Everyone wants to hit a drive 300 yards like Tiger. That’s probably why the driving range at any golf course is guaranteed to be more crowded than the practice green. But neglecting the short game can create a fatal flaw for any golfer.
“Putting is half the scoring of the game of golf,” said Erroll Miller, head golf pro at Breckenridge Golf Club.
This week we’re getting input from the pros on polishing your putting game.
First and foremost, “practice, practice practice,” Miller said. Repetition will lead to comfort and confidence.
“Distance control is the most important thing to work on when putting,” said Mark Nickel, course pro at The Raven at Three Peaks. With your first putt on a green, “you want to get close enough to two-putt,” he said. Nickel said he believes that not properly gauging distance is a common putting mistake that can quickly add strokes to a golfer’s score. If you’re far away, you want to putt to get close.
Miller echoes that notion, pointing out that par on a course is determined by averaging a two-put on the greens.
Both suggest starting practice with short puts and then adding distance.
“If you can’t make putts from three feet, what makes you think you can make it from 10 feet,” said Miller.
Form is also a big consideration in a player’s putting game. Zak Himmelman, a golf coach at Breckenridge, reminds his students to keep their wrists straight through the entire swing. Putting is not a wrist motion. He also suggests having a silent “one, two” count. Backswing on “one” and follow through on “two” to keep a smooth swinging motion.
Caleb Kehrwald, course general manager at The Raven, stresses keeping your head down through the swing. Not doing so is a common mistake that will throw off your putt.
To practice, Himmelman suggests putting off of a penny, then seeing wether the penny is heads or tails up.
Drills to consider before starting your round
Taking the time to hit the practice green before a round is critical. It’s an opportunity to get a feel for the greens and gauge whether they are playing fast or slow. It’s also an opportunity to get a feel for how your ball will break on the course.
Toe-to-toe putting drill: Breckenridge golf pro Himmelman said one great way to gauge how to play a green is to line up a putt on a flat surface and make a smooth swing from your back foot to your front foot. He says it will give you an accurate way to measure how far a putt will go with a given swing. You can then determine how strong you need to swing a putt with that metric in mind. It makes it easier to know whether to swing harder or softer. Then, he suggests, practice putting with a slope to see how the ball will break. Himmelman also mentioned that a softer putt will tend to break more.
Ladder Drill: Breckenridge pro Miller recommends lining up three balls at increasing distances from the pin — 6,12 and 18 feet, for example. Then start at the closest ball and putt in order until you get to the farthest. This drill can build confidence with distance. Both Miller and Nickel recommend starting by putting close, then working farther away.