Now that the greens are firming up and running faster we find ourselves having to adjust our winter strokes to one that will hopefully get our ball in or very close to the hole each time we need to. Unfortunately most amateurs will keep their long powerful winter strokes long into the summer and find themselves losing all confidence in their putting, which can then lead to adding more pressure on their long game to hit it close. My aim is hopefully to explain my ideas on getting more consistency and also give you some practice drills to help the changes happen quickly.
There are two main factors in putting that need to consistently be correct for you to have control of distance:
- Consistent Rhythm
- Consistent swing length
Now obviously how you stand, aim, swing and grip the club need to be to a certain standard but really if you can do my main 2 factors well you will improve dramatically.
This is basically the speed your putter swings back and through at and is usually measured with a metronome when teaching. When I see someone who struggles with putting I nearly always see a very long backswing and a slower short forward swing, this inevitably means the person decelerates through impact! When you decelerate your putter never meets the ball at the same speed, so you can never be able to control how far it goes. What should happen is that the backswing and forward swing be at the same speed or tempo. To explain what I mean grab a putter and start to swing it back and forward from your shoulders; while doing this, start to count 1 for your backswing and 2 while doing your forward swing. What should happen is that your 1 - 2 - 1 - 2 count matches the tempo of each part of your swing, it doesn't matter how fast your tempo/rhythm is so long as you can repeat the tempo each time. What this will do is make the speed at which your putter hits the ball be at the same pace each stroke you make, which is crucial for control. The idea of hitting longer putts hard and short putts slow just doesn't work consistently!!!
Once you have a consistent tempo the only variable you need to focus on will now be the length you swing the putter back and forward. So if you swing the putter back 6 inches you MUST swing it forward the same 6 inches, NO MORE NO LESS. For those of you who have no idea how to begin on lengths use this simple technique I call the INCH RULE. Basically for every foot of distance you have to hit your putt, you must make that length swing in inches in your backswing and forward swing. So, say you have roughly a 10 foot putt, you swing back and forward 10 inches, this coupled with a consistent tempo will hit the putt the desired distance each time!! Now I hear you saying "Well how do I know how far I have to the hole?" What you can do is pace from your ball to the hole remembering that each step is about 3 feet, 5 steps = 15 feet of putt. To gauge your backswing you can use a golf ball, a ball in 1.5 inches wide so 2 balls = 3 inches (ie the width of 2 golf balls should be the backswing length for a 3 foot putt). I know this all sounds very complicated but with a little practice your mind's eye and muscle memory will start to take this in and soon you will know the swing for any distance required.
Start at a hole with 10 balls in your hand, take a large step from the hole and drop 2 balls there which is now a 3 foot putt. Continue taking 4 more steps dropping 2 balls each step you take, you will then have 5 even distances from the hole all 3 feet apart. Now remembering my inch rule place a tee 3 inches behind the first set of balls so your mind's eye will have a stopping point in your backswing. If you also wanted, you could put another tee 3 inches ahead of your ball to gauge the forward length too. Now take the putts each time focusing on the distance back and through being the same, while counting out your tempo in your head 1 - 2 - 1 - 2 - 1 - 2. The idea is that as you go back each step, you are only varying the length of swing, while maintaining the tempo each time, if the balls miss they should travel the same distance past the hole ensuring you have a consistent tempo and swing. Do this as often as possible and after a while you will automatically know the swing length and speed for every distance inside 30 feet. Outside 30 feet you just use feel which will be improved by the practice you have done already!!