How to Make More Putts

In “Zen Putting: Mastering the Mental Game on the Greens”, Dr. Joseph Parent redefines making a putt.  He putts it this way, if you started your putt on the line you intended, at the speed you intended, then you made your putt.  This is important becuase it takes pressure away from holing the putt, and paradoxically leads to holing more putts.

Two rounds ago I took about 34 putts.  For comparison the average PGA tour player will take about 30 putts per round.  In my latest round, I only needed 27 putts.  That’s a big difference.  So how did that happen?

I have found that applying Dr. Parent’s definition of making putts is very helpful.  It gets you focusing on the quality of your process.  Getting comfortable with this method should help especially in higher pressure situations.  If you become accustomed to focusing on the process it will release some of the pressure.  Once I have picked out my line, I find that the most important thing is to get the speed right.  This comes from trusting your feel.

In my putting practice lately I have focused on feeling the right speed on the practice stroke, and repeating my practice stroke when actually putting a ball.  It has lessened the need to hit it harder, or to ease up on it.  And has made it much easier to putt consistently.  As you begin to trust your ability to fel the right speed, you begin to feel less pressure.  Here is why.

If you don’t have good control of your speed, you attempt a tentative putt that either adds speed because you don’t feel the ball is going to reach the hole, or a decelerating stroke that ensures the putt won’t reach the target.  Do this often enough and you end up with 4,5,6 footers for your second putt.  These are not exactly the easiest putts.  However, when you can trust your speed, you will end up with a lot more tap ins.  This increases confidence and lowers pressure.  If you know you are going to have a simple tap in, it actually becomes much easier to read the line, and hit a confident putt.  Confident putts have a better chance of following their intended line and going in the hole.

What is the best way to practice this?

Go to the practice green, set down a ball and take a some practice strokes.  Really try to get a feel for the speed of the putt.  When you are certain that you have the right speed down, address the ball, and hit it the same speed as your practice stroke.  Now, you need to pay attention.  You probably won’t hit it the same speed as your practice stroke.  Without judging, notice what happened.  Did you hit it softer or harder than the practice stroke?  Do a few and you should begin to notice your particular tendencies.  Soon you will be able to consistently putt with the same speed as the practice stroke.  And when you do, you’ll start to see some good results.

Trusting your insticts

When it comes to putting I think as amateurs we often don’t trust our instincts.  When I’m putting poorly my speed is off.  But what happens is that I will take some practice strokes that feel right, but when it’s time to actually putt, I won’t trust my initial practice strokes and I’ll either hit it harder than I need to or not give it enough juice.

Today I set out to reproduce my practice strokes.  And my speed was pretty much right on all day.  I think though this is one of those habits that just needs time.  It takes time to trust your instincts.  At least for me it does.  But I think in the long run this will be a key to reaching scratch.

Play like you

I have a little unique move in my swing.  I haven’t seen anyone else do it.  I don’t think it’s wrong, per se, but it is unique. On the backswing, I let my head rotate with my torso, then when its time to start the downswing, my head quickly rotates back forward, like it was at address.  It seems that when I try to keep my head from rotating at all, the dreaded OTT move shows up, and when I let it rotate, it doesn’t show up.  I hit a lot of great shots today letting it rotate.  Like I said, I have never seen anyone else with this move, but a lot of great players, have their own way of doing things.  If it works right.  Maybe this is an important part of my swing.  Besides getting rid of the OTT move, this quirk in my swing, also gives me a lower ballflight.  I think that’s because I’m coming in a lot shallower. I was a bit surprised at how straight many of my shots were today.

When you look at the PGA tour, a lot of great players have unique moves.  Look at Jim Furyk, JB Holmes, Camilo Villegas, Lee Trevino, Jack Nickalus, etc.  I don’t think my goal should be to have a text book swing, I think my goal should be to have the best swing, that I can have, based on my body type and what what works best.