When was the last time you really practiced your putting? I?m not talking about whacking a few mindless 10-footers on your way to the first tee — I ?m talking about some serious, purposeful work. You know what purposeful work is because you do it on the range with your metal woods and irons, but my guess is you gloss over the necessary flat-stick work because you have become swing fixated.
Putting makes up nearly 40 percent of the game. It requires as much attention as we can give it. Yes, it is much more fun pounding shots at the range — it?s so much fun that we stay there until we are too tired to practice anything else. My suggestion is to practice your putting before you get to the range. You only have so much real focus time, so spread it around. The game is more than full swings.
During last week?s U.S. Open, the cameras caught the guys getting ready to play. Each one of them went to the putting green first. They realize that golf is about recording the lowest number possible in that little box at the end of the scorecard. They also realize that a 4-foot putt carries as much weight as a 300-yard drive. In fact, it probably carries more weight when you consider the hangover effect when you miss a shortie. A missed putt lingers in the mind more than any other miss. It is very easy for it to infect the rest of your game.
Drop eight balls in a 4-foot circle around the cup. Repeat the drill until you can go all the way around without a miss. When you can make eight 4-footers in a row, pat yourself on the back. You can extend the circle out as you progress. This drill will put a little pressure on you and it will allow you to focus. Each putt will have a slightly different wrinkle to it. Do this drill enough and the 4-footers on the course will seem routine.
One way to make putting practice more fun is to practice with a friend. Have a little competition. The best putting game I know is the 10-point game. The first person to get 10 points loses. A putt short of the hole is one point. A three putt is one point. Loss of hole is one point.
Practice the whole game. Practice smart. It?s the quickest way to real improvement.
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Photo via Jason Getz, USA TODAY Sports