I just took a putting lesson from LPGA teacher, Sue Kaffenburg, the pro at Bayberry Hills here on Cape Cod. My putting has been getting better this year, but there is always room for improvement and the short game is the best place to start. Drop a few of those 3 putts during a round and you lower your score for sure.
I’ve got the putting basics down, i.e. how to stand, how to grip, how to use your shoulders and keep your wrists firm. And I have a pretty good sense of distance, i.e. how much energy to put into the stroke to get the ball to go a certain distance. But I’ve noticed lately that my putts keep going off line just a bit. And that’s what so frustrating. I’m so close, but the ball just misses. I haven’t been able to figure out what’s been going wrong.
I’m not talking about problems reading greens which is another whole ball of wax. (We spent a lot of time talking about reading greens at the lesson and I’ll write about that in another post.) What I’m talking about here are problems I have with putts where I’ve got the line, the distance is under eight feet or so and I still pull or push the putter off line.
Sue gave me one major clue to the cure for this problem. It took her no time to figure it out. Stop watching the head of the putter during the backswing!
Here’s my problem: I have developed the habit of watching my putter as it swings back away from the ball. It’s a small thing, but makes a major difference in my putting success. My putting stroke has a natural arc to it. It’s subtle but obvious when you pay attention. And if I watch the clubhead as it pulls away from the ball during the backstroke I can see the face turn just slightly open. What happens? My brain clicks into some space of doubt and I unconsciously try to square up the clubhead as it comes through the ball. But what happens as a result is I try to compensate and actually close the putter face as it strikes the ball, sending it off line (usually to the left of where I am aiming.)
At yesterday’s lesson Sue had me use a special putting device (sorry, can’t remember the name) that blocks your view of the putter. You can see your ball but you cannot see the putter head as it is hidden by this small plastic shelf. Sounds odd, but it works. Anyway, I practiced hitting the ball without the ability to see the top of the putter and every putt went straight into the hole. Once I realized my problem, I moved away from the device and focused on the ball, ignoring the top of my putter during my backstroke and voila! No pushed putts! And the more I practiced, the more I realized that this had been a key problem with my putting. Focus on the ball, ignore the putter!
This may not seem like a big deal to you, but to me, it is a small miracle.
If you’ve been just missing your putts you might have the same problem. Stop watching your putter head in the backswing and see if you can get your head out of the way. What do you think? Put your comments in the space below. Have you discovered another secret to better putting?