When it comes to golf, it’s easy to get lazy with practice. After all, isn’t it enough to go out 30 minutes before your round and hit some 10 footers on the practice green? Or should you commit time for the sole purpose of improving your putting? And if so, how do you do it? All of these are excellent questions and sometimes you get a lesson that doesn’t come with a lot of extra drills to help you ingrain what you learned. So that is why we are here today.
So how do you practice putting?
I am a firm believer that your putting will not improve unless you spend time specifically practicing just putting. These don’t need to be tedious five hour sessions, and as I find myself getting busier during the summer I try to weave some practice time in before or after my round so I don’t have to make an extra trip to the golf course. Now in reality it doesn’t always work this way (work, family, all that good stuff), but even getting to the course half an hour earlier than usual will give you a chance to try out some of the drills below. And say you pick a day to go to the range instead of the course, having some of these drills in your head are a good way to work on aspects of your game besides just hitting the long ball.
Now we need to ask, what do you need to practice when it comes to putting? Personally, I practice by focusing on four different drills that represent different scenarios on the green. The areas I look to cover are short putts, long putts, distance control, and then live “on the spot” putting.
This first drill is for short putts. What I like to do is grab maybe five or six golf tees and stick them in the green so they form a circle around the hole. Usually I’ll place them all maybe a putter’s length and from there I’ll place one ball at each tee and then go around in the circle putting at the hole. I’ll go through the cycle around five times, keeping track of the total number of putts I make and miss and then, at the end figure out the percentage of these three footers that I made. Usually I’ll shoot for around 90-95% (if you go through five times that means you have to miss two or less!) and I’ll repeat the entire thing a few times, switching up the hole I putt at periodically to see a wider variety of lines and speeds. This drill is quick and too the point. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles but it will make your short putts much more consistent. A fast, easy, and slightly competitive drill you can do when you’re just looking for a little practice. A winner in my books!
Another drill that is just as simple is one that I use for lag putts. I’ll set up a spot a certain distance from the hole (whatever you like, 20,40,60 ft.) and leave five or so golf balls there. Then I’ll go to the hole and make a half circle about a putter’s length in radius behind the hole (like the closer half of the picture on the right).
This drill is supposed to facilitate getting the ball to the hole (because if it doesn’t go past the hole it never had a chance to go in), while keeping it with in the range that we determined in the last drill would be easy to make the following three footer on the back end. With this drill sometimes I’ll measure my performance by keeping score for myself. In order to do this I’ll start with ten balls getting one point for getting the ball inside the zone, and getting two points for any putt I hole out (or sometimes that lands with in a putter head, either way, they’re good putts). You can play around with the scoring and distance but you understand the basic concept. Another solid drill.
This next drill is one that will help improve your distance control. For this drill I’ll mark off four or five putter lengths, placing a tee at each one. From there I’ll take one ball and, starting at the first tee, putt at the hole until I make it. Once I make the first putt I move to the second and so on. The catch however, is that if you miss any putt from the first to the fifth, you have to start over again with the first putt and work your way back again.
This is my go-to drill when I only have a little bit of time. It hits some of the most important putting areas (besides lag putts) that you will experience on the golf course and forces you to hit a much larger amount of short putts compared to longer ones. That’s what makes this drill my favorite. A lot of golfers that I talk to will ask me for putting advice. When I work with them and put them through this drill however, they find themselves stumbling through the first two stations. Low handicap golfers almost always make these shorter putts and this 8-15 foot range is a place where almost anyone can save strokes. This drill will force you to take a lot of short putts but it can still be rewarding and suspenseful (especially if you play against someone else and “race”) by forcing you to make a longer putt in order to finish the drill.
Finally, we have probably the most basic drill in this segment but one of the more fun ones for me. If any of you have played HORSE with a basketball you’ll catch on quickly to the golfing spin-off that we use called PUTTS. Basically, one golfer picks a spot on the green where both golfers putt from and then picks a hole. Both golfers putt until they hole out and keep track of their strokes. When you compare how many putts it took the golfer who had the most gets a letter (P,U,T,T,S respectively). If both golfers have the same number of putts the round is a stalemate and nobody gets a letter, you just pick another hole with the drill continuing until someone gets all five letters.
As basic as this drill seems it really does incorporate exactly what you do on the golf course, you land on the green and you try to hole out in as few strokes as possible. I actually have to give credit for this idea to my dad who came up with the idea of PUTTS and also pushed me to play with him frequently enough to help both of us improve at putting. This was a great way to get in a little practice in after a round without having to take a serious, focused demeanor, which is why I still play this game with my dad as well as a lot of the younger kids I teach when they come for lessons.
Of course there are hundreds of other drills you could find with one easy Google search, but out of all the drills I’ve tried these are some of the ones I still use today. Each one is created to help you improve a certain aspect of your putting and if you use the drill consistently you will improve your putting in that area. Improvement takes time and unfortunately that’s something that a lot of people don’t have, heck even I don’t have as much time as I did when I used these drills as a kid. But something about just practicing alone or with a buddy is simplistic and rewarding. Where a large amount of the articles I post here are about the mental aspect of golf, this lets you get away from that and just focus on one tiny part of your game. A nice change every once and a while, and the improvement you’re going to notice in your putting is pretty nice too. So until next time fellow golfers, enjoy the simplicity of practice.
(Also, if you’re looking for more drills on putting or anything else, just shoot me an e-mail. I have tons of other drills to share!)
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