The putting stroke has always been considered a pendulum motion. All other shots in golf involve a significant acceleration and hit onto the ball, but a proper putting stroke is like the large swinging hand in a Grandfather clock swaying back and forth. The putter head should accelerate ever so slightly, but the aim is to make it as smooth and unnoticeable as possible. Ultimately, the rhythm on a short putt should be the same as a long putt. All we are doing is making a shorter or longer back and through swing depending on the length – while trying to mirror the image of the backstroke with the through stroke.
The Problem: Your most important focus when putting outside of 25 feet should be the 3-foot circle around the hole. The reason 3 feet is so important is based purely on probabilities and statistics. PGA Tour professionals make 95% of 3-foot putts. Now, we aren’t all PGA Tour pros, but even for the golfer shooting in the 90s, they are still making around 84% of these putts. Where the statistics for all golfers begins to drastically shift is every foot outside of 3 feet. Even the very best golfers on the PGA Tour drop to an average of 86% from 4 feet away. Golfers shooting in the 90s? Their stats drop to less than 75%. Each foot out to 6 feet drops by around 10% respectively.
The Solution: Practice a 40-50-60-foot drill. Setup a 3-foot circle around a hole with 4-6 tees. Place tees at 40-50-60 feet away from the hole. Using 4 golf balls, make 5 attempts from each tee (20 putts) to see how many times you can get your ball inside the 3-foot circle.
The Problem: Inside of 25 feet we want to be aggressive and focus on getting the ball to the hole. Many pros agree that 18 inches past the cup is the optimal speed for a golf ball to go into the cup. Unlike the longer distance putts, where two-putting is the focus, we want to start making some of these putts to separate us from our mates.
The Solution: Practice a 15-20-25-foot drill. Setup your 18-inch semi-circle around a hole using 5 tees. Place a tee at 15-20-25 feet. Use 4 golf balls, starting at 15 feet. The aim is to score zero or better before moving back a tee, to 20 feet and then 25 feet. Record each of your attempts at each tee up to 5. Use the following point system: -1 point for leaving the ball short of the hole, 0 points for inside the semi-circle, and 1 point for making the putt.
The Problem: Running to the driving range to rush through 10-15 balls isn’t going to do anything in terms of improving your score, but there are several different drills you can try that will.
Solution #1: Practice a 6ft straight putt drill. If you only have time to complete one thing prior to teeing off, I suggest this drill. Find a 6-foot putt, as straight as possible anywhere on the practice putting green. Take 3 tees and place one low in the ground, with just a few millimeters of the tee showing. Place your putter in front of the tee, lining it up square with the hole and place a tee on either side of your putter, creating a ‘gate’. Using as many balls as you like to hit 20-25 putts, place a ball in front of the low-lying tee and make as many as you can before heading to the tee. This will give you a feel for the speed of the greens for the day and get your stroke in a good rhythm for the round.
Solution #2: Practice a 3-6-9-foot drill. Rotating between left to right, right to left, uphill and downhill putts, take three tees and set them at 3-6-9 feet from the hole. Using 3 golf balls, make 3 putts in a row from 3 feet and progress to 6 feet. Repeat the process out to 9 feet and then back in without missing. If you miss from any location, move back to the prior tee to continue the drill. Give yourself a set number of attempts to complete the drill and make note of your progress. Solution #3: Practice a 3-4-5-6-foot drill. On opposing sides of the hole, set tees at 3-4-5-6 feet. Vary between left to right, right to left, and uphill against downhill. Start on one side of the cup at 3 feet and make the putt. Then move to the other side at 3 feet and make the putt. Move back a tee on each side and repeat the process. See which side you can complete first without missing. If you miss from any tee on either side, move back a tee from the side you missed on.