PGA Tour Swings

 

Golf Swing HD
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffANaGphsh0

Justin Rose 2013 Swing Sequence
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5hHLZH_QNY
Face-On View
Justin Plays the ball almost off his left shoulder.  His wrist cocking starts at his right thigh and works up to just past when his left arm is parallel to the ground (creating a 90* angle).

 
At this point (left), Justin has just about formed the 90* angle between the forearm and the shaft which he will hold on to to the end of his backswing.  Although he doesn’t get the club to parallel, Rose has made a shoulder turn greater than 90*. 
 
On the way down we see that Justin has increased his wrist cock angle slightly from his kinetic transition starting with his lateral shift of the hips.
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PGA Tour Swings

Golf Swing HD
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffANaGphsh0

Justin Rose 2013 Swing Sequence
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5hHLZH_QNY
Face-On View
Justin Plays the ball almost off his left shoulder.  His wrist cocking starts at his right thigh and works up to just past when his left arm is parallel to the ground (creating a 90* angle).

At this point (left), Justin has just about formed the 90* angle between the forearm and the shaft which he will hold on to to the end of his backswing.  Although he doesn’t get the club to parallel, Rose has made a shoulder turn greater than 90*. 
On the way down we see that Justin has increased his wrist cock angle slightly from his kinetic transition starting with his lateral shift of the hips.

Dave Pelz’s Short Game Bible: The Key to Lower Scores

All credit to Dave Pelz and his book: Dave Pelz’s Short Game Bible
Publisher: Doubleday
Copyright 2000, New York.

I didn’t call this book “THE” short game bible.  It’s “MY” short game bible, Dave Pelz’s Short Game Bible.  I make that distinction because it is the work-in-progress record of my research, what I understand about the game, and how I teach the short game of golf.  This book is not intended to say “everything” about the game and all of its shots or to convert golfers to any particular theory or method of play.  My short game bible contains my research on how the game is being played and my thoughts on how it can be played better, i.e., how golfers can shoot lower scores.

My short game bible will show you why and how shooting lower scores is completely reasonable, as well as why “where you putt from is more important than how well you putt,” and why “if you can wedge it, putt it, and driver it, you can play this game.”

Who cares about Score
1.1 Defining the Scoring Game
In golf, how you play inside of 100 yards is the prime determinant of how you score.  I don’t say this play completely determines your golf score, just that it is the most significant factor when it comes to writing numbers on your scorecard.  I base this statement on more than 23 years of studying golfers and compiling data, which show that 60% to 65% of all golf shots occur inside 100 yards of the hole.  More important, about 80% of the shots golfers lose to par occur inside 100 yards.  These results led me to focus on what happens inside 100 yards.  This book focuses completely on play from 100 yards in to the edge of the green.    

Golf’s most important distance is the “Golden Eight,” the eight feet that separate a two-foot putt from a 10 foot putt.  More simply put, the Golden Eight is the distance difference between making and missing most of your putts.  I’ve studied thousands of golfers, at all skill levels, and found that nearly everybody makes almost every putt from inside two feet.  Go a little farther away, to three feet, and golfers begin to miss (even Tour pros make only 95% of their three-footers).  Step back to five feet and pros hole about 75%, while amateurs, if they’re lucky, are making about 50%.  And at six feet, the best in the world, sink about 65%, plus or minus 5%.  So your best chance of making a putt is if its inside 10 feet.  And how do you get it there? Answer: wedges, pitches, chips, and bunker shots of your short game.

My research shows that the short game is the single greatest influence on the success or failure of players on the PGA Tour.  It also shows that the higher your scores, the more you need a good short game. Beginners and high handicappers hit fewer greens than better players which means they face more short-game shots per round.  The more you need your short game, the better it has to be if you’re going to become a good player. So while the short game is the bread-and-butter skill to the Tour players, it’s of even greater consequence to “normal” golfers.  The truth is, very few golfers, even at the Tour-player level, understand the details and realities of their short games.  Don’t be intimidated or discouraged by the number of different shots and areas of practice that are comprised by the short game.  At every skill level, the putting and short game skills are easier to learn and groove than the skills of the power game.

2.3 Shot Performance Evaluation
The best measure of a swing is the golfer’s accuracy in moving a ball from point A to point B.  For example, if a golfer is 100 yards from the hole and finishes 7 yards from the hole then the percentage error in this shot would be 7%=7 yards/100 yards.  In my analysis, if the golfer made a perfect swing, with 0% error, the ball would have gone in the hole.  100 shots with a particular club is called the average of the percentage error.  The first thing I learned after recording enough data was that the average PGA Tour player has an average PEI for all his full swings (drives, 4irons, 9irons, etc.) of 7, meaning an average of 7% error.  I also learned that if he had a PEI of 7 for his shots from 100 yards to the green, sticking the ball about 20 feet from the pin, he would think that wasn’t too bad.  From a full wedge swing, a 20 foot putt for birdie was ok.  Most pros seemed satisfied with that.  What he wasn’t happy with was having a 200 yard shot, hitting his 3 iron, and plugging the ball into the bunker.  From the plugged lie he couldn’t blast out close to the pin, meaning he had to get real aggressive to save his par.  So he rolled his first par-saving putt four feet past, missing the putt coming back and taking a double bogey.  After his round he said, My 3iron killed me!  I’m a terrible long iron player.  I hit my 3 iron 40 feet left of the hole and it cost me a double bogey.  It ruined my round.  My long iron play was the downfall again.”  He trudged off the practice tee and beat on that 3 iron for the rest of the day.  The funny thing is, I measured the error on the 200 yard 3iron shot and it was 14 yards–42 feet.  That’s a 7% error.

He hit the same “quality” shot with a 3 iron that he hit with a full wedge.  He was tickled pink with the wedge, he was red with rage over the 3 iron.  But he was convinced he didn’t know how to swing a 3 iron.  I say his swing with the 3 iron had the same quality of motion as his swing with the wedge.  The numbers prove it.  On average, the Tour players had–and still have–about 7% error in their full swings: 5% was the very best, 10% shots were poor.  A 1% or 2% error shot was truly rare, while 15% to 20% was awful, and also very rare.  Every player-every one, bar none -had a very different PEI for his full swing than for his wedges which was usally at least twice and, for some players, three times as high.  Tom Simons was 8% with his full swing, but about 17% with his wedges which is more than twice as bad.  Andy North was 7.3% with his full swing and 16% with his wedges, while Kite was 7.5% and 13% respectively.  These were three among the better wedge results.           

Players who hit iron shots to within 5% to 6% of the pin don’t make much more money than those who hit them to within 7% to 8% of the pin. The putting PEI data showed that the better a player putts the more money he wins–all other things being equal.  There is a strong correlation to the short game however.  Any player who was good with his wedges was also good at cashing checks.  When you are holding a wedge, it’s distance that should concern you, because if you don’t hit the ball the right distance, you can forget about having a high probability of holing those birdie putts.  In summation, if you want to score, the most important “game” to improve is your short game.  Second most important is your putting game.  And the least important game is your power swing/ ball-striking game.

If golf were only one swing and you were really good at it, it would seem logical that you would (or at least could) be good at all aspects of the game.  However, this has never happened!  Even Jack Nicklaus had relative weaknesses in his game (his sand game, and he wasn’t the all time best striker).  If you accept the possibility that each game is unique–and therefore that different swings must be learned–I can detail those differences.  There isn’t one swing, there are three.

Chapter 4: Mechanics of the short game
Adrenaline is released into the body when a person gets excited or scared; there’s nothing we can do about it.  Adrenaline makes our muscles get stronger, sometimes very much so.  This extra power can be helpful if we need to escape from heavy rough or bad lies.  It can be managed in the power swing if you know it’s coming: simply change your club selection.  However if you rely on muscle control for your short game, adrenaline effects can be deadly.  Adrenaline will flow whenever the golfer feels pressure.  If you face a hard or important shot and you rely on muscle control to “hit” your short-game shots, chances are good that any “touch” you may have had–even just a few minutes before on the practice range–will be gone.  There’s no flow of adrenaline when you’re practicing, so any touch learned on the range vanishes when pressure appears, even when you make what feels like a really good swing.

The way to tame adrenaline then is obvious: don’t use your muscles to power your short game.  Instead, let the power gome from the energy provided by your finesse-swing motion.  The muscles that kill touch in your short game are the incredibly strong yet small muscles of your fingers, hands, wrists, and forearms.  You must make a conscious decision to keep those muscles out of your short shots and use what we call in our schools “dead hands.”  IF you’re swinging with dead hands, those small muscles have only two jobs:

  1. to cock the wrists during the backswing
  2. to hold on to the club
Begin using the length and rhythm of the finesse swing to power the short game shots.  You feel the centrifugal force (outward pulling) and natural motion of the swing powering the shots, rather than “hitting” shots with your hand and arm muscles.  And you hold your finish, retaining the feel of your swing until each shot lands and you can see how far it flew.  While practice swinging, you should focus on finding a smooth repeatable rhythm that you can imagine producing the results you want.  Once you can see, feel, and judge the proper motion with a practice swing, you’ll be able to repeat it in a real swing; from there it’s a small step to doing the same thing during a match when your heart is pounding and your muscles are pumped full of adrenaline.  Take several practice swings until you make one that looks and feels really good, that will produce the shot that you want, the way it did on the practice tee earlier that day, last week, last month.  This is called “making a preview swing.” Once you see and feel that rhythm and make a perfect dead-hands preview swing, it’s easy to step up to the ball, repeat it, and produce the result you expect on the course.  
Alignment is Critical
The setup and alignment of your body is one of the most important fundamentals of your short game.  Because your instincts are to control and execute compensations with your hands, and are totally target oriented, correct alignment is critical if your body is going to learn to make fundamentally correct swings with dead hands.  In the short game, aim poorly and a good swing will hit a bad shot, so you’ll have to make compensations to produce the desired results.  And in the short game, a compensating swing is a bad swing.  
Every time you practice, take a club you are going to hit and carefully lay it down slightly left of your intended target.

Finding the Center of Your Stance

Since without thinking, golfers move the ball forward and back a few inches in their stance, up and down along the target line nothing much looks different and they assume they can hit the ball solidly and cleanly–controlling the bottom of the swing arc–no matter where the ball is in their stance.  In fact, this is virtually impossible to do without using the muscles of the hands and wrists.

My point is that if the ball is anywhere in your stance except in the exact position to be hit with your dead hands swing, you’ll have to use your hand muscles, exposing yourself to the effects of adrenaline.  You can get away with moving the ball back in the stance a bit–the shot would just be a little lower than normal.  But moving the ball forward in your stance for short shots is asking for fat shots.  The center of your stance is not halfway between your toes, because your feet are almost always angled in or out to some extent, and golfers tend to balance their weight on the ground through their ankles.

