I'm struggling very badly with my putter and I've never been very good on the greens. I want to finally become a good putter, can you give me some suggestions?Very good question and one of the things I've realized over the past year is just how important ballstriking is because it often makes a big impact on putting success and putting failure. But that wasn't the question, so I'll address that first...although it's part of the answer.
If you're somewhat close to David Orr in Buies Creek, NC or Geoff Mangum in Greensboro, NC, I would suggest seeing them if you can. They know far more about putting and how to teach than I do, so it's best to take it from the horse's mouth. Orr's Web site is at http://www.orrgolf.com/. Mangum's Web site is at http://www.puttingzone.com/. If you're over in Europe, I would probably suggest Harold Swash.
If you cannot get to them or cannot afford them, then I have a plan for you.
Get yourself on the SAM Puttlab.
The beauty of the SAM Puttlab is that much like the Trackman Launch Monitor, it provides objective information on your putting stroke. The often fatal flaw of the SAM Puttlab is that golfer's tend to erroneously think it provides all of the answers to their putting woes. In reality, I believe it can provide some crucial answers to your putting problems, but is more likely to provide you pieces to the puzzle that are your putting woes.
Where I usually find the SAM Puttlab to be helpful is telling where your face angle is at address and at impact. And then the type of stroke you use with the flatstick. In my case I had a very arced backstroke, but more of a SBST thrustroke. This means I was mixing up two different styles of putting strokes and one of my issues was that I needed to get the style of my backstroke and thrustroke to match each other. That being said, I believe that this mixing up of styles may have been caused by other factors involved with putting. Here's a link for the SAM Puttlab locations in the US (http://www.samsports.us/PuttLab_Locations.htm)
After getting on the SAM Puttlab and making some of the proper adjustments with your stroke (if adjustments are needed)
While I have talked about how finding a putter that eliminated my skid-roll greatly helped my putting, I would be far more concerned with finding a putter that aims the putterface square to the target at address first. I firmly believe that most golfer's putting woes start with a poorly aligned putterface at address and that causes compensations in the putting stroke. I made a post about 'fixing aim bias' here (http://3jack.blogspot.com/2009/08/fixing-aim-bias-with-putter.html)
While fixing the aim of your putter is the most important part of getting a putter IMO, I would also try to find a putter that lowers your skid on putts as well. Usually this can be accomplished by two things:
- Finding the right loft on the putter
- Finding the right lie angle on the putter
However, if you want to eliminate skid even further, I would suggest getting one of the putters with the grooves on the face as my putter fitter (The Golf Doctor in Woodstock, GA) did state that they did find that the grooves on the face does help eliminate skid by about 20%. The main putters with grooves on their putter face are Yes!, Taylor Made, Rife, and now Nike with their 'Method' line of putters that are coming out soon.
I did get asked the other day why most of the Tour players do not use putters with the grooves on the face and I think it's mostly due to most Tour players having a good enough putting stroke where they really don't need to worry about skid that much and are more worried about what looks and feels good to them. That being said, at least 3 of the top 6 finishers in the PGA Championship were using grooved face putters (Stenson and Kjeldsen using Yes! putters and Glover using a Nike Method putter).
One of the big issues I was having when I got back into the game was that my putter did not fit me, the skid was off the charts bad and my brain would go haywire in trying to correct the ball going off the putterface in all different directions.
Right after getting the putter for you, I would suggest immediately purchasing both of David Orr's videos, 'Green Reading 101' and 'Green Reading 201' which can be found at http://www.orrgolf.com/premvids.htm.
Again, I highly suggest the world immediatelybecause I'm trying to not only improve a golfer's putting, but trying to avoid confusion and the brain going 'haywire' in order to adjust to the confusion and that resulting in poor putting.
One of the issues that has happened to me is that I didn't read greens well and didn't understand where to aim. I would then see that as a 'failure' and then try to adjust to prevent that failure and wind up doing the wrong things and just hurting my putting even more. One you fully understand how to read GREENS and then the Geometry of a Putt (below), you will start sinking more putts and are much less likely to fall into poor aim and poor mechanics.
Developing speed/touch skills.
While I feel this is probably the most important part of putting, I haven't addressed it until step 4 because I feel steps 1-3 are much more flawed for the average golfer and if they can improve steps 1-3, then their speed/touch skills will likely improve as well.
First, I think the golfer needs to get it in their head that they are ultimately responsible for getting the speed/touch of the greens. After playing a couple of days with some friends at new courses with the greens probably 12-13 on the stimpmeter, we played our home course where the greens are about 10 on the stimpmeter. Everybody was hitting it short, including myself, but by the backside I finally got the speed down. Of course my friends kept coming up short and just blamed it on the 'slow greens' and excused it as such. But having the attitude of blaming yourself for not getting the speed down helps remedy the issue quickly.
One of the things you might want to consider if you play different courses is owning two putters...one for slower greens, one for faster greens. I currently own a Yes! putter which I use for fast greens and a Mizuno Bettinardi which I use for slower greens. Understanding what type of putter reduces skid and what type of putter adds skid can help. My Mizuno and the Yes! putter have the same lie angle and loft, but the Mizuno is much lighter and does not have grooves on the face and that gets the ball up in air a little more and works better on slower greens.
It's also important to understand what optimal speed of a putt really is. Here's a Geoff Mangum video talking about the subject.
Once you understand that, there are plenty of drills on the internet that can help develop good speed and touch. What I like to do is take a 'phantom cup' and place it down in a place on the putting green where there is a medium sized slope. I will then start off with some 10 footers. I'll make sure to get some down hill putts, some uphill putts, then some left to right and then right to left putts. Keep working on it until I get it down. Then I'll move onto 30 footers, then back down to 20 footers, then 5 footers. Again, the main thing is that I concentrate on SPEED, not making the putt. One of the things I use to help with speed is that I look at spot by the cup while I'm taking a practice stroke. The smaller the spot I can find and focus on, the better. It's much like a bowler about to throw the ball. They don't focus on the pins and they usually don't focus on the arrows or the dots on the lane. Instead, they will focus on a particular board and never lose track of it. So instead of focusing on the cup, I like to focus on perhaps a spike mark by the cup or if it's a shorter putt, perhaps focus on a paint mark inside the cup. If I'm struggling with hitting putts too short, I'll concentrate on a spot further behind the cup and try to make the stroke to that spot, and vice versa if I'm hitting putts too long.
It's important for any golfer to have good mental management with their game and not let the results dictate their future performance. One PGA Tour player's teacher (and he's one of the better putters on Tour) told me that his only goal with putting is to execute everything 'pretty well.' Meaning, that if he felt that he made a pretty good read, took a pretty good stroke and had pretty good speed, then that's all he could do. Even if he misses a 3 footer, as long as he executed 'pretty well' he'll chalk up the miss as bad luck or the green being chewed up from the spike marks or something else and move onto the next hole.
But expectations need to be more realistic as well. As David Orr's putting studies show, golfers who putted on PGA Tour quality greens made about 20% more putts. AimPoint Golf's Mark Sweeney has research showing that slower greens mean less putts made as well as there being certain putts that are legitimately impossible to make, thus creating 3 putts caused by ballstriking over putting incompetence.
I think if a golfer will follow these 5 steps, they are now in a position to create a better putting stroke, better aim, better roll, much better green reading and understanding where to aim, and improved speed skills. And perhaps more importantly, less subconscious adjustments to your flaws which can only create more problems.