How many times have you stood there shaking and nervously make your decisive putt from six feet and missed it? Here are some tips from Dave Stockton that you can learn to improve your putting skills.
1. Take “try” out of the equation. The moment you try to make a putt, you’ll miss it. Conscious effort doesn’t work. Try this experiment: Get a pen and paper and jot your signature. Now write your name a second time, trying to duplicate your first signature exactly. Chances are you’ll make a mess of it, because instead of doing it automatically, you’ll now applying conscious effort. Your approach to the six-footer should be like signing your name: doing it briskly and subconsciously.
2. Think speed more than line. Speed and line are equally important, but the amateur tends to preoccupied with the line. As you read the green, do it with the idea that you rolled the ball 16 inches past the hole – if you miss. After you’ve set up and taken dead aim, don’t give the line another thought. Avoid being too aggressive with the six-footer, because the edges of the hole might come into play and cause a nasty lip-out.
3. Stay away from dead straight. If there’s one thing a good putter hates, it’s an absolutely straight putt. The reason is, if you start the putt straight, you have a margin for error of only half a cup on either side. If the putt for all the marbles looks straight, look again. Study the area near the hole. Remember, the ball will be rolling so slowly when it gets within two feet that even the tiniest slope will cause it to break. Try to at least favor one side.
4. You’re already made the putt. You might have heard that it’s helpful to form a positive image of the ball going in, but you should take it further than that. Imagine the ball tracking the entire six feet, as though you’re watching a video replay of the putt dropping. This image should be so convincing that, if the putt doesn’t fall, you should be shocked. That’s how I feel when I’m putting well, I’m absolutely stunned well when the ball doesn’t go in.
5. Be a painter, not a carpenter. For the good putter, the most common miss under pressure is the push. When the heat is on, there’s tendency to hit at the ball instead of stroking through it. Liking driving a nail with a hammer, the putter stops abruptly at impact. It doesn’t release to a square position, and clubface is aimed to right. Putt as though you’re pulling a paintbrush, your hands leading and he club head trailing as you stroke through.
6. Your last thought: none at all. You should have no coherent thought as you draw the putter back. Avoid saying an actual word or phrase to yourself, even a seemingly positive one such as smooth. All it will do is block the overall sense of flow you must feel to make a good stroke. The only “thought” should be a vague feeling of relaxation, readiness and rhythm. All you’re doing is allowing your subconscious mind to take over so you can invite that wonderful sense of feel where you know the putt is no actual language when you’re in that sharp mental state called The Zone.
7. Get your eyes over the ball. Putting mechanics are mostly a matter of preference, but there is one universal rule for putts from six feet and in: Eyes over the ball. For most players, that means standing closer to the ball. This simplifies things enormously. It’ll help you swing the putter straight back and through. It’ll make you less handsy and decrease your chances of fanning the face open and closed excessively. And you’ll see the line better. Come to think of it, it’s good rule for all putts.
8. Focus on that first inch. In determining the line of the putt, the only area of true precision is the first inch the ball travels. If you’ve read the putt correctly, all you need to do is make the ball roll over a spot one inch in front of it. Be painstaking about that inch. At address, keep your eyes riveted on the spot. Your biggest priority is to keep your eyes still until the ball has travelled one inch past impact. This will keep your heard from moving, which is a cardinal sin. Even if you feel anxious, focusing on that all-important spot will guarantee a smooth stroke.
9. Forget about bad greens. Under pressure, all of your senses are heightened. There’s a tendency to see more obstacles than usual along the line-scuff marks, ball marks, footprints, disruptions in the grain and so on. Ignore them. If you strike the ball solidly and impart a true roll, the chances of anything knocking the putt off the line are remote. If a spike mark is so significant that you’re sure it will affect the roll, play a shade less break and roll the ball with a bit more speed to avoid it.