  • Chip shots: position the ball back in your stance, off the back ankle.  You want to hit the ball with a descending blow, trapping a minimal amount of grass between the clubhead and the ball, and creating a low, running trajectory.  
  • Distance wedge and pitch shots from normal lies:  Position the ball in the exact center of your stance.  Your front foot should be turned out toward the target by about 30 to 45 degrees (this creates a slightly open stance, which will encourage your hips to turn through impact without resistance from your lower body).
  • Bunker shots: you want to contact the sand behind the ball, scoot the club under and past the ball, and use the sand to blow the ball out.  To hit behind a ball from a good bunker lie, first aim to the left, then position the ball inside the heel line of your left foot. 

LPGA Golf Swings


Watching the LPGA Tour can be more beneficial than the PGA Tour at times.  I’ve certainly found that watching the LPGA Tour has improved my strategy and getting over my yen for distance.  See: Tee It Forward Initiative

What to watch for:

  •  The rhythm of their golf swings.  Silky smooth, no sudden jerks over the top, just great sequencing and control.
  • Their strategy and distance control since they hit the ball about 246 yards (Tour Avg) which is much closer to where lots of male amateurs are at.
  • How they can score on golf courses that are about 6400-6600 yards without bombing it 300+ yards off the tee.  It truly is all about how solid you strike the ball, how good your short game, putting, and mental game is.

Ginn Open 2008
Golf Swing HD
I.K. Kim and Na Yeon Choi Practice

PLAYERS:

  • Beatriz Recari
  • I.K. Kim
  • Amanda Blumenherst

***Note: the estimated swing speeds for the LPGA players are estimates from this website: http://www.golfwrx.com/64715/carry-distance-vs-swing-speed-chart/***

Beatriz Recari
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2PndBCHo0Y
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0D41pq-mO4

Tale of the tape:
Height: 5′ 4″
Career Victories: 2

Estimated Driver Swing Speed: 93-94 mph

PERFORMANCE STATS YEAR TO DATE RANKING
Official Money List $589,023.00 6
Average Driving Distance 247.588 77
Driving Accuracy 78% 18
Greens in Regulation 70% 23
Putts per GIR 1.788 18
Putting Average 29.25 18
Sand Saves 60% 9
Scoring Average 70.745 12
Rounds Under Par 30 14
Birdies 175 10
Eagles 6 7
Rounds in the 60’s 16 11
Sub Par Holes 181 29

Face-On View

Down The Line




In Kyung Kim
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoptTkWakoM

Tale of the tape:
Height: 5′ 3″
Career Victories: 3

Estimated Driver Swing Speed: 92-93 mph
PERFORMANCE STATS YEAR TO DATE RANKING
Official Money List $877,964.00 2
Average Driving Distance 241.370 119
Driving Accuracy 82% 3
Greens in Regulation 71% 18
Putts per GIR 1.781 13
Putting Average 29.43 26
Sand Saves 57% 19
Scoring Average 70.630 6
Rounds Under Par 28 8
Birdies 171 14
Eagles 3 64
Rounds in the 60’s 14 13
Sub Par Holes 176 11

Face-On View
I.K. Kim has a very efficient and powerful swing for a slender woman who stands only 5’3″.  She carries the ball approximately 215 to 220 yards with a swing speed of 92-93 mph.  Out on the LPGA tour, this swing speed is just about average.

She performs a neat takeaway with the clubface slightly closed (right)

 A full turn of the shoulders (past 90*) and hips which will give her the best chance for more power.

 Powerful sequencing with the hips leading the downswing.

Notice that she has the ball positioned very far forward in her stance.  This allows her to hit up on the ball and launch it with less spin and higher launch, maximizing distance.

Down The Line
Unfortunately this view isn’t quite the best camera angle; the camera is on the ball to target line when it should be on the hands in order to see a correct view of the swing planes.  Still though, it is clear that she has a solid takeway (where the clubface points slightly closed relative to the ball and the clubshaft is parallel to her target line).

 A full turn of the hips and shoulders to the top of the backswing.  I believe that her club isn’t across the line at the top of the backswing, it’s just a function of the skewed view from the camera.

 One of the major moves that a lot of poor ball strikers incorrectly do is the early extension move which thrusts the hips towards the ball resulting in really poor and inconsistent strikes (predominately pull hooks, pushes, push slices, heel strikes)




Amanda Blumenherst
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POa5Li_Cquc

Tale of the tape:
Height: 5′ 9″
Career Victories: 0

Estimated Driver Swing Speed: 93-94 mph

PERFORMANCE STATS YEAR TO DATE RANKING
Official Money List $39,772.00 94
Average Driving Distance 249.231 66
Driving Accuracy 57% 142
Greens in Regulation 63% 105
Putts per GIR 1.912 146
Putting Average 31.19 143
Sand Saves 56% 28
Scoring Average 74.308 132
Rounds Under Par 6 109
Birdies 71 105
Eagles 4 31
Rounds in the 60’s 4 62
Sub Par Holes 76 115

Down The Line

She has gotten her left arm across the chest wall (a power accumulator).  Her left arm is on plane with the turned shoulder plane (TSP) and this will make it easier for her to make consistently powerful contact out of the center of the face and in the direction she wants it to go.

 Face-On View

 She sets up with the ball on her emblem, so not very far forward.  This will promote a slightly descending blow or a level strike at impact.

Amanda has delayed her wrist cock; she never forms the 90* angle until the start of the downswing when she starts lagging the club behind her.  At far right, her hips have squared up to the ball while her left arm is swinging away from her chest wall and down into impact.


Men’s Golf Style

With flashy, classic, and trendy new clothes on the PGA Tours, I thought it might be interesting to compare fashion styles.  

Flashy

John Daly may just be the epitome of the flashy golf apparel out on tour.  Without a doubt, you will always find a colorful design from Loudmouth Golf.  A flashy wardrobe for a flashy guy.  A little too much for me.


Ian Poulter also is known for his flashy wardrobe.  God save the Queen?  God that shirt is ridiculous.


Gotta love Rickie Fowler’s Sunday Orange!

Classic & Trendy 
Charl Schwartzel
Tiger Woods
I’m a fan of the all Black.

Tiger Woods new Nike TW '14 shoes at Players
Classic Sunday Red and Black for Tiger


I’ve always liked Luke Donald’s dark colors.  I also like the subtle tartan pants.

Luke Donald
Navy blue and white goes together well.  Seve and Luke looking good.


Adam Scott always dresses professionally and classy.



Three cheers for Rory!  I thought it was cool how he wore blue every day at his 2011 US Open win.  I like the trend of white pants, shoes, belt, and hat with a colorful shirt.


Classic colors for Martin Kaymer.

Other Snappy Outfits

Zack Johnson
Zach Johnson
Chris Kirk
Chris Kirk
Rickie Fowler
Rickie Fowler
Morgan Hoffman
Morgan Hoffman

Graeme McDowell
Graeme Mcdowell
ryo ishikawa
Ryo Ishikawa

Rory McIlroy
Rory Mcilroy
luke donald
Luke Donald

Sean Foley’s Philosophy and More Drills


Right Arm Chipping Drill
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaetqIw-Zmk
One of the drills that I really like, when I started out with 10 year old kids was to start really simple, was to start with the right hand and just hitting little chips maintaining the wrist angle.  Once they got really good at doing that, I get their club in their left hand and get them to do a similar thing.  One side is pushing and one side is pulling.  The left side is more of a linear body movement,

and one side is more of a pivot movement.

  Because if I stop my pivot with my right hand, I’m going to get going like this [see below] which is basically flipping the club at impact.

So I start out with that because I want to educate both hands.  Homer Kelly, writer of The Golfing Machine talks about how there are swingers and hitters.  I like the idea of that there are strikers to where both swingers and hitters are not just one dimension.  I would think of a swinger as Vijay Singh.  People ask, “how does Vijay hit it so stragiht when his right hand is off the club?”  Well, he’s in ulna deviation with his left hand and he’s in full suponation (see below).

It’s just his right hand that is off the club.  So he’s a big puller, he’s pulling hard with his left side and the shot that Vijay hates is a hook, so he has to put a glove [under his left shoulder and swing with a lot of pivot].  I like to teach both sides, but people are going to be one or the other.  Sean O’Hair is very much a swinger, but Tiger is all right handed, so he’s a hitter, so we have to make sure that pivot stays up.  So when you get a hitter who’s going early into the extension, this way (see below) they’re going to be pretty inaccurate.

So I start that with with kids first, obviously they are going to be better at one or the other, but I’ve gotten 15 year old kids who have gotten up to 150 yards left and right handed with a 7 iron and hit it very straight.  Then from there, we go into proprioception, so I get the kids in bare feet hitting balls, and what happens is, 40% of your proprioceptors are in your feet, (proprioception is where we are in an unstable environment/ state) so when you slip on ice, you put your hand down, that comes from proprioception.  So it’s either your head or your arm.  So I’d get kids in bare feet hitting with their left and right hand.  Then I would get kids standing on their left leg side.  
I was really fortunate because where I used to practice, Moe Norman used to hit balls, and I could tell early on that he didn’t really move off the ball.  And I was being told that you have to move way off the ball, and I wasn’t really talented enough to get back to it.  So I would watch Moe and I would do some of the stuff that he was doing, and people told me, “ah you can’t hit like that, that guy’s crazy.”  I responded, “that guy flies balls into garbage cans for hours in a row.”  So that led me into it a little bit, and then my dad picked me up The Golf Machine, and that was kind of a fixed post, but there are different variations of pivots, and I thought, “if I have to be back on my left side at impact, why get too, too far away from there.”  By no means am I left tilting my spine, that’s not that at all, it’s like a vertical centralized tilt.  So if I stood on just my left foot and tried tilting to the left, I’d fall over, and if I tilted too far away from the target I’d fall over.  I think I got this drill from Bob Toski in Golf Digest.  I liked Bob Toski because he was about my height and he smashed it.  So doing this drill here causes you to rotate and create depth, because one of the only ways to stay balanced is you have to pivot through [your midsection – hips, pelvis].  So you’ve been told to keep your lower body quiet to keep your X-factor, stretch, etc, but since the backswing is a counter movement, that stretch is happening in the transition.  So let the lower body go on the backswing, keep it moving.  I never see a discus thrower not moving both ways.  So from up on one leg, you just hit half shots to half shots.  And the nice part  is that you’re really organizing  from a neurological standpoint that you are on your left side at impact constantly.  So I’m not left tilting.  
I think that even if you go to hit a ball, even if you want to be centralized, when you swing to the top, your hands and arms and the golf club are moving to the top with some momentum, so there’s going to be some shift.  I think mathematically in a model, it makes complete sense to swing on a fixed axis and just pivot around it.  But the human body, we are ligaments, tendons, muscles, sometimes muscles are shorter on one side than the other, it’s kind of a beautiful idea, but there is going to be some movement and lateral motion from right to left.  But I never want to see in any of these drills that people’s eyes are moving a lot.  Like I can stay here with my head and load up on my right side massively, which is actually going to help fire/ push into my left side.  But to me, the problem is, because of target acquisition, when my head’s going all over the place, I have to recalculate on the downswing where the ball is, just with my coordination, my hand eye coordination.  So I would take the kids from right hand, to left hand to until they were really good at it, where they could chip good with it, where they could pitch good with it, and then get them on one foot.  
From there we would get into some transfer drills and get into the kinematic sequence without letting them know that that was what it was.  So I got them to set up normal, then put their feet together, then take the club back from there, and right when they got to hip height, they had to step and hit.  So that’s in transition creating that stretch and the shortening of that muscle over that isometric center, core.  Justin Rose does that, that’s ten minutes of his warm up every day to get those things firing.  See the problem is, is that when people go to the range, when you’re going to warm up, you’re literally going to warm up, and I watch so many guys kibosh their round on the range.  Whereas like Hunter, he hits it so good on the course because on the range he never really sits there and sees the shot and goes through his breathing, he’s just warming up.  So this tool is going to create a heightened sensory awareness which is lie turning off these frontal lobes and letting all those motor skills start to come in.  But I’ve not seen anyone use it, that didn’t make them improve, it doesn’t mean that they made the tour, but if they improved five strokes then that’s a good thing.  
I think the only player I’ve met who has meditated his whole life has been Tiger.  There has probably been no one more in the thick of the battle.  Just to see how calm he is when he’s going through that when everyone else is you can tell that they’re shaken up.  What breathing does is that it’s hard to think and breathe at the same time.  And he’s taught how to breathe from the diaphragm, it’s not just panting short breaths.  It’s the way he’s using his diaphragm, the position of his chest, the position of his chin and it works in what we call a centering.  
Most people aren’t actually aware of their breathing.  Probably the only time we are breathing consistently is when we’re sleeping.  What happens when the mind is going and its speeding up, and the nervous system is speeding up, we’re not focusing on that.   

