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How to Win at Golf - Improve Your Putting

Jun 21, 2008
Putting is probably the single most important golf technique in the game, never forget that half of all strokes allowed for in a par score are putts. The Putting Green is an almost sacred place for golfers. It is where games are won and lost. It looks so easy - there are none of those careful fine points to tune in your swing to achieve the long low drive or the stunning iron shot. Some of the best putters produce astounding strokes with an indifference that suggests disdain to us lesser mortals who struggle with our putters. Improving your putting is a great way to improve your scores quickly but how do you do that - and why should you?

As to why, there is a simple answer which is best illustrated by going back to the last time Tiger Woods won The Open. Sergio Garcia hit almost 80% of the greens and 66% of the fairways, striking the ball well throughout the tournament, but his putting let him down. Even though he hit most of the greens in regulation, Sergio averaged nearly two putts on each of those greens. Tiger won the tournament, he hit far less greens than Sergio but made almost a quarter less strokes on each of those greens. Taken over the entire tournament, this difference is why it was Tiger's name on the trophy!

Putting makes up over 40 percent of your game, so its importance cannot be over-emphasized. You should devote at least that percentage of your practice time to it. Nothing spoils a good round more than weak putting so when you practice make sure you work on both the mechanics of the stroke and the feel. Putting has often been described as more inspiration than technique and there is no doubt that some good putters simply cannot explain it, they are, as it were, born to it. But the poor putter needn't give up. Working hard to pick up some essentials, along with a sensible practice regime, will result in steady improvement and the results will soon show - remember that old golfing adage - drive for show and putt for dough! Once your score is consistent and you have developed your game it is time to start thinking about developing feel. Putting feel is an acquired skill, your brain needs to determine how the length of your stroke relates to distance. This begins by ensuring you always make solid contact with the ball, and that comes from those good fundamental techniques you should be practicing. The basic stroke motion is a pendulum action. When putting, your hands should always be slightly ahead of both the club head and the ball. Your arms and shoulders should form a triangle that moves as one during your back swing and stroke - exactly like a pendulum.

There are many different grips demonstrated by the pro's when putting but it really doesn't make much difference as long as you know what you're doing with the putter head. As long as you can keep the edges of the putter square to the target during the stroke you will be OK. For example, keeping your left-hand low tends to keep the face angle more square as it swings up like a pendulum. The 'up' motion gets the ball rolling earlier, which creates a straighter line, reducing the potential for break, almost like taking the bottom of the ball and rolling it up over the top. Try experimenting with different grips and see which one works best for you. Putting with your rear arm can give a feeling of acceleration through the putt, which is critical for creating a smooth, end-over-end roll. Rear-arm putting accomplishes this mainly because of the weight of the putter, with two hands it's easier to make stabbing or decelerating strokes.

You should never aim to get the ball just as far as the hole, especially if you are off the green. Putting from the fringe or even just off the green is very different to putting on the surface of the green. More often than not putts are not hit with enough power and can end up getting bogged down in the longer fringe grass. Even if you are on the green you must hit the ball hard enough - a ball that doesn't reach the hole has no chance of going in! Any competent golfer will tell you that a properly struck putt should roll approximately seventeen inches past the hole, as if the hole wasn't there. This definition is based on the work of Dave Pelz, a professional golf teacher and Ex-NASA Physicist who has written may books on the subject, such as 'The Putting Bible' and who is widely regarded as the greatest putting coach working today. Of course, this distance is approximate, depending on specific grass types and environmental conditions, it may vary a little either way, but the seventeen-inch distance is the best rule of thumb for overall conditions.

Stance is less likely to be a consideration in putting than in any other stroke. No hard and fast rule can be established, no two golfers follow the same style. A still and steady body position with a motionless head is, however, one of the essentials that all coaches agree on. Putting is much too delicate a process to withstand any body motion. How you stand is a matter of trial and error, if you feel comfortable that is as good a guide as any. An open stance with the right foot well up to the ball can to be a good position, your body should rest easily on your legs. The length of the club will dictate any bend in the knees but always remember the three golden rules of golf when making your putt - keep your head still, keep your head still, keep your head very still!

Sometimes your putting goes wrong in the middle of a round - but with just a few seconds of concentration you can generally get it back on track - provided that you do your practice. Step off to the side at a time when it won't delay play and just close your eyes for a few seconds. Swing your arms the way you do on a putt, just like you do when you practice - is your body balanced? Is your head still? Are you achieving the pendulum motion? Check these simple things and you will soon get your putting back on track.

Putting is the greatest test of skill on the golf course and requires regular, high quality practice sessions, ideally on a putting green or with something that represents an actual hole as nearly as possible. Most golfers typically practice putting whenever they can find a suitable surface either outdoors or indoors. It is the most neglected part of the practice routine of many amateur golfers and yet it is the one thing that can reduce your score overnight. If you want to improve your golf techniques quickly and get your handicap down- practice your putting.
About the Author
BQ Browning grew up in a Golfing family and has been involved with the game for many years. News views and information are willing shared with fellow addicts at Golf Techniques and Tournament Tips. You will find a treasure trove of golf information written with wit, humour and wisdom.
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