NAPLES — It’s Masters time, and the golf season is now in full swing. The greatest players in the world will be visiting Augusta, Ga., and testing their skills out on Bob Jones’ Augusta National.
The winner of this prestigious event will have to do three things well:
(1) Hit their irons in the correct part of the green where they will have a chance to make their putt.
(2) Be able to read the green.
(3) Be a very good speed putter.
It takes a special type of player to be a great speed putter. If you look at the past winners, they have all had very slow and deliberate putting strokes. None of the past winners have had any “hit” in their strokes.
Think of a stroke like Ben Crenshaw. LONG and SLOW as the ball comes off the face very softly.
Believe it or not, the great putters prefer a putter with a heavy head. Their logic is that the heavy head allows them to swing the putter slower. The speed of the stroke is vital if you are to be a good putter on fast greens.
A good drill to improve the rhythm and tempo of your stroke is to count to yourself when stroking your putt. Say to yourself — One and two. This should slow your stroke down so you have a chance to make those super-fast, downhill putts like you will see at Augusta National.
The other thing all great speed putters have is they hit the putt solid and in the center of the face. The average amateur golfer hits the ball all over the face. Of course, this causes inconsistent distance control.
Generally, excessive body movement causes these off-center hits. To hit it in the center of the face, you must stay absolutely still until well after the ball has been hit.
Probably a good drill to help you stay still would be to put your ball on a dime and keep looking at the dime long after the ball has been hit. You also could Scotch tape a couple of wooden match sticks to the face of your putter. Just allow enough room between the match sticks to hit the ball only in the center of the face.
To be a good speed putter, you must have a vivid imagination. You must be a good visualizer to be a good speed putter. See the line in a huge curve, and always play more break than you think you will need. Practice downhill left to right putts to capture the feel you will need.
A good drill to improve your distance control is to lay four clubs on the green at 30 feet, 40 feet, 50 feet, and 60 feet.
Putt to the end of each club and give yourself points, and how close you can come to the grip end of each club. Putt a few with your right hand, only getting the feel for the distance. Reduce the tension in your hands and try to be as natural as you can be.
There is no doubt, though, that the best putter and greens reader will win the Masters this weekend. Watch for the rhythm and tempo of their strokes. As you will see, it will take a great speed putter to win.
Jim Suttie gives instruction to members and public at TwinEagles Country Club in Naples on Immokalee Road and Cog Hill Golf Club in Lemont, Ill., in summer. Dr. Suttie was the 2000 National PGA Teacher of the Year; is a Golf Digest 50 Best Teachers in America and a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher. For instruction, and availability call 800-765-3838 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Website is www.jimsuttie.com, www.facebook.com/jimsuttie; Twitter@docsuttie.