 

http://www.golfchannel.com/media/12-nights-academy-sean-foley/

How would you describe you teaching method/ philosophy?
Really my teaching method has been an amalgamation of everything I’ve seen, heard, or experienced.  So if I was to give credit to everyone we wouldn’t have time to do the show.  That being said, it’s obviously a function of bio-mechanics, which is important because

  1. we have to understand how the body moves, how the body works, because it is making the golf swing.  
  2. The second thing is that we have to understand the geometry in swinging in an arc and what those principles hold true to.  
  3. Thirdly there is the physics of velocity and speed.  

That being said, I think there are three lessons that everyone should be improving in in these three areas

  1. the first one is hitting the ball first every time, so solid contact.  Extremely important whether you shoot 90 or whether you shoot 70.  What’s defined as solid differs in both of those, but generally they equate to the same difference in score.  So when talking about solid contact, the first thing is recognizing that the weight is forward and the hands are forward.  If you do those two things you’ll hit the ball first and get the ball on line, which leads into the second point… 
  2. Understanding that the ball has to start on its target line.  As far as ball flight laws go, the ball doesn’t curve to the left because the face is pointed to the left.  The ball starts to the left because the face is pointed to the left.  So something really simple for people to understand is that the ball is going to come off at a 90* angle from where the face is pointed.  So if the ball has started right and is slicing, you’ve hit it with an open face, if the ball has started to the left and hooking, you’ve hit it with a closed face.  So really understanding and recognizing that coming into impact the face square for a straight shot, being open for a draw, and being closed for a fade is really important for people to understand.  So when your clubface is square, if you swing to the right, the ball is going to curve to the left and if you swing to the left the ball is going to curve to the right.
  3. The third and final principle is that you want to work on your game to the point that you’re ensuring that you only have one miss.  Golf can be difficult enough that it is a game measured in failure, so as long as I know that every bad shot I hit is going to go right of my target, that helps me to get rid of the fear of playing holes with water on the left and out of bounds on the right and knowing that I’m not going to have two misses which so many people are plagued with.


To have solid contact is a function of understanding that in the golf swing we’re just trying to rotate around our spine, there’s not a whole lot of lateral movement; there’s going to be some lateral movement in some players based on fitness and flexibility, but for the most part we want minimal movement into the right side (4:00).  Now from the top of the backswing, to understand how to hit the ball solid and compress it, our weight has to be forward at impact.  I would say 90% on the left side with the belt buckle and sternum either on top of, or ahead of the golf ball, and then from there the hands are forward and the shaft leans.  Those positions as much as they look on top of the ball, we need to realize the ball is going to get up in the air, one because the ball is compressed, so it’s going to come off at an angle based on the loft of the club, and two its going to continue to go up in the air because the friction of compressing it is making it spin backwards which creates drag and lifts the ball further up in the air.

If I have my hands forward and a neutral grip, the face is going to be open at impact which is going to start the ball out to the right, so the only way I can make it curve back to the left is if I hit the ball from the inside.

How do you get them to only have one miss?
Ball position and alignment, and others (like grip, posture), and I won’t say that there’s one way to do it, but if the ball is back in my stance, I’m definitely going to have the tendency to hit it right to left just based on the fact that the ball is going to be hit earlier on the arc, whereas a ball up in my stance, I’m going to be hitting it later in my arc and it’s going to be slightly more on an out to in.  So if I want to curve the ball to the right, I want it up in my stance, and if I want the ball to only curve to the left (because I don’t want to miss right) then I’m going to put the ball in the back of my stance.  So just simplifying those ideas of ball position and alignment.  Understand that if someone tries to correct a overhook by aiming farther to the left it’s a double edged sword because they will be swinging further out to the right, and trying to point the face at the target, the ball will hook even more.

Drill: start with the ball position just off the left heel.  Put your right foot on its toe, and then hit full shots.  What you’ll find is that you’re very consistent from here, because I can play golf if I didn’t have a right leg, as a right handed player.  It would be really difficult playing right handed without a left leg.  That takes us back to Ernest Jones and one of the earliest teachings of the game.  (7:10)    

Why do you put the club up against the back of the head?
Well, there are lots of reasons, there is a big lateral move towards the target on the downswing, but there never should be that much off of it on the backswing.  When you get to the top there is still a force/ pressure in the right leg which is helping us to create a force in between both feet.  So this isn’t just loading into your left side, you’re still loading into the right, but you can still feel a pressure in the left quad.  Optically your eyes haven’t moved that far off the ball.  This drill ensures that your eyes don’t move off the ball where your brain would have to make new calculations on the distance to the ball, and that’s just hand-eye coordination.  By staying in a single axis, by keeping everything centered, as we start to drive forward into our left leg and move forward it allows us to ensure those principles that I talked about: hitting the ball solid, starting it on the intended target line and having one miss.  To me it’s like: the ball’s not going to move, so why should I?  This supports the idea of the function of the arc, so as we create an arc around us, the more I move across the ball laterally, the more the circle turns into an ellipse.  And fourth, maybe the most important for most golfers out there, is that if I start bent over in flexion in my posture, and from here my head starts moving off the golf ball,  you can see that my shoulders start turning very level.  Well in order to hit down on the ball, my shoulders are going to have to get steep again.  Then the club must redirect over the top and then we are attack out to in which is the genesis of the slice.

Plato said that “insecurity comes from not understanding the concept” and I think the reason that a lot of people don’t improve is that, although they have their drill or their swing aid on their elbow, conceptually we have to be able to draw a picture recognize why it is what we should be doing.  Most people do not have this recognition.

I know you have a lot of your students hit balls barefooted.  Why are you doing that with a student?  What are you trying to accomplish? (11:05)
It’s understanding that the feet are the keyboard to the brain.  And we lose a lot of function in how our feet work when we are in shoes with stability and spikes and all that.  Hitting in barefoot maximizes balance.  Two it gets to the point of really being able to create power; all the biomechanic experts I’ve talked to all talk about the necessity to root yourself to the ground and grip the ground.  So once you’re in this position here and you’ve got that connection with the ground, you’re able to use the ground.  When I’m capable of using the ground, I’m capable of putting force into the ground and then that force is going to come up through my body.  That’s really the genesis of clubhead speed.  And really a simple analogy, “its the earthquake that causes the tsunami.”  It is also an environmental teacher.  It’s going to teach your brain 50 things about what you need to understand (11:54) that would be very difficult to explain auditorily to the student.

I want you to still try to create speed, and I want you to hit the shot staying in balance and holding your finish until the ball lands.

Our foot is where we house all of our proprioceptive qualities, which is basically our brain’s awareness of where we are at in an unstable environment.  And secondly our foot is full of mechano receptors which are receiving our mechanics.  So they are educating and integrating all of these super important muscles, the core into the legs to help us become more proficient.

This is a drill that I picked up, I’ve seen it a million times, but I got to a point to where it was explained well to me; what it is is a transition move, to drill how to generate power from the ground up the body and out the clubhead.  It seems like it might be difficult to do, but it’s quite simple.  (13:30)  You start out in a normal ball position, step out to where their feet are together, and then as they start back, the first part of this drill is as the arms are moving back, the lower body is starting forward and the upper body is turning against it.  It creates some good stretching through the left side of the body.  The energy that we are putting into the ground are called ground reaction forces, and as they are going into the ground, they are rebounding back up  through us.  And that is really the start of clubhead speed.

What was the best tip you ever received?
(15:00) The late great Canadian golf professional, Ben Kearn, who was my mentor growing up; Ben always used to say, nothing should be done at the expense of balance.  He was making a point about the golf swing, but he was also making a point about life, so as a coach he was much more than a golf coach, which I think is what great coaches are.  And ideally is that I think you shouldn’t be doing anything in your golf swing that’s going to affect the balance that you have.  So if you ever took a kid who was very talented and just started playing golf, if you can just teach them to focus on staying balanced, you start to notice a lot of the hand angles, plane angles, things like that would be in position.  So one of the first things that I think people need to realize is that within balance there is sequence.  The club has to travel the furthest distance.  So if the club has to travel the furthest distance in the arc, it has to move first.  The hands and arms are moving the second furthest distance, so they follow the club, then the torso, and then the hips move fourth.  From here (the top of the backswing) it’s the opposite sequence with: driving the hip first, having the torso move second, having the arms move third, and then the club moves last.  The difference of why that’s the case, is that the body is going to be rotating at impact at about 4 mph, while the club at impact could be moving up to 100 mph.

A tip for the low handicapper:
IF you look at golf, 70% or more of the strokes come from 110 yards  and in.  Even on a 470 yard par four that still holds true.  So if you had 10 hours to practice a week,  a low handicap is based on having time to do so, because golf is difficult.  So if you had someone with 10 hours of practice, 70% of that should be done from 110 yards and in.  And as far as ball striking goes, you’ll see people hit 50 7irons in a row on the range.  And they think they are hitting it well.  You have to practice your routine as much as you don’t practice doing it.  So you need to simulate practice like it’s game time, so you change each club, target, and shot every time.  So if you hit 50 balls, you hit Driver, 7iron, SW, PW, low, high, left to right, right to left, because we are out on the range and we are practicing ego.  Well if we haven’t been practicing that we get a false sense of confidence where many low handicaps can’t take it from the range to the course.


Still today I don’t know what’s right, but I have a pretty good understanding of what’s wrong and if I can teach people what’s wrong and not to do it, they can be better for it.

Really as a golf coach what I like to see is that they continue to improve and continue to improve.    

