Having read dozens if not hundreds of books and articles on putting over the years, there appears to be a bit of a recurring theme. Almost all of our attention is directed to what the golfer needs to do with their body and their putter. The same could be said for the majority of technology currently available to help us with our putting.
During a golf school I was co-hosting last year with my good friend and colleague Karl Morris, he recalled a story of what one of his clients, Graeme McDowell focused on when he won the US Open. It was so simple, so obvious but something we often forget about. Essentially Graeme’s attention was on “What does the ball need to do to go in the hole.”
Karl suggested that Graeme ask himself two questions before he hit any putt:
1. Is it possible for the ball to go into the hole from here?
2. What does the ball need to do to go in the hole?
By putting his attention on what the ball needs to do, it took his attention and pressure away from the mechanics his stroke. Basically freeing up his mind and body to work instinctively. Anyone who remembers that fantastic win will recall not only the quality of his ball striking but more importantly, the apparent ease and frequency with which he found the bottom of the cup on the greens.
This approach is something that Karl and I encourage our students to do at our Golf Performance Principles schools at Archerfield Links and the results have been fantastic.
By focusing your attention on what the ball needs to do, you stop worrying about useless distractions like “I don’t want to take it too much on the inside on the way back”, “don’t leave it short”, “don’t knock it 3 feet past, I’m no good on the short ones.”
By paying attention on what the ball needs to do, you’ll be amazed at how much more clearly you start to see the line and pace of the putt you are facing.
Any time I am asked to help a player, whether that be a weekend golfer or a Tour Pro, the first question I ask is always – “What is the most important factor in putting, line or pace?” After a few seconds thought, the answer is generally pace, which I totally agree with.
When was the last time you missed a relatively straight 10 foot putt a foot to the left or a foot to the right? Probably a while ago. When was the last time you missed a similar putt by leaving it a foot short or hitting a foot past the hole? Probably the last time, or even the last hole you played!
Yet when I observe people “reading” their putts, 90% of their time and attention is focused on the line. Do you see where I’m going here?
If pace is more important because basically pace determines line, why on earth don’t we pay more attention to getting the pace right?!
I was recently asked by the good people at TrackMan if I would like to trial their latest Putting Performance software before it’s general release. As I mentioned earlier, the majority of technology currently available to assist with our putting is based on what we as golfers do with our body and putter, so I was intrigued to find out if this would be any different. I certainly hoped so.
Was it different? Absolutely! For the first time ever (that I am aware of), we can now actually track the full roll of a putt with incredible accuracy.
Version 1 of TrackMan Performance Putting software will focus entirely on what the golf ball does and I believe version 2 will collect and accurately measure club data. A pretty powerful combination.
In the meantime, focusing on what the ball does, ties in very nicely with both pace of putt, or hitting it the correct distance and ultimately, “what does the ball need to do to go in the hole.”
As I said earlier, golfers of all standards are pretty good at “reading” the line of a putt but ask them to hit it 8 feet, 10 feet or 15 feet, based on the testing I have done with a few of my clients, is an entirely different matter. How do I know this? Because TrackMan measures to within an inch of how far the putt has travelled.
It also measures launch direction / start line, ball speed, amount of break, skid distance, roll percentage, effective stimp (pace) of the green amongst other things.
As a TrackMan user, I see all of these as extremely helpful when assisting golfers with their putting. Why guess what you can measure?
I’m frequently asked “what is the perfect putt?” I know this might sound a little simplistic but basically it is one that goes in the hole. There are so many variables that are outwith our control on the golf course like an uneven putting surface, an old pitch mark, a blade of grass sticking up etc….all of which can knock your ball off line on the way to the hole.
What we can do however, is give ourselves the best possible chance by hitting the ball on the correct line at the correct pace. That will obviously vary according to the speed of the green, slopes on the green etc…
I have seen lots of golfers with “textbook” putting strokes who don’t putt well because they don’t get the line and / or pace correct.
In essence, hitting a putt the correct distance and direction is all about pace and line. The better you get at reading pace and line, the more putts you will hole.
Remember to ask yourselves the two questions I mentioned earlier – “Is it possible for the ball to go into the hole from here?” and “What does the ball need to do to go in the hole?”
Once you’ve figured that out, you’re well in your way to becoming a really good putter and the envy of your golfing companions.