Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Golf World: Avoiding three-putts

With yet another Masters now history, it again becomes apparent how important putting is to become a prolific scorer. The greens at Augusta were very fast and very undulating.

Most of us average 32 to 36 putts a round. If you averaged 28 putts a round like the PGA Tour players do, you would immediately cut six strokes from your score. The amateur's problem is those pesky three-putt greens. So, the question is, how do you become a better long putter?

First of all, becoming a good long putter is a combination of good feel and good mechanics. To be a good long putter, you must have good pace and rhythm to your stroke. There should be no "hit" in your stroke. The backswing and the follow-through should be the same distance.

For example, if you go back 20 inches, then you should come through 20 inches. This ensures a pendulum stroke. Equal distance back and through gives you a very symmetrical stoke. In addition to this, the pace of the stroke should be the same speed in both directions.

Count to yourself when practicing long putts. Say "One and two" for good tempo. Some of the things I see in poor long putters is off-center hits. For example, if you hit the ball toward the toe of the putter, you will lose compression of the face to the ball, and you will most likely come up short of the hole.

Most long putts come up short. I think a good rule of thumb is to try to keep the ball on the high side of the hole, and try to hit the putt a foot past the hole. Most three-putt greens take place because you come up short of the hole and the ball finishes on the low side of the hole.

Another problem when we come up short of the hole is an "open" clubface at impact. This problem will cause a left-to-right spin on the ball, plus additional loft at impact. Try getting more weight on your front leg at address to offset this problem.

Most amateurs move their head and body too much on the long putts. Keep your head and body as still as you can on these long ones, and you are more likely to hit the ball in the center of the face with good speed. After all, speed is the most important element in becoming a good long putter.

To be a good long putter, light grip pressure is a must along with keeping that pressure constant throughout the stroke. Poor putters are always tightening their hands on the club as they go through the stroking process. Of course, this causes the dreaded "yips.''

Two drills that would be beneficial:

-- The right hand and arm only drill. To do this drill, just putt several balls with your right hand and arm only. This will give you the feel of the distance.

-- Putting at different distances with clubs on the ground. Do these drills and then practice trying to put that 40-footer inside an imaginary, two-foot circle.

Work on the pace and tempo of your putting stroke, and you will soon start becoming a good "lag" putter. You wouldn't mind taking six strokes off your next round? Just ask Charl Schwartzel, the new Masters champion.

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