Putting Part 3 – Dr Bob Rotella: The Mental Game

Dr. Bob Rotella was the first book on sports psychology and I owe him and his books a great deal of credit for my success in golf and in life.  Below are his thoughts and proven strategies from Putting Out Of Your Mind.  Simon & Schuster Source. New York. 2001.

  • My Favorite Ideas
  • The Heart Of The Game
  • How The Best Putters Think
  • Speed: Trust Your Touch
  • Gaining Control By Giving Up Control
  • Making Putts Routinely
  • Putting In The Clutch
  • The Myth Of The Perfect Stroke
  • Other Notes
  • Rotella’s Rules For Putting

My Favorite Ideas

  1. If you’re properly focused on your target, your body will naturally produce the most rhythmic, elegant stroke it can make.  When a player I’m working with is sharply focused on his target, I can see that his stroke is smooth and flowing.
  2. Good players recognize when their commitments waver, and they set things right quickly.  They constantly recommit themselves.
  3.  I’ve seen improved wedge play elevate a professional’s game.  It can be the difference between playing on the Web.com Tour and playing and winning on the PGA Tour.
  4. Will helps you discipline yourself to eliminate distractions and pick out a target.  Will helps you work on that part of the putting process until you firmly believe in your target, believe that if you roll the ball to it, the ball will go in the hole.
  5. Spending a minute to 15 minutes each day thinking about nothing but making putts, reliving putts you’ve made and savoring the sight and the feeling again will “magically” give you the ability to putt much better. 
  6. A merely good team wins on nights when its shooters are hot.  Great teams win on nights when they don’t shoot well, because they always play defense, rebound, and shoot free throws.  And they always take the floor with a good attitude.  
  7. Consider the player who believes he’s a great putter.  He thinks back pleasantly to the good putts he’s made.  He never gripes, he never moans.  He never lets himself be thrown by something like a bumpy green.  When people ask how he’s putting, he usually responds, “Great!”  Because of this attraction or pull to this part of the game, it’s easy to practice this part of the game and have fun and play even better.
  8. The good putter, when he misses a putt, reviews his performance.  He asks him/herself: “did I clear my mind of all thoughts but the target?  Did I make a free, confident stroke?  If he did, he did all he could do.
  9. Your brain, eyes, and nervous system are marvelously equipped to roll the ball at the right pace if you just let them respond naturally.
  10. I don’t think Brad has innately better touch than most players.  He’s just more successful than most at trusting his touch.  He tells me speed just happens.
  11. Focus on the hole is essential.  Hal Sutton set the course record at Keswick Hall after Dr. Bob told him to play a round using his normal putting routine with his eyes not on the ball but on the target.
  12. Putters have to discipline themselves to putt as freely to a small target as they do when they putt to nothing. 
  13. Don’t try to force yourself to see a line.  Picking out a target and believing that it will work is equally effective.  
  14. Steering the putter, being too careful, strips a player of much his natural ability and accuracy.  It interferes with the purity of the interaction between a target and the nervous system.  Human beings are wired to putt best when the golf simply sees the target and reacts to it with as little conscious thought as possible.     
  15. He had to learn that seeing the target and reacting to it meant that he was doing his best.  He had to learn to be content with that, even on days when all of his putts didn’t fall, and particularly on days when nothing fell on the first four or five holes.
  16. He fended off thoughts of how far under par he was or what the rest of the field was doing, and where he stood in the tournament.
  17. Forced strokes look different from free strokes and the contact between putter and ball actually sounds different.
  18. he had to attain the same mental state on the greens that he had in the bunkers.  He had to become relaxed, even nonchalant at the moment of truth.  I asked him to keep his eyes on his target as he began to draw his putter back.  He did.  I asked him to keep in mind the idea of gaining control by giving up control.  He did.  “this feels so free, so flowing,” he said pleased.  I could see the difference in his stroke.  It was longer, but it didn’t look artificial.  It looked better.  Contact between ball and putter sounded quieter.  The ball seemed to roll a foot or two farther than he expected.
  19. And when I walk a practice round with players, I often ask them to verbalize their first impression of a putt so I’ll know what it is.  It’s amazing how accurate that impression.  Remember that sinking putts is the object of the exercise.  The goal in reading greens is to come to a point of clarity, a moment at which you are certain that you understand the way the ball will roll and you can make the ball roll that way.
  20.  I prefer a player to react calmly to a missed putt–even two of them on the same green.  Calmness says it doesn’t matter if he missed that putt, because the player knows he’s putting well and will soon hole some long ones to make up for the miss.  Calmness says a player has too much confidence in his putting to get upset over a miss.
  21. Most people who become good at golf learn that it’s best to maintain a low, consistent level of intensity through good shots and bad, because the calmer you are and the quieter you keep yourself, the easier it is to play the game (82).
  22. Great pressure putters have the same nerves the same glands, and the same emotions that plague the twenty-handicap player in your foursome who always manages to blow the decisive three-footer.  It’s how they respond to  nervous jitters that distinguishes them.
  23. The idea that there is a single correct way to putt is about as valid as the idea that there is a single correct way to write.
  24. Even the best players hit on average only thirteen or so greens per round.  That means five times a round they have to get up and down, and if their short game isn’t sharp they’re going to be looking at a lot of six and seven foot putts that are no gimmes.  For amateurs the short game is magnified even more because we usually only hit 8 or 9 greens at best. 
  25. No matter how skilled you are with the long clubs, you’re going to make roughly 40% of your shots with your putter.
  26. The putting game is the place to look if you want to get a competitive advantage.
  27. The ideal golf temperament = instinctively loves putting.  
  28. You’ll make your best stroke and hole the most putts in you only think of your target. 
  29. Orientation toward the target works because the subconscious brain is capable of quick, accurate adjustments.
  30. The smaller the target you have, the better the brain and body can function in getting the ball there.  
  31. Never putt for a three-foot circle.  If you aren’t trying to hole every putt you have, you are going to lose to someone who is.
  32. To gain control, give up control
  33. Devotion to an unvarying routine is one of the hallmarks of a good putter.
  34. Good players handle pressure putts by developing a strong routine and relying on it in the clutch.
  35. Good putters learn to welcome nervous symptoms rather than fear them.
  36. You already have touch.  You have to believe in it and use it.
  37. If you think the putter you’re using will help you, it probably will.  

The Heart Of The Game
Billy Mayfair, a PGA touring pro who beat Tiger Woods in the 1998 L.A. Open, does not have the prettiest putting stroke in golf.  He brings the putter back outside the target line and he straightens his blade until it is perpendicular to the target line.  He made a lot of putts that way even though the purists who saw him insisted he was cutting across the ball.  Billy grew up in Phoenix and enjoyed putting from the time he started playing golf.  He had little choice because his parents weren’t wealthy and when they dropped him off at a municipal golf course called Papago Park, they couldn’t give him money for greens fees or range balls.  So the only thing he could do for free was to putt and chip around the big crowned practice green.  And he did so five days a week after school developing into a splendid putter.  Even though he never hit the ball enormous distances, he won a lot of junior tournaments.  When Billy got out on the PGA tour in 1989 he did quite well and moved up to 12th on the money list in 1990.  But then he started to slip, developing problems with his short game, especially his putting.  Billy said that he became entranced by the unlimited supply of fresh golf balls to hit on the range, and consequently he spent less time on the short game and more time on the long game.  At the same time he started to listen to the critics of his putting stroke (there were so many of them he decided they had to be right) thinking that this is what he needed to become a winner.  Of course a player who starts spending too much time on his full swing and not enough on his wedges and chips will soon find himself facing longer putts for par.  Even the best players hit on average only thirteen or so greens per round.  That means five times a round they have to get up and down, and if their short game isn’t sharp they’re going to be looking at a lot of six and seven foot putts that are no gimmes.  For amateurs the short game is magnified even more because we usually only hit 8 or 9 greens at best.  Dr Bob Rotella had Billy rediscover the practice priorities he’d had as a kid and spend more time working on his wedges and his chipping as well as to think about his target and let the putt go, clearing his head of doubts and mechanical thoughts.   Billy did and went on to win his first Tour event in 1993 and the Tour Championship in 1995.  The best and smartest professional golfers practice putting as much as they do because they want to savor the joy of putting to win.  In his own words, “when you’re putting really well you see a line. It’s like a baseball player who’s hitting really good and the ball looks like it’s barely moving.  Your vision is different.”

In any sport (and most areas of life for that matter) there are fundamental skills that good coaches emphasize in their teaching and insist their players execute.  In basketball, I knew that every great team had a good attitude, rebounded well, played defense well, and shot free throws well.  Those skills separated them from the merely good teams and the less-than-good ones.  A merely good team wins on nights when its shooters are hot.  Great teams win on nights when they don’t shoot well, because they always play defense, rebound, and shoot free throws.  And they always take the floor with a good attitude.  

Any golfer whose improved ball striking becomes an excuse for hating to putt is in danger of wasting all the time he’s devoted to his full swing.  I see this syndrome threatening many of the successful professionals I work with.  Typically they made it to the PGA or LPGA Tour by first learning how to get the ball in the hole.  Quite often as Billy Mayfair did, this kind of player finds that his arrival on the Tour is a great opportunity to work on his full swing, perhaps the best opportunity he’s ever had.  There are no restrictions on how many range balls he can hit.  Quite commonly, these players become better, more consistent ball strikers at thirty than they were at twenty-two.  But this only puts more pressure on their putting.  Most of the professional tournaments boil down to putting contests.  They realize that putting is almost the only culprit keeping them from the success they’ve dreamed of since they were kids.  This can poison their attitude towards putting, turning them from a kid who naturally to a a middle-aged man who makes sour remarks about someone else’s putting success.

If you missed a short putt on the last hole of a tournament, would you remember it and admit it?  Jack Nicklaus has a selective memory and he does not choose to acknowledge those missed.  He was able to block from his mind all the missed putts.  He kept and replayed the memories of made putts.  He was able to retain a firm belief that the next one was going in the hole.

Creating a positive calm focus on your putting is the most important thing in putting.  The first step in developing this attitude is changing the way your memory works.  Michael Jordan used to say that he never pondered the mistakes he’d made in a basketball game for more than ten or fifteen minutes after the game was over.  There’s nothing worse for your putting than dwelling on the putts you’ve missed.  Where your focus goes, energy flows.  So if you focus on all those missed putts, you will feel like a terrible putter and not energized to make more putts.  This cycle works  as well for a downward spiral: believe you are a poor putter –> you have less potential to make putts –> you take a less confident action/ putting stroke –> you miss lots of putts and have lots of 3 putts –> you believe you are a terrible putter –> you have little potential to make putts –> you take a very mechanical, confidence lacking action/ putting stroke –> you miss a lot of putts and have even more 3 putts… and so the cycle continues.

On the other hand, if you believe you are a good putter –> you have potential to make putts –> you take a focused confident action/ putting stroke –> you make lots of putts –> you believe you are an even better putter –> you have even more potential to make even more putts –> you take even more confident action in your putting –> you make lots and lots of putts… and so the cycle continues!

