You Don’t Even Have To Change Your Swing!
by Neil Economy, SunRiver Golf Course PGA Pro
The great Bobby Jones once said, “The secret of golf is to turn three shots into two.” The easiest way for most golfers to accomplish that is to make more putts. We’re supposed to make the two- and three-footers. We’re embarrassed when they lip out or slide by the edge.
Our expectations aren’t as high when it comes to putts between four and ten feet. According to pgatour.com, PGA Tour pros made about 86% of their four-foot putts in 2010. But they only made about 49% when putting from eight feet and just 38% from ten feet. If that range isn’t a gimme for a Tour pro, we wouldn’t expect to make a high percentage either.
With practice we can all become much better putters. But who has time to put in the practice Tour pros do? Here’s a way to help you make more putts up to ten feet that should only take you minutes. As you get better, the less time it takes you, the better off you’ll be.
Drop a couple of balls six to eight feet from the hole and putt. Then do it again. You’ll quickly find that making putts from six to eight feet requires a good stroke. You can make two- and three-foot putts with a bad stroke. But at longer distances, stroke flaws show up and send putts off line. At first, it’s really important to practice only straight putts. You can concentrate just on your stroke. You don’t have to think about break. Miss a straight putt and you know your stroke is to blame.
See how many putts you can make in a row up to ten. If you miss one, start over. You’ll start to get a feel for how to putt under pressure. You’ll bear down and make a good stroke because you won’t want to start over. If you can’t get to the course, this works great at home on the carpet.
Pretty soon you’ll find you’re done in minutes because you sank them all in the first round or by starting over only once or twice. Say you hit seven in a row, then miss one and have to start over. You make it all the way through the second time and realize, “I just made 17 out of 18 putts from six to ten feet. That’s 94%.” Think that will give you some confidence?
When you get on the practice green at the course, try finding a hole on or near a hill. Putt from six to eight feet in a circle around the hole. You may have seen Phil Mickelson practice this way. You’ll putt uphill and downhill with breaks both ways. Then, when you get the confidence to sink six-, eight-, even ten footers regularly your scores are bound to fall by two, three, maybe even five strokes.
The rest of your short game will also benefit. Suddenly you’re not pressuring yourself to hit the perfect chip, pitch or bunker shot “inside the magic two-foot circle”. When you know you can make anything up to ten feet, if the ball runs a few feet too far or comes up a little short, you won’t get upset. Instead you’ll think, “I can make that.”
To illustrate how much putts inside ten feet can impact scoring, look at Ricky Fowler’s recent success. Had Fowler won The Players Championship, he would have been the first golfer since 1997 to get his first two career PGA Tour wins in consecutive weeks. Fowler collected his first PGA Tour title the previous week at Charlotte.
At The Players Championship, Fowler finished tied for second, two shots behind winner Matt Kuchar. On Saturday at Sawgrass, Fowler fired a 66 to rocket up the leaderboard. In that round he had zero three-putts and was 16-for-17 on putts inside ten feet. For the week, Fowler missed 11 putts inside ten feet. If he had made just two of those putts, he’s in a playoff. If he makes three more he wins.
You may not be putting with The Players Championship on the line. But when you start making more putts inside ten feet you’ll save shots, shoot lower scores and have more fun. You just may feel you’ve discovered your own secret of golf.