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.

US Open: Strategy, Ball Striking and Putting will determine winner

Watching the marquee group on usopen.com, you begin to get a sense for what these players are facing.  This is a stern test of golf on a scale that is hard to me imagine for me not having played any conditions like that in my life.

The rough is truly punishing, the fairways are fast and the greens, well, it’s amazing these guys can keep it on there, and even more amazing when you see shots land softly.

In a sense it both magnifies their almost superhuman abilities, and yet it also shows them in ways that resemble the way we often feel as golfers.  I don’t often see tour players be so uncertain, careful, and vulnerable as they can be during this tournament.  And yet it also elevates them simultaneously.  Great shots are even more spectacular and magnificent because of the difficult conditions.

It does feel like golf as it should be.  I’m not saying that they should play open conditions every week, or that average golfers should be faced with open conditions.  But watching the PGA tour week in and week out, they can make the game seem too easy.  Then again TV coverage is normally skewed, showing the best players on the planet, on their best days.  One of the reasons I love watching them in person is that you can follow players who aren’t playing their best and you’ll see that even if they are spraying the ball (which tour players are capable of) they manage to score well.

Strategy

With the tough conditions at Pebble Beach, strategy becomes even more crucial.  It’s amazing to listen to players and their strategies because they are all different.  Phil Mickelson, in his news conference basically said that he wants to play defensively off the tee, so that he can be aggressive on his approaches to the greens.  Yet other players have talked about being more defensive, with the emphasis on making pars as the #1 priority.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how different strategies succeed.  This a tournament where missing it in the right place is crucial.

Ball Striking

Strategy is crucial but just as important is ball striking.  Fairways and greens are even more important.  Ball striking allows you to execute the strategy.  The firm greens at Pebble Beach will require absolutely precise ball striking in order to keep the ball on the green and have any shot at making par.

Watching the analysts on Golf Channel yesterday, I was amazed when I kept hearing that some greens are unhittable.  The 17th hole is like that when the flag is on the left.  Any shot from the tee that actually hits and stays on the green will have been hit absolutely perfectly.

Putting

I don’t think much needs to be said about putting as it is absolutely crucial to putt well in a US open.  Poa greens are tricky, especially for the players who did not grow up playing them.  The ball will bounce so putts need to be stroked solidly, but speed control on these fast greens will be absolutely crucial.  Good putting will save pars and bogeys.  But I’m sure we’ll see some examples of putting that will shock average golfers in all kinds of ways.

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.

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?

Review: EEZ-Read Putting Aid

I’ve been using the EEZ-Read putting aid since this summer and I have found that used properly it can be an important aid to help with putting.

The EEZ-Read is according to the manufacturer:

Place the EEZ-READ precision level on the green, and it shows you exactly how your putt will break. Renowned golf instructor Butch Harmon calls it “one of the smartest putting aids I’ve ever seen. It’s simple to use and perfect on those putts where its tough to read the break, particularly those under twenty feet. This practice aid will definitely shave strokes off your game and build your putting confidence.”  Solid stainless steel watchmaker’s base. Easily fits in your pocket. Named “Best New Product” 2008 PGA Merchandise Show.

Essentially it is a level that allows you to see the direction of the break and the severity of the break.  In order to use it effectively you need to spend some time with it and understand how the severity of the break on the EEZ-Reader translates to break on actual putts based on distance from the hole and speed.

One of the first things I noticed when I began practicing with it is how much I was over reading break on putts.  What to me looked like a big break turned out to be a smaller amount of break than I anticipated.

The was pretty valuable right there.  By making that adjustment I was quickly holing more putts.  Although I still have a tendency to over read the break I can catch myself.

One of the best ways I think to use it is to pick out a putt and try to imagine what reading the EEZ-Read is going to give me.  Once I figure that out, I actually put the device on the green and check.  How did I do?  Did I read it correctly?  If not how much am I off by?  And how I can see that break better?

The last one is important because that allows you to start to train yourself to see the breaks better.  When you look at a misread and you figure out why you misread it, it becomes easier to get right the next time.  I typically take two reads when I’m practicing.  The first read is from about halfway between my ball and the cup and the other read is about 6 inches away from the cup in the direction of my ball.  I will take more reads if the putt is on a ridge or crosses the ridge.

The EEZ-Read will not tell you anything about grain.  So if you putt in Florida on Bermuda grass you still need to understand how the grain will affect your putt, but this device has no way of telling you that.  The smoother the green, the better the device will work.  If the green is too bumpy, the readings can be thrown off by bumps on the green.  Lastly you can’t use the device in tournament play, or when posting an official round as that is against the rules of golf.  However for practice rounds or practice sessions I find it a very useful device to use.  It is inexpensive, small and effective.  I highly recommend using it to get a better understanding of how to read greens.

EEZ-Read Website

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.

Handicap Drop – Now 8.6

Once again my handicap index has dropped.  I think all of the things I’ve been working on are having a major impact on my game and how I play it.

This is the lowest my handicap has ever been and I’m pretty excited about that.  I am also very excited because I know I still have much I can improve on.  I think to move to scratch I will really need to improve my short game.  I think the strategy for this will be as follows:

  1. Putting.  Must become a better putter.  You can always save strokes putting well.  Putting practice will continue while I work on the other short game areas.
  2. Bunker game.  I am finding myself in more fairway bunkers and bunkers by the green.  When I miss from long range I don’t miss by as much, but the misses are just enough that they put me in the bunker. I will need to improve my sand save percentage as well as my ball striking from fairway bunkers.
  3. Pitching and chipping from 60, 30 and 15 yards.  Getting up and down from these ranges is essential.

So far this has been an exciting journey.  Things have not totally gone according to plan, but what actually does?  I’m playing with more freedom and confidence and it is just such a joy to be on the golf course because I’m always learning something.