Consider the player who believes he’s a great putter.  He thinks back pleasantly to the good putts he’s made.  He never gripes, he never moans.  He never lets himself be thrown by something like a bumpy green.  When people ask how he’s putting, he usually responds, “Great!”  Because of this attraction or pull to this part of the game, it’s easy to practice this part of the game and have fun and play even better.  Players with good attitudes find it much easier to putt in competition.  They are immune to doubts and fears about their technique.  Spending a minute to 15 minutes each day thinking about nothing but making putts, reliving putts you’ve made and savoring the sight and the feeling again will “magically” give you the ability to putt much better.

How The Best Putters Think
Focus on the hole is essential.  Hal Sutton set the course record at Keswick Hall after Dr. Bob told him to play a round using his normal putting routine with his eyes not on the ball but on the target.  He had tried it beforehand on the practice green for half an hour and it worked dramatically.  Sutton had the problem that I have suffered with as well, he’d start to feel the anguish of the three-putt before he’d even hit his first putt, “don’t waste that good drive and good iron shot by three-putting” (31).  Now I’m not suggesting that nayone can set a course record if he putts with his eyes on the target instead of the ball.  It is an exercise to help understand the feeling of being focused on the target just as much when he putted as he was when he hit longer shots.  I think it’s a useful experiment for any golfer to try and I often encourage players I work with to do it.  I think it would be very interesting to see what would happen if a group of people gave it a real test in competition.  They don’t, primarily because they’re skittish about the possibility of mishitting or actually whiffing a putt.  The exercise is helpful to a lot of players because it dramatizes the way good putters think.  It’s a little bit like taking a child’s head between your hands and directing his gaze precisely where you want him to look.   In this case, if  focuses the golfer’s attention where it should be–the target.

All you would see from a computer print out of a good putters’ thoughts is: “my target is that little tuft of raised grass on the lip of the cup.”  Their minds are quiet and clear.  In our society, we’ve been educated to revere thought, to revere the conscious mind.  And in some endeavors that’s fine: engineering, strategist, training your mind for personal development.  But this cultural pressure makes it difficult for some people to clear their minds.  What gets you into a peak state is when you are demonstrating positive confident body language and focusing on positive good things.  In putting, you want to narrow the focus of your thoughts as much as possible, to shut down a lot of the conscious, thinking parts of the brain, the parts that give instructions.  Putting is one of those physical tasks that are best left to the less intellectual, less rational parts of the mind.
Putting while looking at the hole          

If you’re putting, you’ll make your best stroke and hole the most putts if you think only of your target.  Its like when your car is in a spin and a wall is facing you.  If you focus on the wall you will surely crash, but if you focus on the road to the left of you you will unconsciously steer out of the spin.

Golfers don’t mean to undermine themselves.  Some of them don’t know that dwelling on the results of putts rather than on the simple act of rolling the ball to a target doesn’t help them.  They don’t know that constantly being aware of the score doesn’t help them.  Or if they know these things, they haven’t developed the mental discipline to shut those thoughts out of their minds when they putt.  They might think that if they lose track of the score and don’t worry much about whether the ball goes in the hole, they’re not trying hard enough, not giving 100 percent.  But it’s pretty certain Tiger isn’t thinking that way.  In the clutch, at least, Tiger is thinking of the target.  That’s why Tiger’s become one of the best clutch putters ever to play the game.

Putters have to be able to focus on a smaller target because the smaller the target you have, the better your brain and body can function in trying to get the ball there.  A good putter’s target is never simply the hole.  He is always trying to putt the ball into the hole, but the hole is much too big to serve as a good target.  The smaller the target you have, the better your brain and body can function in trying to get the ball there.  On short putts, you should pick out the smallest target you can focus on.  It might be a blade of grass or a discoloration on the edge of the hole.  It might be a scuff mark on the white liner inside the hole.  I say that the brain and body “can” function well in reacting to a small target, not that they automatically do so.  Some people, as their target gets smaller, tend to get more careful and controlling with their stroke.  They can make a free stroke easily if you tell them simply to putt the ball to nothing.  But the smaller the target gets, the tighter they get.  Putters have to overcome this.  They have to discipline themselves to putt as freely to a small target as they do when they putt to nothing.  

Ideas on what to focus on:

  • Make all putts straight.  Suppose you think that the putt will break about four inches from right to left.  Since four inches is the approximate diameter of the cup, measure one cup width from the edge of the hole to the right and pick out a blade of grass or a discoloration from there.  Sometimes with a downhill putt on a dramatic slope, a player will pick the spot on the green that he considers the apex of the ball’s curving journey to the hole.  Or it might be the point where a putt reaches the crest of a downslope and starts to go downhill.  It doesn’t matter.  Let the slope of the green and gravity break the ball into the hole.  
Using the AimPoint style, you pick a spot of the putt based on the high point of the putt (that is on a perpendicular line between you and the hole).  For non double breakers you pick a spot based on which side breaks the most.  For sloping downhill putts, picking a spot from the apex (that is short of the hole) will help distance control. I have found this to be an effective method while stroking the ball looking at this spot. 
  • Dave Stockton’s method of rolling the ball over a spot an inch in front of the ball has helped me immensely with the short putts.  He also advises to pick a new center of the hole so that you have a greater margin for error on your speed.
Don’t be concerned if you rarely or never see a line, or if your brain doesn’t furnish you with a “coming attractions” clip of the putt you’re about to make.  That doesn’t mean you’re not a good putter.  It simply means that your brain doesn’t work as visually as some other people’s.  Don’t try to force yourself to see a line.  Picking out a target and believing that it will work is equally effective.  
If you do see a line, don’t be afraid to use it.  It’s probably a very good representation of what the ball will actually do.  It can help you putt more decisively.  There’s only one problem that orientation to a line can lead to, and it’s analogous to the problem some players have when they select a small target and tighten up.  A player can be too careful about trying to start the ball out along the line he has imagine.  He can try to steer the blade of the putter along the line.  That doesn’t work.  Steering the putter, being too careful, strips a player of much his natural ability and accuracy.  It interferes with the purity of the interaction between a target and the nervous system.  Human beings are wired to putt best when the golf simply sees the target and reacts to it with as little conscious thought as possible.     
To win in golf today, you have to be prepared to go low at every opportunity.  By low I mean shooting not just in the 60s, but the low 60s.  Obviously, to go low a player must be in command of his entire game–driving the ball well, hitting greens, sinking putts.  Of the three, sinking putts is the most important.  Quite often, professional golfers get their swings grooved well enough that they have a chance to go low.  The ones who actually do it are the ones who are able to discipline their minds to think only of the target at every putting opportunity.  The ones who fail to go low let other thoughts get in their way.  They think that they’ve already gotten three or four under par, so they ought to be careful and preserve their subpar finish, or that they’ve used up their birdie putts for the day, etc.  I’ve worked with a player named Tripp Isenhour who’s had that problem.  When Tripp was at Georgia Tech, he was a good, consistent college golfer.  He never shot a high round.  He didn’t shoot many particularly low rounds either.  Once he turned pro, he found that shooting a couple of rounds of even par was a good way to have weekends off and go broke fast.  Tripp decided to quit golf in frustration.  But when he decided to give professional golf another shot, Tripp and I worked hard on his attitude toward putting, particularly on thinking of the target and only the target.  He had to learn that seeing the target and reacting to it meant that he was doing his best.  He had to learn to be content with that, even on days when all of his putts didn’t fall, and particularly on days when nothing fell on the first four or five holes.  Tripp accepted these ideas.  That along with a serious commitment to fitness, practice, and a lot of other good habits, helped improve his game.  He made it to the Buy.com Tour after a year’s time.  He set his sights on the ultimate goal of becoming a winner on the PGA Tour.  I knew he was getting there when he called and let me know how he’d won the Mississippi Golf Coast Open.  Tripp shot 70-75 and barely made the cut.  In the third round, the field face miserable weather conditions, wet and windy.  But that was the day Tripp discovered that his game was under control and he had a chance to go low.  He siezed that opportunity.  He birdied five of the first six holes, sinking putts from four to thirty feet.  He was seeing his target, having no trouble believing in it.  His touch was just right.  “Let’s keep it going, keep rolling it to the target,” he told himself.  “Relax and let it happen.”  He fended off thoughts of how far under par he was or what the rest of the field was doing, and where he stood in the tournament.  Only later that day, after his round was over, would he learn that just one other player managed to break 70.  He just kept seeing his target and rolling his ball to it.  Tripp didn’t make all his putts that day.  In fact, he lipped out six of them.  But his mental discipline stayed intact through all eighteen holes.  At days end, he had a 63.  He won that tournament on the strength of that low round.  And that victory helped assure him of a promotion to the PGA Tour the following year.  The key to all of that was clearing his mind and thinking only of his target.

Adam Scott’s clutch putts at the 2013 Masters


Although Adam Scott missed multiple putts down the stretch at the 2013 Masters, when it came to the 18th hole on Sunday, he put everything behind him, focused on the line and the hole (recalling past putts from history to help him with the read), and stroked the putt with a free confidence sending it in the hole. 

Speed: Trust Your Touch 
Once in a while, I work with a player who tells me he has no touch.  He rolls the ball way past the hole all the time.  Or he leaves it way short.  Or he hits it way past on one hole and then, compensating, he leaves it short on the next.  Or he can’t putt the fast greens at his best friend’s club, or he can’t adjust to slow, shaggy greens.  When someone tells me this, I usually respond by tossing them a ball.  They catch it, and I ask them to toss it back.  Without thinking about it, they toss it precisely into my hands.  “That’s amazing,” I say.  “Your toss reached my hand exactly right.  I didn’t have to reach out for it.  It didn’t come in hard enough to sting me.  I could just catch it.”  The player nods, maybe grins a little.  Then I play the same game of toss-and catch with an unfamiliar object like an ashtray or a stuffed animal.  Instinctively the player adjusts to the weight of the new object and tosses it the correct distance.  “That shows that you have good touch,”  I tell him.  “Your problem isn’t that you don’t have touch.  Your problem is that you’re worrying about speed instead of putting to make it.”  The last thing you want to do if you’re trying to make putts is worry about speed.  Your brain, eyes, and nervous system are marvelously equipped to roll the ball at the right pace if you just let them respond naturally.  All too often though, golfers get in their own way on issues of speed.  They decide that they don’t have touch because they’ve left some critical putts short or rolled them too long.  When I ask these players what their mental state was when they made these speed mistakes, they almost invariably confess that they were putting fearfully, afraid of making a mistake with pace.  Well, even the players with the best touch in the world are going to mishit putts when their minds are in that state.  I simply ask players not to evaluate their touch until they have some experience putting with the proper attitued.  And the proper attitude doesn’t worry much about speed.  It’s not that speed isn’t important in making putts.  It is.  But the fact is that Brad Faxon, like nearly all other good putters I know, never consciously think about speed when he’s putting.  He trusts his touch.  When he reads a green and picks out a line, he’s also thinking, subconsciously, of a speed that will make that line the correct one.  When he strokes the ball, he’s thinking about rolling it on the line he’s selected, rolling it on the line that will take it into the hole.  He lets the speed take care of itself.  Nearly all the time, it does.  I don’t think Brad has innately better touch than most players.  He’s just more successful than most at trusting his touch.  He tells me speed just happens.  There may be times when firmness is the smart option, such as a straight, uphill three-footer on a green that’s been spiked up.  There may be times when a delicate touch is called for.  I don’t care what speed a player opts for as long as he’s trying to put the ball in the hole.

