a face-balanced putter, your arc needs to be a lot more straight back straight through. The more toe hangs, the more arc you need in order to bring it through square every time. I have trouble putting with anything more than 45 degrees of toe hang. I love putting with face balanced putter. Being able to bring the putter straight back straight through my line is something I find incredibly helpful. You can modify your arc slightly by changing where your head is over the ball. If you're leaning over the putter and your eyes are directly over the ball, then it will help you putt more straight back straight through. Whereas if your eyes are over the heel of the putter, you will generally have more arc in your stroke. Now, if you have a modern putter, you probably have from 1 degree to 4 degrees of the loft; based on that, your stroke needs to be a little different; old putters might have up to 8 degrees of loft because they wanted to lift the ball up a little at the start. Now it might cause you to skip or skid a ball. If you have ever noticed your ball jumps up to start you may have too much loft on your putter. Change that, and you will have it rolling smoothly!

 

Lag Putting

Lag putting is part one of the art of putting. Being able to leave the ball next to the hole or almost make it from anywhere on any green is an art form all of its own. Understanding break, speed, and even the grain are all very important. You must have a feel to be a great lag putter. The best way to work on lag putting and feel putting is to go putt. Working on speed drills, putting 18 holes on the putting green, giving yourself very difficult first putts so that you have to get great at two putting from everywhere. Hell, take it off the greens if you have to and work on getting up and down from the fringe with your putter. If you can ensure you two-putt from everywhere, it not only helps to lower the number of putts but also gives you a lot more confidence when hitting into the greens. It takes the pressure off of your approach game as you just need to hit onto the green, and you will make par. Or even just hit it near the green, and your Texas wedge will get you up and down.

 

Short Putting

Short putting is part two of the art of putting. Being able to knock down the putts inside 10 feet. Let me tell you, being able to make everything inside 10 feet makes the biggest difference in the world. If I can make short putts, then all pressure is taken off of my lag putting, and all pressure is taken off of my chipping. I know I can make the next putt. During the Open, Cam Smith was able to putt from behind the bunker out to 10 feet to the right of the pin because he knew he was going to make the putt come back. This makes a world of difference with your whole game. If you know you will make the putts from 10 ft; you feel good about mid-range putts, your game opens up. You don’t have to hit the miracle shots out of trouble onto the green, you can lay up to 100 yards knowing you can hit it on the green and, worst-case scenario, 2-putt for your bogey or make a putt for par. It changes how you play the game when you are making all your short putts. The best way to practice short putts is the Pelz Putting tutor and just being able to start it off on the correct line.

 

Tempo

Now we can’t talk about making putts and being a great putter without talking about tempo. Having the same tempo every single time you hit a putt is essential to making putts. If your tempo is not the same every time, you will start missing putts left and right and have issues with speed. Keeping the same tempo and timing with your putts means you just have to take the putter back further for it to go further, and vice versa for hitting a putt shorter. The same tempo ratio means you are coming into the putt with the same amount of force into the putt. Thus you only need to take it back; further, you aren’t changing the speed with which the putter is hitting the ball.

 

Drills

Pelz

I use the Pelz putting tutor the second I get to a putting green. If you aren’t starting the ball off on your line, the rest of your practice doesn’t matter. I start with the marbles out on the widest setting. 5 Putts through that in a row. Then 5 Putts through the middle setting in a row. The 5 putts through the most narrow setting in a row. The first few times you do this drill, you may find it difficult to complete. However, after you get it a few times, it is mostly upkeep. Just do it once a week and you will be done in 10 minutes and ready to go do any other practicing you need to do.

 

Towel Drill

This towel drill is a little different. Take a golf towel and four tees. Pin the towel to the green on a slope. Go 20 feet below the hole (Putting uphill.) take 5 golf balls; you have to leave all 5 balls on the towel. Once you successfully leave 5 balls on the towel, do it from above the hole. This helps work on speed control on uphill and downhill putts. As you complete the drill from 20 feet, move back the next time you do it to 25 feet, then 30 feet, then 35 feet, then 40 feet. This can be a really tough drill to complete; make sure after 30 minutes, you go do a different drill. Do not continue grinding on a drill if you have no focus, it will only hurt your game.

 

Circle Drill

Start with 6 tees from 3 feet all the way around the hole. The first part of this drill is to make every one of those putts in a row before you move on. Just go around the world making 3-footers. Make it harder by having to go around the world twice. This just locks in your basics, making 3-footers and in. Then once you have completed around the world, go ahead and take 3 balls and go out to a tough putt to that hole and you have to lag all 3 balls into your 3 ft radius circle. This means you can 2-putt from anywhere on the green.

 

10 Under

You can change this drill up however you want to work best for you. I started a lot closer to the hole than I am now. I take 4 tees and place them around the hole. I put one tee above the hole at 4 feet and one below the hole at 4 feet. These are par putts. I then put a tee to the right and left of the hole, both 12 feet away from the hole; these are birdie putts. You go around in the circle and hit the putts until you get to 10 under. Keep in mind I always quit after 30 minutes because I lose all focus and start hitting terrible putts. You can do this from a shorter distance to start, like having par putts from 2 feet and birdie putts from 8 feet if you want. The point is you get some great transfer practice for scoring well on the golf course.

 

18 Hole Randomizer Challenge

Download a random number generator and set it between 1 and 100 or whatever the longest available putt on your practice green is. Go ahead and hit generate, then choose a hole, go that length away, and hit your putt. The goal is to finish 18 holes like this under par. If you can then you will be in great shape! This is one of the better drills you can do for transfer practice! 18

 

Conclusion

Being a good putter changes the game for a player. There is nothing better than standing over a putt knowing for a fact that you are going to make the putt. Nothing feels better than knowing that all you have to do is get the ball on the green, and it's down in two or fewer strokes. The best way to improve is to put in time on the practice greens. Do drills and work on your confidence.

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