First Round of the season, AimPoint Express worked for me

Even with 40 mph gusts today I was able to begin putting AimPoint Express to the test. Good thing I did too, as it was the only thing that really worked in my game today and saved my round from being embarrassing.

Even with 40 mph gusts today I was able to begin putting AimPoint Express to the test.  Good thing I did too, as it was the only thing that really worked in my game today and saved my round from being embarrassing.

I started by going to the practice green and getting my calibrations, really feeling the different levels of slope so I could refer to how those felt during the round.

Last year I knew I needed to work on my putting. I felt it was an area that was really holding me back. Good rounds putting would usually lead to good rounds, but putting, well it never helped.

I’ve always found the greens at my home course to be challenging to read. I was always either over-reading the break or under-reading the break. Once I had “my read”, I never really felt certain about it. It was more of a hit it and hope kind-of-thing.

I was amazed at what it was like to go through the process of reading the greens with AimPoint Express. The reads were quick, and after I few putts I gained more and more confidence.  Amazingly every putt looked like it had a chance to go in. Every putt was on line. I sank a good number of longer putts in the from 8 to 15 feet, and these putts had some break to them.

I set a personal best today with 9 one-putts. Even better it also worked from the fringe and chipping. I read those as well and I almost holed a few of them, and if not I left myself some nice tap-ins. Looking back on the round and the incredibly windy conditions we played in today, it was tough out there. My drives were all over the place. My approach shots were completely rusty. But my putting was spot-on. It feels pretty good to step up to a putt, feeling confident about the line. Knowing that I have a really good sense of how it’s going to break. I will continue to use AimPoint Express and I’m interested in seeing how I can adjust as to faster or slower greens.

My new favorite practice putting game – Split Nines

If you want to add some pressure to your putting practice to make it feel a bit more like what you’ll feel on the golf course then try this game.

If you want to add some pressure to your putting practice to make it feel a bit more like what you’ll feel on the golf course then try this game.

The game is split into two halves, your front nine and your back nine.  On your front 9, each putt is like you’ve hit the in regulation.  Every putt made is a birdie, every putt missed leaves a par putt (you must putt in, 3 putting does count as a bogey).

On your back nine, these are your greens missed in regulation.  Every putt is for par.  Miss and your next putt is for bogey.

So, on the front nine, you want to get as quickly and as far under par as you can.  Be sure to mix in 3 shorter putts (4-6 ft), 3 medium putts (6 – 12ft) and 3 longer putts (more than 12 feet) in each nine.

You’ll find after you finish the front nine and start the back, the pressure really starts to mount as you try to remain under par.  Give it a shot, and tell me what you think.  I’ve found it to be an awesome way to practice.

Stop quitting on your putts

One night while I was on a golf trip in Maryland a few weeks ago, I thought it would be fun to have some putting contests in the room.  The carpet was probably rolling about a 10 so it wasn’t too quick.  We played a version of leap frog and set the cup out about 12 feet away.  The thing that quickly became clear was that it was hard to hit the putts short enough in the beginning to set you up for a good potential leap frog run. It took me some time but I finally figured out why that was.

What I’ve realized is that I was decelerating on those short putts and when you do that it becomes very difficult to have any consistency or to actually control the speed of your putts.  Our minds don’t react well to deceleration.  They can’t judge have quickly something is slowing down as well as they can judge how quickly something is speeding up.  At least that’s true in my experience, although I’m sure there are some of you out there who will disagree and that’s fine.

For putting though you always want to be accelerating.  One of the best ways to practice this is actually with short putts.  It will really train in feel an in an amazing way.

As I worked with this technique last night, in a very short while I gained tremendous feel for distance.  The main thing I did was to ensure that on every through-stroke you feel an acceleration compared to your back swing.  Try this out, take some short putts and really focus on feeling the acceleration into the ball.  You’ll start to get a lot more feel, and your putting will improve.

Hit more pure putts

There’s no reason that you can’t become a great putter. It’s the part off the game that requires the least amount of physical strength and it has the shortest swing of the club head.

Lately my putting has been very good. I’ve been sinking a lot of putts in the 10-15 foot range. It’s a range that I struggled with most of the season but I’ve figured out some things that work for me.

Speed

I work on speed with a few simple speed drills. The first drill is from Zen Golf by Dr. Joseph Parent. It involves putting to the fringe. I pick a spot where I’m between 10-15 feet from the fringe and putt to it. As the putt is rolling to the fringe I try to feel whether it’s going to be short, long or right on. Is amazing how much this begins to tune your sense of speed. I do this for a few minutes then move on to the next drill.