The proper pace of a putted ball has engendered more myths and hogwash than almost anything else in golf.  Few people, I suspect, get through their first round of golf without hearing the adage “never up, never in.”  It makes it seem as if the goal in putting is not to get the ball in the hole, but to roll it past the hole.  At least if you roll it past the hole, no one is going to call you “Alice” and question your boldness, your courage, your manhood.  Leaving a putt short has been transformed from simply a mistake to something effeminate.  That made American golfers, who tend to be as macho as the next fellows, all the more determined to make sure they never left a putt short.  I’m sorry, but a miss is a miss–whether it runs a foot past the hole or stops a foot short.  You get no extra credit for getting the ball past the hole.  Good players understand this.  They know that if they;re trying to roll the ball in the hole softly, it’s possible that it will stop a bit short of the hole.  If it does, it’s a mistake like any other.  They go on.

The people who advance the notion that there are “green-light putts” and “red-light putts” tend to be, I find, people whose bad putting forced them into alternative careers as broadcasters.  Giving them a microphone and encouraging them to talk about putting is a little bit like going to traffic court, taking all the people convicted of careless driving, and putting them in charge of driver education down at the local high school.  The truth is that every putt is a green-light putt.  That doesn’t mean of course that you must hit the ball hard on every putt.  In the course of a normal round, especially on fast greens, there are going to be some putts like that.  When he faces them, a smart player may decide to hit his putt just hard enough to get it into the hole.  If he does, he also reads more break into the putt, knowing that a slower putt will be affected more by the contour of the green.  But he doesn’t try to miss, doesn’t say to himself, “Where do I want to leave this ball for the next putt?”  He tries to putt the ball into the hole, just as much as he would for an uphill, four-foot par putt.  Occasionally, when I’m teaching amateurs, someone will hear this and say, “Well that’s fine for pros, Doc, but all I’m trying to do in that situation is avoid a three-putt.”  Obviously no one likes to three-putt.  But putting to avoid the three-putt is like trying very carefully to color inside the lines.  It eliminates your artistry, your flair, your imagination.  

It also defeats your own purpose.  When a child is told to try very hard to color inside the lines, she generally fails at it, because by trying too hard she robs herself of some of her fine motor skills.  When a putter tries very hard not to three-putt, he generally winds up three-putting more often, and for similar reasons.  He doesn’t get the first putt on line, or he awkwardly leaves it too short or too long.  And he will definitely make far fewer of his first putts.  I’m not suggesting that a golfer who putts every first putt to make it, whether it’s uphill or downhill, fast or slow, will never three-putt.  He will.  All golfers do.  But he will three-putt less often than the player who’s afraid of three-putting.  And he will one-putt more often.  In the long run, he’ll take fewer strokes.  Players have to be ready to adjust to green speeds from one day to the next, fortunately, the brain can do this for us automatically.  You might find that you haven’t got a feel for the proper pace on the first green you putt.  But after that, your touch is going to get better.  It will very quickly be as good as it was on your home course–as long as you keep your mind quiet and offer it no “instruction.”  

Most players don’t like to wait for their brains to adjust, so I don’t have a problem with a player who gets to a new course early so he can spend some time on the practice green, rolling putts and getting a feel for their speed and the way they break.  A player can also mentally shift his target backward or forward to help him compensate for a new and unfamiliar green speed.  If the putt is downhill and fast, imagine a cup a foot or so short of the real cup, on the line you intend your ball to take.  Putt at that.  Conversely, for slow uphill putts, imagine a cup a foot or so behind your real target and putt at it. 

I think that this is not as effective as simply trusting your instincts and putting to your real target.  If however, you can’t bring yourself to do that on a fast or slow green, it’s better than the alternative of putting fearfully, trying constantly to “fix” your perceived lack of touch.  The best way to deal with speed is to remember that you already have touch.  You just have to believe in it and use it.      


Gaining Control By Giving Up Control

When I meet with new clients on a practice green it’s generally quite easy to persuade them that clearing their minds and thinking only of their targets improves their putting.  More often than not, a professional golfer with a clear mind a focus on a target will hole nearly all of his five-footers, lots of ten to fifteen footers, and a fair number of eve longer putts.  He’ll turn to me with a pleased smile and say, “Gee, Doc, I putt really well when you’re standing here. I never knew it could be this easy.”  It’s not.  All to often that player who putted so well on the practice green will come in after his next tournament round with a 73 or 74 next to his name.  He’ll tell me that he can’t understand what happened to his putting. “I was trying hard, really hard, to clear my mind and think only of my target,” he will say.  “But it didn’t work.  No matter how much I was grinding away at it, I still couldn’t make any putts.”  As soon as I hear the word grinding, I have a good idea of what went wrong.  Grinding is one of those concepts that is widespread in sport and, unfortunately, inimical to good putting.  Grinding suggest that someone is doing his utmost to succeed.  If he’s weight training, he’s popping capillaries to make sure he gets that last repition done.  If we’re talking about a student, we’re talking about someone who might not have the highest SAT scores in his class, but who closes the library every night because he’s going to get into medical school no matter what.  And if he’s putting, it suggests that he’s trying to will the ball into the hole.  I generally admire grinders, and I believe in the transcendent importance of will.  Free will is a precious, fundamental part of human nature, the part on which all true accomplishment is based.  A strong will is very helpful in putting.  But it’s helpful only when you’re behind the ball, preparing to putt.  Will helps you discipline yourself to eliminate distractions and pick out a target.  Will helps you work on that part of the putting process until you firmly believe in your target, believe that if you roll the ball to it, the ball will go in the hole.
But the application of will gets trickier when you are standing over the ball, ready to putt it.  In fact, I believe that at that point, will can get in the way.  The proper role for a strong will at this stage of putting is to support a firm belief in the golfer’s mind that all the preparation is done and the ball will go in the hole if he turns control of the action over to his subconscious.  But then free will must exit the stage and leave the scene to other actors.  I have heard players say that they will the ball into the hole, and some of them have been successful putters.  I believe that their will helps them focus their attention on their targets and eliminate all other thoughts.  But if they then continue to try to force themselves, through an act of will, to hit a perfect putt, I think any success they have is a tribute to their innate ability, their concentration and their belief in their targets.  I think that they could putt even better if they stopped being so willful when they stroked their putts.

Paul Azinger is a great example.  Long before he ever talked to me about his putting, Paul had been a successful player, winning lots of Tour events, a PGA Championship, and contributing to some memorable and emotional Ryder Cup wins.  He displayed the strength of his will again when he battled and defeated cancer.  When we started working together, Paul told me that despite all his success. he’d never actually liked the way his putting felt.  To him it wasn’t athletic, free, or easy.  He felt that he had an artificial stroke, one that he mechanically foced into the pattern he’d been taught was classic–a short backswing, a long follow-through, and a putter head that accelerated through the ball.  I could see that tension, that artificiality in his stroke.  In fact, I could hear it.  Forced strokes look different from free strokes and the contact between putter and ball actually sounds different.


When I think of free strokes, I think of Darren Clarke at the 2011 British Open

 I told Paul that his putting didn’t seem to fit with the rest of his game.  When he was in a bunker, for instance, he hit beautifully athletic, relaxed shots that had more than once gone into the cup to win a tournament for him.  How, I asked him, did he think about his bunker shots?  “It’s like night and day from my putting stroke,” he said.  “I don’t think about it.  I just look where I want it to go, splash the sand, and it goes there.”  Paul did not need me to spell out for him the obvious fact that if he wanted his putting to be as outstanding as his bunker play, he had to attain the same mental state on the greens that he had in the bunkers.  He had to become relaxed, even nonchalant at the moment of truth.  This can be very tough to do, especially if a golfer has already mastered the idea of picking out a small target (49).  Picking out a minute target makes a lot of golfers want to make their strokes minutely precise.  The challenge of putting consists essentially of doing the opposite–picking out a small target and then taking a free, uncontrolled stroke.  I suggested that Paul think about gaining control by giving up control.  This can be a hard concept to grasp.  Players are told that putting is crucially important.  They’re told that at the very climax of their putting routines, they can’t try very hard.  They hear words and phrases like nonchalant, carefree, don’t give a damn.  I tell them to putt as if they didn’t care whether they made it or not.  Or to putt as if they had been preordained that the ball would fall no matter how they stroked it.  A lot of players respond to that by saying, “huh?”  I remind them of a few things.  How well do they do with four-footers if they’re in a stroke-play competition where every putt counts?  How well do they do with four-footers when they’re out with their friends playing a casual Nassau and someone concedes that four-footer?  They miss a lot of the four footers that count.  When they take a casual swipe at the putt that’s been conceded, they knock it in with remarkable frequency.          

I remind them that even if they could somehow force their body to do everything perfectly, they still couldn’t will the ball into the hole.  Putting machines hitting balls on flat greens still miss a fair number of putts.  There are just too many variables that are beyond control.  The turf can be imperfect.  The ball can be imperfect.  The wind can gust.  Any of these factors can cause a putt to miss.  But the main reason trying too hard doesn’t work is that it almost invariably diminishes the chance of making a good stroke.  It introduces doubt to the mind.  It tightens the muscles.  It robs a player of his natural talent and destroys his rhythm and flow.  Sometimes an example from another sport helps golfers see this.  In basketball, for example, I’ve noticed that teams often play better defense when they’re on the end of the floor where their bench is.  But they play better offense on the opposite end.  The reason is that their coach is yelling at them and they hear him.  This raises their intensity on defense.  Intense defenders are generally better defenders than casual ones.  On offense, the coach’s voice can also raise intensity.  But that rarely results in more scoring.  On the offensive end a basketball team doesn’t need feverish intensity.  It needs creativity, boldness, imagination, and confidence.  It needs players who keep looking for their shot even when they’ve missed a few.  When the coach is haranguing his players to work harder on offense, he’s not going to get more points.  He’s going to get more turnovers, more missed shots, and more foregone opportunities.


Mike Weir’s putt on the 18th hole to send the 2003 Masters to a playoff he would go on to win.  Absolutely clutch.

We’ve been conditioned since childhood to believe that losing isn’t pleasant.  But it’s at least acceptable if the athlete gave 100% of himself.  I’ve had players tell me that they can live with themselves if they try hard and putt poorly.  But they can’t sleep at night if they putt poorly and have the sense that they weren’t trying hard enough.  They don’t understand that the only relationship between trying your hardest and doing your best is that if you try your hardest you won’t do your best–in putting at least.  The most persuasive thing I can say to someone who doesn’t get this idea is, “well if what you’ve been doing had been working, we wouldn’t be talking would we?”  I don’t say it to be harsh, but because I know that old and destructive habits of thought are like weeds.  They’re hard to kill.

