With our winter season gearing up, and all you folks hoping to play some great golf these next few months, let's discuss an area dear to my coaching heart: The putting stroke.
I have been blessed in my golf life to have been a pretty fair putter. As a player, I took for granted that putting was fairly easy. What I didn't realize was that I grew up around a few very fine putters, and as a junior player it became a monkey-see-monkey-do type of scenario. In that respect, as a kid I watched and basically copied several very fundamental but vital things to become a great putter.
Please allow me to share a brief list of rules, thoughts, and understanding that have helped me, and I think will help you build a sound putting game.
1. Putting is just two things — the ability to move the ball in a particular direction at a particular speed. Do not make it more complicated than need be.
2. To aid the ability to control direction, put yourself in the easiest format — square feet, hips, and shoulders.
3. Speed control is everything in putting. There are no short cuts to developing speed control. Speed control is in fact " feel." Feel is developed through repetition. Some folks call that practice. You need thousands of repetitions to trust your feel under pressure.
4. I'm a huge believer in drills. Drills done correctly build trust. Trust is confidence.
5. You need to build a putting practice routine. The routine needs to have 2-3 speed drills and 2-3 direction-based drills. A good drill should give the player instant feedback. Practice does not make perfect; perfect practice does. 6. The two biggest physical putting errors you must control are: A. Head movement during the stroke; B. Left wrist breakdown. If either of those are present in your putting you will never putt at an exceptional level.
The above six points might seem basic to some of you. I will say this — make those six points the cornerstone of your putting belief system.
Construct a putting practice routine, and repeat it until the cows come home. Then, send me a thank-you note when you shoot your lowest score ever! Keep in mind, you have 14 clubs in your bag — 13 clubs account for 57 percent of the shots you hit. The 14th club accounts for 43 percent of all shots hit, That's the putter.
If you can't putt, you can't really play. Bobby Jones once said, "A great putter is a match for anyone. A poor putter is a match for no one."
Tom Patri gives lessons at the Quarry on Immokalee Road, and is at Friar's Head in New York from May-December. Patri is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher. Visit Patri's website at www.tompatri.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.