A straight line

Recently focusing on this thought has greatly improved my accuracy. I try to think of all my putts as straight line putts.

Obviously not every putt travels in a straight line. But they have to come off the putter face in a straight line. The thought is to pick my line, then allow gravity and the green contours to bring the putt to the hole.

I started doing this because I realized that I was compensating for the break. That would result in pulled or pushed putts. I even make the straight line shorter in my mind’s eye and constrain it to 6 inches in front of the ball and six inches behind it.

At first it felt a bit weird putting like this, but by trusting that gravity and the contours of the green would take the ball to the hole, these ideas have really simplified my putting stroke. One of the other benefits, besides making more putts has been that I’ve become a better green reader. I trust that the slope of the green and gravity will both do their jobs and it frees me up to hit a purer putt.

Give these ideas a try and let me know if they work for you.

TPI Friday Fix: Green Reading

TPI-greenreadvideo

Titleist Performance Institute put out an excellent video that includes some excellent green reading strategies.  There is a lot to digest but it makes a lot of sense.

Here are the steps outlined in the video:

  1. Assess the shape of the green and where the low points on the sides of the green are.
  2. Walk the highest point or middle of the green and split the green into quadrants.
  3. Once it’s time to putt, isolate the quadrant you are in and focus on that.
  4. Walk to the ball and look at the line your putting on.
  5. Read the putt from low point and look especially at the 5 foot circle around the hole.
  6. Walk behind the hole and look from the hole to your golf ball.
  7. Commit to the putt.

2 Excellent articles from Eben Dennis

Take a look at these two articles.  One is on putting and the other is on grip for improving your short game.

Improve your putting with the Nick Faldo-tested thumb pointing drill

A firm-and-gentle grip will improve your short game

Eben Dennis is a teaching professional based in McKinney, Texas. His students include PGA Tour players such as Nick Faldo, Billy Mayfair, Robert Gamez and Shaun Micheel; collegiate golfers; amateurs and beginners. He is the author of “Power Feel Golf: Your Path to Great Golf.” To learn more about the book and its DVD companion piece, click here. Eben learned golf at Champions Golf Club while growing up in Houston, where he received tips from Jackie Burke, Jimmy Demaret, Ben Hogan, Julius Boros and Bruce Crampton. He attended Florida State on a full golf scholarship and played professionally in the U.S. and Australia.

Review: Aaron Baddeley: Putting from seeitgolf

Aaron Baddeley putting

Aaron Baddeley:Putting from seeitgolf is unlike any putting video you have seen. It is designed to replace the images of doubt and failure and replace them with success and confidence.

This video is intended to be used both in a 30 day training program as well as before rounds of golf. The idea is that by watching perfectly executed putts free of distractions you build in your mind solid images of success and visualization you can call upon on the golf course. It is intended to be viewed on a portable video player like an iPod, iPod touch, an iPhone or any other portable video player.

The putts are beautifully shot using 4 RED cameras. These cameras record at a very high resolution and are known for fantastic images.

Zen Chili Rating for Aaron Baddeley:  Putting

5 Zens out of 5

• Effective at helping the mind visualize and remove fear
• Unique way of filming removes all distractions

5 Chilis out of 5

• Beautiful production with Red Cameras
• Great musical score
• High production values
• Effectively enables the body to react to what the mind sees

To learn more about the rating system click here.

Along with pristine footage of the putts is a musical score that is designed to help ingrain the images and tempo into your brain and memory. The music is beautiful and easy to listen to.

All in all it is an impressive package. Although it is not your typical training aid for your physical technique, it is an excellent training aid for your mind. With repeated viewings I felt my putting visualization significantly improve.

When you listen to the best mental game coaches they emphasize visualization. The objective is to visualize so well and so congruently that your body reacts to what your mind sees. Instead of thinking about your technique, your stroke, you can use the mind to drive the body.

Using this product I did feel my powers of visualization improve. I could more clearly see the line that I wanted the putt to start on and I was able to do that more consistently.

The more you use it, the easier it is to visualize success. Now obviously this does not mean that you will make every putt, nor does the product promise that. I did make more putts, but more importantly I could see the lines better and imagine much more vividly the putts rolling into the cup.