Gaining control by giving up control only seems like a contradiction in terms.  In fact, it’s a fairly common pattern in our lives.  Take for instance a teenager.  There comes a time in a teen’s life when his or her parents have to understand that they can no longer have complete control over their child’s life.  They can’t dictate where she is at every moment, whom she speaks to, what she wears, what she does.  If they try to dictate these details, the teenager is likely to rebel and, behind the parents’ backs, do exactly what they don’t want.  Parents of teenagers are much wiser if they relax the reins and trust that the years they spent instilling sense and values into their child’s mind will pay off when they give the child some independence.  Putting is like that.  Take for instance a public speaker.  When an inexperienced speaker is asked to make a presentation before an audience, it’s usually because someone admires her mind and figures she has something worthwhile to say, that she’s a person of accomplishment.  Being an accomplished person, this inexperienced speaker sets out to eliminate the possibility that she’ll stand up behind the lectern, open her mouth, and not be able to think of anything to say.  She desperately wants to avoid that.  So she writes her speech down, word for word.  She edits it.  She memorizes it.  She practices it.  And when the time comes to deliver the speech, just to make sure she won’t leave anything out or stand up and draw a blank, she brings her text and reads it.  And, of course, she reads it so dully that the admirable qualities of mind that caused her to be invited in the first place never come across to her audience.  I’m fortunate in that I once had a teacher, June Dorian, who advised me to approach a public presentation as if I were having a conversation with one person–casual, relaxed, engaged.  Putting is like that too.  Take for instance, jazz musicians.  Good jazz men relax.  They let the music flow.  Take for instance dancing.  A lot of people think they can’t dance.  But they go to a family wedding, have a couple of drinks, start  feeling the music, and dance very well.  They can dance if they don’t let themselves care about dancing correctly.

I’m not asking players to stop caring.  I’m asking them to give themselves their best chance to make putts.  And the best way to do this is to relax a little, perhaps even to pretend they don’t care, to remind themselves that even if they miss a crucial putt, the bank is not going to foreclose and their kids will still love them.  Minimizing the importance of a putt is much more helpful than maximizing it.

Paul Azinger immediately grasped the idea of gaining control by giving up control.  It appealed to him.  Some players respond to one idea, others to another.  You have to find a way to present an idea in a way that seems to the player instinctive and understandable to him.  For Paul, that was “gain control by giving up control.”  We started working on a few putting drills.  I asked him to keep his eyes on his target as he began to draw his putter back.  He did.  I asked him to keep in mind the idea of gaining control by giving up control.  He did.  “this feels so free, so flowing,” he said pleased.  I could see the difference in his stroke.  It was longer, but it didn’t look artificial.  It looked better.  Contact between ball and putter sounded quieter.  The ball seemed to roll a foot or two farther than he expected.  (I suspect the changes in the sound and the distance the ball traveled were because a free, unforced stroke is more likely to contact the ball precisely on the putter’s sweet spot).  One day in the midst of the process of developing a freeing and target oriented mental putting routine, Paul happened to be in a pro shot and he saw one of the long shafted putters.  He picked it up and casually tried it on the floor of the shop.  He immediately felt that his putting stroke got longer, more graceful and rhythmic, more natural, more free.  He soon started using the long putter in competition, and he was using it when he won the Hawaiian Open, his first Tour victory since his battle with cancer.  Did the long putter help him?   Well, I know his putting got better.  I think the more important factor, by far, was the effort Paul was making to get freer with his stroke to gain control by giving up control.  But maybe the switch to the long putter helped him make the mental transition from a feeling that he was forcing his stroke to a feeling that he was simply seeing it and doing it.  I have been around golf long enough to have a healthy respect for whatever works.  If you think the putter you’re using will help you, it probably will.  Conversely if you think the putter you’re using is worthless, it most likely will be.  Most of the best putters I know long ago found a putter they liked.  Years later they’re still playing with it, or something very similar to it.  There’s nothing like Old Faithful!

The good putter, when he misses a putt, reviews his performance.  He asks him/herself: “did I clear my mind of all thoughts but the target?  Did I make a free, confident stroke?  If he did, he did all he could do.  If he still missed, he just mentally shrugs his shoulders.  If all putts went in, he figures, golf would be too easy.  That miss just makes it all the more likely that he’ll make the next one.

Making Putts Routinely
The devotion to an unvarying routine is one of the hallmarks of a good putter.  Davis Love III who is a very good putter, employs the same routine whenever he putts, whether it’s in a practice round or on the final green at the Belfry with the Ryder Cup at stake.  Young Davis wanted to be a great player, but he didn’t think he was much of a putter.  I could see otherwise.  Davis had talent as a putter.  But, as I told him, he was getting in his own way.  In this context, getting in your own way means permitting something extaneous that you generate to interfere with putting your best.  If a player is about to putt and he starts silently lecturing himself about taking the putter head straight back along the target line, he’s getting in his own way.  If he remembers the putts of similar length that he’s missed in the past, he’s getting in his own way.  If he starts wondering whether he can make the cut if he misses the putt, he’s getting in his own way.  If he starts thinking about how much money is at stake, or whether someone else is making birdies, he’s getting in his own way.  One of the allies in combating these impediments is a strong putting routine.  A putting routine has two intertwined components.  One is the physical activity–taking the grip, taking the stance, practice swings, etc. The second, and more important component is the mental activity–reading the green, deciding on the line, clearing the mind, putting to make it, and accepting the results.    When Michael Jordan and Larry Bird go for a free throw they have a ritual of taking their stance, dribbling/ spinning the ball in their hands, taking aim, and letting the shot go.  They looked at the target and let the shot go without delay.  If you can toss a ball into someones hands you are athletic enough to putt (basically everyone).  Davis set about mastering a routine that captured his athleticism.  It took hundreds and hundreds of repetitions before it became uncscious and automatic, but once Davis makes a commitment to something, he sticks to it.  That’s why he began working with single ball on the practice green, and why he always practices the same rhythmic core of his routine.

Davis Love III winning the 1997 PGA Championship

The eyes and mind of a good player start to process information about a putt almost as soon as his approach shot stops moving.  As he strides up the fairway towards the hole, his imagination comes into play.  He sees the general contour of the land and he starts to envision how his ball will be affected when he rolls it.  Much has been written over the years about reading putts.  Some of it is no doubt valid, but a lot of it is pseudo-science at best.  One thing I do know is that I’ve seen a lot of putts missed because golfers’ heads were churning with so much information about how to read greens that they were unable to focus on their targets.  Experience often doesn’t help much in reading putts.  It’s the older, more experienced players who have had time to absorb all the supposedly helpful data about reading greens who tend to become paralyzed by doubt.  Kids who are new to the game seem to know better.  They just take a look and whack it.  They putt well in that unsophisticated way because they tend to go with their first impression of how the putt will break.  If I have a cardinal rule about reading greens, that’s it.  Your first impression of how a putt will break will be right more often than any other impression you might form.  I don’t wholly agree with this viewpoint; if you have a doubt about your first impression and you know for sure that the original read was incorrect than obviously go with the second read.  The goal of your reading routine is to come up with a firm, decisive idea of how the putt will break.  Keep green reading as simple as possible.  Putting is a game, an imaginative, creative, athletic game.  You putt best when you’re feeling loose, decisive, and confident.  Trusting your first impression helps you be that way.

The bottom line is that your first impression won’t always be accurate, though it will be accurate a lot of the time.  You’re going to misread some putts, you’re going to be fooled sometimes by a tricky green.  That’s the nature of the game.  But your second and third impressions won’t be any more accurate (if you are questioning the read constantly)–indeed they’ll be less so.  And the stroke you make with two or three impressions rattling around in your brain will almost certainly be less decisive and less confident than the one you make if you go with your instinct.  If I saw evidence that players who reread the greens got that sort of putt in the hole and players who went with their first impression missed it, I might reassess my belief in the value of putting by that instinctive first impression.  But I don’t.  I don’t see any evidence that the second and third reads are any more accurate than the first.  Everyone misreads certain putts, no matter how many times they read them.  And when I walk a practice round with players, I often ask them to verbalize their first impression of a putt so I’ll know what it is.  It’s amazing how accurate that impression.  Remember that sinking putts is the object of the exercise.  The goal in reading greens is to come to a point of clarity, a moment at which you are certain that you understand the way the ball will roll and you can make the ball roll that way.

If you’re executing a good mental routine, you’re going to feel the atmosphere around you change.  It won’t of course.  But your perceptions of it will.  Players with strong putting routines tell me that they feel as if they’re stepping into their own little world.  It’s almost like going into a bubble.  Their awareness of the things around them fades as their focus on the putt they’re facing tightens and intensifies.  It’s a pleasant place, this little world.  They have the feeling they love to putt.  They take great pleasure from their skill at it.  They feel safe, secure, and competent.  They don’t care what anyone else thinks or might think about the putt they’re about to hit.  They are immersed in the challenge of putting it into the hole.

Pace of Play
I like to see players make their reads fairly quickly.  Once in a while, with a long putt on a green that has some artificial humps, tiers, and ridges, it may be advisable to walk around a putt and see it from both sides of the hole.  Do this only if you’re certain that you’re trying to find a way to get the ball in the hole, not looking for reasons why that’s going to be hard to do.  But most putts aren’t that complicated.  That’s not to say that you should rush through this phase of your routine.  There’s an understandable concern about pace of play these days.  But it’s important to realize that the problem of five-hour rounds doesn’t stem from people taking their time going through their putting routines.  It stems from people not being ready when it’s their turn to play.  It stems from people who waste time rereading putts.  Your routine should not waste time of course.  It must be something you can execute within the time limits allowed by the rules.  But once you’re confident you’re within those parameters, don’t let anyone or anything rush you.  Go through your routine at a deliberate, comfortable pace.  If you adopt a routine such as the one I’ve described here, you will never have trouble with slow play.  The player who begins reading too carefully winds up missing more putts.  Soon he’s not only over reading, he’s fiddling with his stroke while playing competitively, trying to fix it (76).  I tell people who feel they must try really hard to make putts (by reading and rereading) that putting is not math homework.  Putting is a game, an imaginative, creative, athletic game.  You putt best when you’re feeling loose, decisive, and confident.  Trusting your first impression helps you be that way.  Rereading greens makes it harder to get into that effective state of mind.

Attitude
When Seve four-putted a green at Augusta he commented about it: “I putt and miss.  I putt and miss.  I putt and miss.  I put and make.”  People laughed, but it suggested to me something about the way Seve’s mind worked.  Seve’s answer suggested that he was completely in the present moment on each of those putts.  He didn’t say that the greens at Augusta were slick and treacherous.  He didn’t ruminate about the iron shot that may have left him with a tough first putt.  His attitude hadn’t changed from one putt to the next.  He wasn’t affected by his misses.  He had had four putts.  He’d tried to make each of them.  He’d succeeded on the fourth.  He had done all a golfer can do.  That’s why, in his prime, he was such a great player.  A smart response to those inevitable misses is the last major element in a good routine.  You must be resilient about missed putts.  Remember that it’s how you respond to your misses that matters, not whether you miss.  You can choose to be angry about your misses or you can choose to accept them.  More often than not, anger is the enemy of focus.  I prefer a player to react calmly to a missed putt–even two of them on the same green.  Calmness says it doesn’t matter if he missed that putt, because the player knows he’s putting well and will soon hole some long ones to make up for the miss.  Calmness says a player has too much confidence in his putting to get upset over a miss.


