The playing field is even when it comes to the green. You don’t have to be strong, big, tall, flexible, young or old. The catch is, most people prefer to stand on the driving range pounding their driver.
During a round of golf on a typical par-72 course, there are 14 holes where you will hit your driver. If you average a score of 90 for 18 holes, only 15 percent of your shots are with your driver. If you have 36 putts, 40% of your shots will be on the green. That is where you should be spending your time.
How do you make more putts? Tthere are three very important components when it comes to the flat stick. Alignment, stroke shape, and distance control.
When I first became eligible to compete on The Legends Tour, I heard about a man who was teaching tour players how to putt better. His name is Mike Shannon. Our son Jamie was also about to go off to play Division I college golf, so he and I made a trip to see Mike. It was one of the most eye-opening, three-hour putting lessons we have ever had.
I explained to Mike how I had difficulty lining up. Not only on putts, but on the course as well. Mike smiled and said, “I understand.” What we learned is that most people are not aligned at the target correctly from as close as 3 feet. Most people need to make minor adjustments in their setup to be sure they are aligned at the hole.
Once you are aligned properly on a straight putt from 4 feet, you then need to discover if you are either linear or non-linear. What is that? It is how you perceive lines. You either see straight lines or curved lines. Someone who sees straight lines will tend to use an intermediate target or a spot. Those who are non-linear will see curved lines and need to always look at the hole where the putt will enter the cup, never at an intermediate target.
Mike tested us to see whether we were linear or non. He graciously gave me not only his system, but shared his power point so that I could help others. Most of the testing is done with a laser to be sure the results are true.
How do you know where you are aligned? Always start with a 4-foot straight putt. Have a friend stand behind you to see where the putter face is pointed. If you are aligned straight, then you are good and no changes need to be made.
Now you need to choose a long putt that breaks at least two cups outside the hole. Align yourself to where you believe you need to start the ball. Ask your friend if you are truly pointed where you believe. If you are aimed at the spot you have chosen, nothing needs to be done and you are linear. If you are not aimed at your perceived target on the breaking putt, you are non-linear. If that is the case, you need to solve the issue.
Do you take your putter back and through straight or on a curved line (arc)? There is no right or wrong way to make your stroke. You just need to know which you are doing. Straight back-and-through putters try to keep the putter on a straight line. Curved putters allow the club face to open and close and swing on an arch. Curved putters are more natural. Once you are comfortable, you must stick with what you have chosen.
The No. 1 cause of three-putting is distance control. When your first putt doesn’t get close enough to the hole, this makes your second putt more difficult. One of the worst things you can do is try to slam your first putt in the hole. If you happen to miss the cup ... yes, you could have a longer putt coming back.
I have a simple system to help you get a feel for the greens before you tee off. Take three balls on the practice green. Place them on a flat spot. Do not putt to a specific hole. Place your feet shoulder width apart. Make the width of your stroke be the width of your feet. Hit three putts, trying to make all three balls go the same distance. Once all the balls go the same distance, walk off the putts. This will be your key for the day. When you get on the course, you will walk off your putts. If your key for the day was five steps, and your putt is seven steps, you will take a bigger stroke to hit the putt. You will not hit it harder. Just a larger stroke. This system will help you become more aware of what you are doing on the putting green, you will be able to make more putts and not waste strokes.
Silver Creek native Cindy Miller, who counts the 2010 LPGA National Teacher of the Year award among her many golf accomplishments, is writing the “Own Your Game” column for The News. Have a specific issue with your game you’d like Cindy to address or a topic suggestion for the summer season? Drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her next column will appear in print on May 28.