This is an excellent product. If you have an iPod or iPhone definitely get the mobile version so that you can have wherever you go. If you don’t yet have a portable video player or would also like to experience this on your TV (very nice on a large flat panel display), then get the DVD version, which also includes the mobile versions.

The product is endorsed by renowned sports psychologist Dr. David Cook and short game/putting guru Stan Utley.

seeitgolf Website

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda – The Importance of Putting

http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/200806/r261031_1085814.jpg

Steve Stricker would have made an additional 2.3 million dollars this past year if he holed 1 more putt each event that he played.

That is staggering.  Can you imagine that?  2.3 million dollars MORE if he had made just one more putt in each event he played.

That is the importance of putting.  How much would you work on your putting if that was the payoff?

Take a look at the following chart.  It shows how much more money each player would have made if they made one additional putt each event that they played in.

Tiger Woods 2,522,733
Padraig Harrington 2,373,398
Steve Stricker 2,287,277
Jim Furyk 2,243,283
Ernie Els 1,829,182
David Toms 1,745,737
Hunter Mahan 1,642,138
Charles Howell III 1,570,129
Sean O’Hair 1,561,636
Nick Watney 1,389,183
Brett Quigley 1,366,356
Kenny Perry 1,339,005
Lucas Glover 1,327,712
Chad Campbell 1,320,324
Anthony Kim 1,320,091
Tim Clark 1,275,991
Ian Poulter 1,256,024
Kevin Na 1,243,639
Zach Johnson 1,222,779
Charlie Wi 1,215,812
Scott Verplank 1,211,857
Steve Marino 1,192,831
Rory McIlroy 1,162,053
Luke Donald 1,138,832
John Senden 1,117,167
Robert Allenby 1,107,527
Retief Goosen 1,100,048
Rory Sabbatini 1,094,813
Marc Leishman 1,078,409
George McNeill 1,046,275
Davis Love III 1,001,572
Brian Davis 998,261
Phil Mickelson 987,106
Paul Goydos 979,386
John Rollins 947,983
Greg Chalmers 922,707
Angel Cabrera 882,905
Brand Snedeker 882,769
Charley Hoffman 869,058
Ryan Moore 867,650
Lee Westwood 863,941
Fred Couples 855,703
Dustin Johnson 838,590
Ricky Barnes 807,838
David Duval 798,139
Jason Day 797,549
Briny Baird 770,958
Jason Bohn 766,359
Tiger Woods 2,522,733
Padraig Harrington 2,373,398
Steve Stricker 2,287,277
Jim Furyk 2,243,283
Ernie Els 1,829,182
David Toms 1,745,737
Hunter Mahan 1,642,138
Charles Howell III 1,570,129
Sean O’Hair 1,561,636
Nick Watney 1,389,183
Brett Quigley 1,366,356
Kenny Perry 1,339,005
Lucas Glove 1,327,712
Chad Campbell 1,320,324
Anthony Kim 1,320,091
Tim Clark 1,275,991
Ian Poulter 1,256,024
Kevin Na 1,243,639
Zach Johnson 1,222,779
Charlie Wi 1,215,812
Scott Verplank 1,211,857
Steve Marino 1,192,831
Rory McIlroy 1,162,053
Luke Donald 1,138,832
John Senden 1,117,167
Robert Allenby 1,107,527
Retief Goosen 1,100,048
Rory Sabbatini 1,094,813
Marc Leishman 1,078,409
George McNeill 1,046,275
Davis Love III 1,001,572
Brian Davis 998,261
Phil Mickelson 987,106
Paul Goydos 979,386
John Rollins 947,983
Greg Chalmers 922,707
Angel Cabrera 882,905
Brand Snedeker 882,769
Charley Hoffman 869,058
Ryan Moore 867,650
Lee Westwood 863,941
Fred Couples 855,703
Dustin Johnson 838,590
Ricky Barnes 807,838
David Duval 798,139
Jason Day 797,549
Briny Baird 770,958
Jason Bohn 766,359

Source: Aimpoint Technologies

Now this is great for tour players.  What about your average golfer?

How much of a difference would one more putt per round make for you?

Keys to Putting well on fast greens

Key number 1. Try to leave the easiest putt

One of the keys to putting well on fast greens is to leave yourself in the best positions on the green.  This does not mean that you need to hit it within 5 feet every time, it means understanding the contours of the green around the pin.

I would much rather have a 15 foot uphill putt with relatively little break, than an 8 footer down a steep hill.  On a fast green it is nearly impossible to get the downhill putt to stop especially if it has any side break to it.