I don’t advocate getting angry about missed putts.  More often than not, anger is the enemy of focus.  A temper tantrum is a form of getting in your own way.  If you’re irritated with yourself that you didn’t putt to make it, then at least you’re focusing on the real mistake.  If you vow to do better at focusing your mind for the next putt, a bit of what Sam Snead called “sensible irritation” might actually be helpful.

It may help to keep in mind that putting is not supposed to be easy and greens have been designed to make two-putts a challenging goal that no player will always meet.  You’re human, you’re going to make mistakes.  Golf is a game of mistakes, and that makes it a game that will beat you up mentally if you let it.  You might as well have some compassion for yourself.  From compassion comes forgiveness and from forgiveness comes forgetting.  The only constructive thing you can do about a missed putt is to forget it.  That way, you can be free and confident on the next one.  Your routine after making a putt isn’t so problematic.  It’s fine to be happy if you hole one.  Feeling the emotion helps cement the memory in your mind, and you want to remember your successful putts.  You can overdo it though, take Hunter Mahan at the 2008 Ryder Cup for example.  On the 17th hole, he made a bomb of a putt and went bananas, jumping and fistpumping around the green.  He got really riled up and then went on to hit his next tee shot in the water.

Most people who become good at golf learn that it’s best to maintain a low, consistent level of intensity through good shots and bad, because the calmer you are and the quieter you keep yourself, the easier it is to play the game (82).

Putting in the Clutch
It’s been said that golfers who putt well under pressure have ice water in their veins, or that they don’t feel nervous.  That’s just media baloney.  Great pressure putters have the same nerves the same glands, and the same emotions that plague the twenty-handicap player in your foursome who always manages to blow the decisive three-footer.  It’s how they respond to  nervous jitters that distinguishes them.  Their routines are  the foundation of that response.  As I’ve mentioned, golfers under pressure revert to their dominant habits.  If your dominant habit is a routine that gets both your body and mind into a position to putt well, you have a big advantage over player who haven’t got a sound routine and find themselves trying to invent one in the clutch.  Part of this is physical.  As Jim said to me after his Tucson win, going through the same movements he’d gone through uncounted thousands of times was soothing to him.  It reminded him that the final putt in the Tuscon Open was just a two-footer of the sort he’d made more often than he could remember.  It reminded him of all the two-footers he’d made in practice.  That’s a good feeling to have under pressure.  I tell players that they should make all their practice putts feel as if a tournament is on the line, and they should make all their putts with tournaments on the line feel like practice putts.  Routine helps them do that.  But the larger part of it is mental.  When a player who has a sound routine reverts to his or her dominant mental habit under pressure, it helps dispel distracting thoughts.  It helps the player zero in on a target.  That helps make the putt.   Remember that when a player putts to make it, there is no past, nor is there a future.  There is only the present moment, his ball, his club, and his target.  Had the clutch putter thought about putts he missed, thought about whether there may be a playoff, the second place check, or any of a hundred other things that might happen, he probably won’t be a clutch putter.  This is because these are the sorts of things players think about when they succumb to pressure.  It’s not that they choke.  They don’t.  They simply let themselves be distracted by unhelpful thoughts of either the past or the future.  Clutch putters don’t rely on tricks or gimmicks.  They don’t have superhuman control of their bodies.  They don’t avoid the churning stomach, the sweaty hands, the trembling hands.  They simply do better than their competitors at enjoying the challenge, following their putting routines, locking their minds in the present, and putting to make it.  

The Myth of the Perfect Stroke 
Players turn conscious and deliberate when they start to putt because of all the information they’ve ingested about the putting stroke.  That’s because of the ethos in the golf world that worships mechanical perfection.  There’s a strong socialization process at work and it leads to conscious, unsuccessful putting.  Note that golfers are frequently less than accurate in the way they perceive their own movements.  The idea that there is a single correct way to putt is about as valid as the idea that there is a single correct way to write.  Where would we be if all of us were told that the only way to write was to copy Shakespeare?  We would be without a host of great writers, from Mark Twain to E.E. Cummings.  The same goes for putting mechanics.

This is why some of the great putters I know make a conscious effort not to think about mechanics at all when they practice.  I’ve seen people ask Brad what part of the stroke he’s working on when he practices.  “Nothing,” Brad replies.  “Oh, come on,” they say.  “You must be working on something.”  “I am,” he says, “I’m working on thinking about nothing mechanical.”

The worst way to make a great stroke is by thinking about its mechanics when you putt the ball.  As we’ve seen, the physical work of putting is like riding a bicycle or signing your checks.  It’s something best left to your subconscious.  IF you consciously try to guid your putter along a path you’ve been taught is the correct one, you’re reducing the chances that you’ll make a smooth, solid, accurate stroke.  That’s the way the human body works.  On the other hand, if you allow your brain and the nervous system to perform at their best, without interference from your conscious mind, they can do some remarkable things.  It’s only when players become conscious and rational about their strokes that they get into trouble.  If a players who aims left makes it his business to force the putter to go straight up and down the target line, he’s going to miss left.  He’ll be overriding his subconscious minds ability to make the adjustment that would have sent the ball toward the target.

If you want to have a flowing rhythmic, and elegant putting stroke, the last thing to do is think about flow, rhythm, and elegance while you are putting.  This will make your stroke tight and strained, more like a jab at the ball.  If you’re properly focus on your target, your body will naturally produce the most rhythmic, elegant stroke it can make.  When a player I’m working with is sharply focused on his target, I can see that his stroke is smooth and flowing.

Don’t forget that putting remains more an art than a science.  Immersing yourself in the so-called science of putting risks filling your mind with ideas of dubious value.  You risk losing the attitude and habits of mind that characterize great putters.  Imitation of other players can be a better way of improving your stroke.  I have clients on tour who spend time on the practice green pretending they’re Luke Donald or Brad Faxon.  They think their stroke needs a little of Ernie’s and Brad’s languid flow.  So they imitate them.  This mimics the natural process that kids go through when they pick up a game by watching older people do it. It bypasses all the lectures about mechanics that usually accompany putting lessons and therefore it poses less danger to your mental putting routine.  But if any of the great majority of golfers asked me what I thought they should do about their putting stroke, I’d tell them: fall in love with the stroke you have.  It’s more than good enough to get the ball into the hole.     

Other Notes
Wet greens can be harder to figure than dry ones.  Greens don’t hold moisture equally over their entire surface.  Some areas, because of drainage and exposure to the sun, dry faster than others.

Basically, all that matters is that when you putt in competition, you putt freely and with confidence, seeing your target and letting the stroke go.  

There are no universally applicable drills or practice programs that will help all players.  Individuals need to find what works best for them in terms of practice drills and routines.  If you’ve got a friend on the practice green with you, play a putting game with stakes on the line.

Good wedge play makes the difference between a lot of putts from ten feet and a lot of putts from three feet.  If you knock your chips and pitches closer to the hold, you’re going to make more putts.  I’ve seen improved wedge play elevate a professional’s game.  It can be the difference between playing on the Web.com Tour and playing and winning on the PGA Tour.  

There are always going to be people in the golf world trying to persuade you that their grip, or their putter, or their practice aid, or their stroke is the answer.  There are always going to be people telling you that there’s no point in trying to be a good putter because you have no talent and it’s an impossible, unjust part of the game anyway.  If you listen to them, you won’t keep your commitment to keep to these ideas.  

Monitor your commitment with quality questions: 

  1. Do you love putting on whatever sort of green you encounter, fast or slow, grainy or smooth?  
  2. Do you welcome the challenge of putting? 
  3. Do you take pride in how free and confident you are with your putter? 
  4. Do you execute your mental and physical routine on every putt?  
  5. Do you refuse to let missed putts bother you?
  6. Do you stick with your routine and habits of mind even when putts don’t fall on the first nine holes?
  7. Do you always putt to make it?
  8. Do you ever permit your fear of three-putting to dominate your love of one-putting?
  9. When you talk about your putting to others, do you talk about how well you’re putting rather than whine or complain?
  10. Do you try to recall the great putts you’ve made and forget the ones you’ve missed?

Don’t think of this commitment as a porcelain vase that, once broken can never be put together again.  I don’t know of any player whose mind is always where it ought to be.  Good players recognize when their commitments waver, and they set things right quickly.  They constantly recommit themselves.   


Remember to smile 🙂

Rotella’s Rules For Putting

  1. No matter how skilled you are with the long clubs, you’re going to make roughly 40% of your shots with your putter.
  2. The putting game is the place to look if you want to get a competitive advantage.
  3. The ideal golf temperament instinctively loves putting.  
  4. In putting, the inability to forget is infinitely more devastating than the inability to remember.  There’s nothing worse for your putting than dwelling on the putts you’ve missed.
  5. Thinking the way you have always thought will almost certainly assure that you putt the way you have always putted.  
  6. You’ll make your best stroke and hole the most putts in you only think of your target. 
  7. Orientation toward the target works because the subconscious brain is capable of quick, accurate adjustments.
  8. The smaller the target you have, the better the brain and body can function in getting the ball there.  
  9. Never putt for a three-foot circle.  If you aren’t trying to hole every putt you have, you are going to lose to someone who is.
  10. To gain control, give up control
  11. Devotion to an unvarying routine is one of the hallmarks of a good putter.
  12. When the moment of truth comes, look at the target, look at the ball, and let the stroke go without any undue delay between these three movements.
  13. Your first impression of how a putt will break will be right more often than any other impression you might form.
  14. Putt to make it.
  15. More often than no, anger is the enemy of focus.
  16. Good players handle pressure putts by developing a strong routine and relying on it in the clutch.
  17. Good putters learn to welcome nervous symptoms rather than fear them.
  18. The last thing you want to do if you’re trying to make putts is worry about speed.  
  19. You already have touch.  You have to believe in it and use it.
  20. A miss is a miss, whether it runs a foot past the hole or stops a foot short.
  21. Every putt is a green-light putt.
  22. The yips originate in the mind.  Their prevention and cure are mental challenges
  23. If you think the putter you’re using will help you, it probably will.  
  24. Pick a putter and a putting style that feel good to you and stick with them
  25. There is no such thing as perfect putting mechanics.  There is no perfect way to roll the ball.
  26. Fall in love with stroke you have 
  27. Practice in ways that build confidence
  28. Practicing for touch and pace is best done without a hole.
  29. Good wedge play makes the difference between a lot of putts from ten feet and a lot of putts from three feet.
  30. The principles of good putting will work for you as long as your commitment to them stands.