How To Make More Putts Inside 15 Feet
If you could make 10% more putts within 15 feet, how many strokes would you save per round? How much lower would your handicap be?
For most people, only improving 10% at short putting, would take off between 1.5-2.0 strokes per round on average, if not more, giving the player a hcp that is 2-3 lower. A lot of golf, especially when it comes to putting, is decided within 15 feet of the hole. For a professional golfer, this is one of the most crucial points to be good at, and I believe the same can be said for the rest of us if we want to play better golf.
The determining laws of physics for short putting and the behavior of the ball:
Law 1: The angle of the clubface. This is 10x more important than the path of the putter, when it comes to impact and the effect it has on the direction of the putt.
Law 2: The speed of the putter, affecting the distance of the putt.
Law 3: The impact position of the ball on the putter – How close or far off the sweet spot the ball was struck. This affects the distance of the putt.
Law 4: The path that the putter takes to make the stroke – affecting direction.
Law 5: The angle of attack that the putter has when approaching the ball – affecting the quality of the roll – most tour players have a few degrees upward angel of attack on the ball with the putter through impact – between 2-3 degrees, giving it a smooth roll towards the hole.
Making more short putts consists of doing 3 things right. Number one, choosing the right line to putt the ball on when reading the green. If you get this right, then your two next tasks to get the ball in the hole, are to give the putt the right distance and direction, in relation to what line you have chosen for the putt.
Keep in mind that as soon as a putt has a bit of break, there are about a dozen different lines you can choose with different combinations of speed and direction that will get the ball in the hole.
What matters is that you are able to pick the line that will get the ball in the hole, and give the ball the intended direction and distance you had in mind before the stroke.
#Principle: The result of the putt should always match the intention. If the line was wrong, or if the conditions of the green was not optimal, ok, but what we should focus on is that the result matches our intended line and speed as far as that is within our control.
So what exactly can you do to roll the putts more on the line you have chosen, with the right speed?
Tip 1: Practice your putter head aim. This is something that a lot of people get wrong without realizing it. Simply that their aim is off, and when it is, it requires the club face to be manipulated to compensate, should the putt have a chance to start on the right line.
Drill for checking and improving putter aim:
Use two alignment sticks, or if you don’t have that, use two iron clubs from your bag. Set them up parallel to each other aiming towards the hole, on a straight putt that is 10-12 feet long and make 100% sure that they are aiming correctly. Give them enough space between each other so that you can putt towards the hole, from between the sticks or clubs, that helps you align and aim.
Once you are sure they aim straight where you want, you can take your setup and make sure that your putter is now aiming perfectly parallel to the shaft of the clubs or sticks you have to guide you in making sure your aim is correct.
Go ahead and spend at least 10-15 min putting like this every day for a few weeks, and check in with this drill once in a while, to see if your aim is on track or not. If it feels strange once you stand over the putt, as if you are not aligned correctly with the putter face, that usually means your natural aim is off.
Once you start putting like this you will also be able to see if your stroke tends to send the ball off line or not, as would be natural if you normally compensate for having your aim off.
Tip 2: Many of the all time best putters talk about how important it is to have a light enough grip pressure. The legendary great putter Ben Crenshaw said that 9 times out of 10, people really have too tense hands on the putter while they putt. They have too tight grip pressure. This results in a more conscious control over the club face, and a less natural motion that is based on the pendulum of the putter and its natural path based on its weight.
The harder you grip the putter the lighter the putter head becomes. What you want is a light enough grip pressure that you “give up a bit of the conscious control” so that you let the putter and your body do a more natural motion that is less managed and controlled, while it also gives the putter head a slightly heavier feel.
That is one of the great keys to better putting, and will assist you in long putting as well. Trust more that the putter will do the job, that the putter face will be on line because you have aimed it right, and your fundamentals are sound.
Tip 3: Make the pace or distance of the putt a priority. Most great putters will testify that having the right distance is often more important than direction, because so many putts are breaking, so that distance will affect direction anyway.
A great goal to focus on is to always putt so that your ball will go one foot past the hole should it miss. That is statistically the pace of putting that will make the most putts go in, as it will give the best line compared to speed of the ball, which affects how easily it will drop down in the hole. The harder a putt is, that more in the center of the hole it needs to be, to go in.
Make it a habit of practicing with this intent in mind.
Tip 4: Practice your stroke with focus on two things. That your putter always point towards your belly button. Meaning that it will swing like a pendulum to some degree in your stroke. It means not too much shoulders, not too little, and not too much hands, and not too little hands. It will allow the club to release and give more energy into the ball, which usually results in a more confident stroke.
The second area regarding this tip is to let the club face be square, relative to its path or arc. This will happen more or less on its own as long as the hands are not opening the face too much, or letting it be too closed (sometimes in an attempt to stay “square”). What we want is to let the club face be free, and go naturally square to the path and arc that the putter is on.
Drill to make the putter always point at the belly button:
The best way is to buy a cheap belly putter if you can get one, and practice short putt with it. Also practice taking high number of practice stroke repetitions with it. This will grove your normal putting technique to become more in line with what we are talking about here, to get your shaft to always pint at your belly button. Second option is to simply anchor your normal putter in your belly button and grab down on the putter. Take many practice repetitions that way to get the feel of it and to grove the move into muscle memory.
Clubface relative to arc:
Either check yourself to see if your clubface seems to be parallel to its arc, or ask a better player or a coach to have a look at this part of your stroke. It can sometimes be easier for another set of eyes to notice details like this. You can also do the same with checking your aim. If the rest of your fundamentals are good and you don’t manipulate the club in an unnatural way with your hands, this part will usually be fairly ok, but it is worth checking once in a while.
Tip 5: Use sound fundamentals for putting that works for you. These do vary a bit from player to player, but a good way to start is a simple and technically sound approach like Tiger has to putting;
Use a square stance. Let the putter shaft be parallel to your forearms when viewed from down the line view. Have your shoulders be aiming at target parallel with your feet, as well as your forearms and elbows being parallel to target. Have your eyes so that they are straight over the ball (or for some slightly inside), and have your shoulders be setup more or less even to the ground. Check that you do not move your head sideways or up/down when putting. When you choose to look after the ball, should be up to you depending on what feels comfortable, but realize that if that movement interferes with your impact in any way, it will make your results less consistent.
Tip 6: Practice to hit smoothly through the ball. Sure, you can have acceleration and confidence in your stroke, but all good putters make it a point to never hit at the ball but transition through it as if it was air. One of the greatest used the metaphor of treating it like a paint brush, smooth and no splashes, as if you were a skilled painter Very seamless. If you watch Tiger putt during his best years you will notice how well he goes through the ball without any change in movement. It is very smooth.
The greatest putters over the last 50 years:
If you want to learn further about some of the best putters through last 40-50 years, you can have a look at Brad Faxon, Tiger Woods, Ben Crenshaw, Jack Nicklaus or Dave Stockton.
Short putting will always be a big part of the game, and those that learn to master it will always be able to cut a lot of shots of their game. Some make a lot of money from mastering it. It should be clear that in this sport the difference between hitting the driver 300 yards, or duffing it 50 yards off the tea, easily can mean the same difference to your score card as whether or not you hole a 4 feet putt or not. Therefor it is a part of the game worth practicing. It makes playing it, a lot more fun too.