There’s a reason when you watch the PGA tour on TV the announcers are always making a comment on when a player leaves the putt below the hole.  It is simply a much easier putt to execute.  Leaving it below the hole allows you to be more aggressive because the slope works in favor.  It will slow down quicker as it nears the hole.  Because you can hit it harder, you can also play for less break.

Key number 2. Soft hands, light grip pressure

Fast greens may make you a bit more nervous, especially if you’ve got anything on the line.  Nerves increase tension in the hands and that causes your fingers to lose some feeling.  As a result you grip the putter more tightly.  You may not notice it because of the reduced feeling in your hands, but you do need to be aware of it.  Keeping the grip light on the putter will provide more feel, allow for a natural release of the putter, and have a better chance of stroking the putt on line.  You’re speed will be better and even if you don’t make the putts you will usually leave yourself stress free tap ins.  It is so discouraging to have an 8 foot putt on fast green and leave yourself another 8 footer coming back because you hit it too hard.  Keep the grip light and you will see that scenario greatly reduced.

Key number 3.  Read the right amount of break

Putts on fast greens will break more than on slow greens.  Putts on slow greens will break much less than on fast greens.  This is good to know especially if you play lots of different courses.  Understanding how the speed of the greens affects break is a big key to making more putts in general.  For fast greens spend some time on the practice green at the course you will play.  Try putts of different breaks and distances and get a feel.  You want to see how the different breaks react.  Having this information in the back of your head will really help you when it’s time to putt out on the course.

Key number 4. Trust your instincts

Indecision will hurt your putting, but if you follow the keys above and commit to the shot, then you can be reasonably assured that you will hit good putts.  If you don’t trust your instincts you’re likely to hit decelerating putts that will be way short, or you’ll blast the putt through the break and way past the hole leaving difficult come back putts.  Commit to your speed and your read.  You can’t be indecisive and non-committal and putt well.

4 Keys to a great round today

Just got back from upstate NY where I got to play one of my favorite courses, Orchard Creek in Altamont, NY.  I had a 77 on a tough, very wet course.  Drives were only rolling about a foot, and the rough was pretty wet.  The sand in the bunkers was heavy.  The greens were still fast as usual though.  Things I learned during this round:

1) Putting Speed

The best way I’ve found to control my speed on fast greens is with a stroke that is short on the backswing and long on the forward swing.  With this stroke my speed was not only much better but the roll was truer.  I marked my golf balls with alignment lines and I was amazed at how true my putts were rolling with that end over end roll.  Although unfortunately I didn’t have any short birdie putts, I was able to make plenty of long (10+ feet) putts for par which went a long way toward saving the score.

2) Reading the Line

I’ve been writing about how many putts I lipped out, or burned the edges on.  I realized that this came from reading too much break into the putts.  It is a difficult thing to change because when you are used to reading a certain amount of break it is actually uncomfortable to play less break than that.  I had to learn to trust that the amount of break was actually correct even if it seemed like too little.

Yesterday I went to the putting green to practice armed with an excellent practice aid to help me read the greens.  It is basically a circular level that shows you in what direction the green is breaking at the point where you place it.  I learned to correlate the amount of change on the level to the amount of break and I really was shocked at how much break I had been reading into the putts.  Once I started to play less break and feel comfortable with it I started sinking a lot of putts on a fast practice green.

Combining #1 and #2 above really allowed me to feel comfortable putting.  It led to making a lot of nice long putts.  A few putts that didn’t go in where on exactly the right lines, they just needed a bit more speed.  Overall I was very happy with my putting.

3) Approach Shots from 120 Yards

This shot has been troubling me lately.  It’s not a full pitching wedge, and it’s too much for a sandwedge (52 or 56 degree).  I started playing a knockdown pitching wedge and it turned out to be the best way to hit this shot for me.  I had a number of these during the round and I started feeling very confident from this range.  As a result I hit many more greens today then usual.

4) Short Game

This is the one area that let me down today.  I feel like the 77 could have been a 74 or maybe even a 72 if my short game had been on.  Pitches from 15 to 30 yards where my biggest weakness during the day and turned some pars into bogies.  This area definitely remains fertile ground for improvement and I look forward to being a much better short game artist next season.

I did a lot of things well today on a tough course in cold, wet and windy conditions.  I was very pleased with my play and saw some serious room for improvement still.  But I do feel like it is doable and like I should be able to reach mid to low seventies next season on a regular basis.