My favorite tournament of the year is here, the Masters! I love the theme song, the par 3 contest, the history and the dramas that always occurs during the Masters. I’ve never visited Augusta National Golf Club but hope to do so very soon to see the golf course in person. Everyone I have spoken with always talks about the elevation changes and the significant slope on each of the greens. Putting well is a key to playing quality golf, winning on the PGA Tour and navigating Augusta National.
During a typical round of golf approximately half of a players shots will occur on the green and we do our best to reinforce the focus on putting ability. Most juniors we work with prefer to spend their time hitting drivers so we focus on making putting fun and entertaining. Last week our juniors spent the afternoon working on their putting skills. I only know a few people who can spend a great deal of time on the putting green and I have a tremendous respect for them, I am not one of those people. For me to actually practice my putting I need a few games and drills.
I’ve changed my views on putting over the last couple of years. In the past I focused more on the mechanics of the putting stroke, ensuring my putter “matched” my stroke, and ensuring I maintained the “triangle”. The “triangle” is created between my shoulders and hands and to maintain it during the stroke minimum wrist action should occur. I have found most golfers won’t really change their putting stroke or mechanics, frankly I was one of them. I’ve got to stick with my basic stroke but spend time on the skills to make my stroke more efficient and effective.
I’ve found it is important to have a few fundamentals in a putting stroke which include; acceleration OR constant swing speed through the stroke, limited wrist action and a consistent setup. On the practice green mechanics are important but many times we (myself included) try to change mechanics while on the course. Everyone has differences in their setup, stroke and pre-shot routine but the key is consistency. As long as you do it every time, you know what to expect.
To consistently make putts on the course a player must have a few skills. In my opinion the top three skills necessary to be a good putter are;
- Ability to read a green correctly
- Start the ball on the intended line
- Distance control
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll introduce a few drills to help hone these skills which will help a player lower scores and become a better putter.
I always have to remind myself that drills are just that…drills. They must be fun (or I won’t work on them), be measureable and they must be focused on a specific skill. In the end it’s imperative to translate these skills out to the course since our main goal is to MAKE MORE PUTTS!
The best resource I have found for making more putts was Dave Stockton’s book Unconscious Putting. This book is an outstanding resource and promotes making a putt while forgetting mechanics out on the course. Check out more of what the Stockton family has to offer here: http://www.stocktongolf.com. I’ve had the opportunity to attend a seminar by the Stockton family and learn about their philosophy in person.
Tour players do make it look so easy and make a tremendous amount of putts. They have honed the necessary skills to make putts by using a variety of drills. Drills are important as long as they help us engrain the skills which will help us make more putts. Once we get to the golf course we must focus on one thing, getting the ball into the hole.
The other day Christopher and I had a group of 6th and 7th graders and we spent a very quick hour and a half on chipping skills. Most of the kids have played a bit but are all still learning the basics of the game. I’m working on structuring my instruction a bit differently and was very happy with the results and response from the kids.
In my opinion it takes three basic skills to chip the ball well:
- Controlling trajectory
- Landing near your intended spot
- Controlling distance
Within each of those skills there are a variety of options and variations that will affect the final outcome. Instead of spending 15+ minutes go over stance, ball position, swing motion and club selection we set up 5 stations that focused on one of the three skills. We introduced each station, paired the kids up and let them “discover”. While they worked the stations, competing along the way of course, Christopher and I introduced stance, ball position and swing motion.
Our 5 stations consisted of:
- String 18 inches above the ground and had to hit chip shots over the string
- String 18 inches above the ground and had to hit chip shots below the string
- 25 inch diameter circle and had to land chip shots inside the circle
- Two parallel strings approximately 3 feet apart from each other and 18 feet from the starting point. Had to keep as many balls between the circles
- 2 holes at different distances which they hit 2 shots at each hole
It was great to see the kids all engaged and focused on the various stations. We discussed each of the skills as they moved between stations and were able to address individual golfer’s strengths and weaknesses. All of the kids showed improvement and were able to keep a ball low, hit a ball high, understood distance control and the importance of landing in the intended spot.
Breaking down the chip shot and making it fun really made the session beneficial for the golfers. They changed clubs during the stations and grasped the concept of controlling trajectory with the strings. The easiest station was hitting shots under the string, the hardest was landing shots in the circle. To make it better they had to discover and figure out how to accomplish each of the skills. It was great to see all of the realize the importance of getting the ball on the ground as quickly as possible. As the man Peter Scott once said “Putt it if you can, chip it if you can’t, wedge it if you must.”