THE PUTTING STROKE
First of all, I would like to extend to all of our readers a warm a happy Mothers Day. It was your day mothers, and I hope you spent it doing exactly what you enjoy doing.
Now that the golf season is underway (finally), many of you have had the opportunity to play a few games or hit some balls.
Hitting the driving range to work on your game becomes as important, if not more important, than just playing a round.
Working out the bugs so that when you step onto the golf course your shots are straighter and further, therefore the end result will be lower scores, more enjoyment and bragging rights.
Most golfers who spend time practising will walk up to the range with their basket of balls, proceed to pull out their driver and hit most or all of the balls with that club.
By doing so, players will generally start swinging too hard in the attempt to hit that ball further, therefore practising poor swing techniques.
When you are out on the range, look over to the nearest practice putting green and you will likely notice that it is virtually empty.
This does not make sense as over 40 per cent of the game of golf is played on the putting green.
As a result, golfers need to dedicate 40 per cent of their practice time on the putting green. The quickest way to lower your score is to learn, practise and improve your putting stroke.
Putting is the most individual part of the game. What this means is that there are numerous ways to hold the club (grip), and numerous ways to stand (stance).
The next time you play or watch a PGA or LPGA tournament on television, you may notice that no two golfers are alike. The key to a good stance or a good putting grip is that you are in balance and comfortable. What is important is the stroke itself.
If you watch any good putter you may notice that although they set up to the ball differently, the putting stroke they use is similar.
The following paragraphs will provide you some helpful tips of how to improve your putting stroke.
EQUIPMENT — If you play golf you will have a putter. There are many types and models of putters and it is essential that you have one that fits you.
Most putters come at standard length for both men and ladies and will either be a mallet head design or a blade design.
This is not necessarily what is important, but what is important is that when choosing a putter you find one that is the right length for you, that you like the look of and the price tag. Putters range in price from $20 to $450, therefore you have many options.
There are also belly putters and long putters that are available at your local pro shop but not as readily available.
If you are interested in checking out the different options, talk to your local CPGA professional for assistance.
GRIP AND STANCE — I have already indicated that there are many different ways to hold the club and stand.
What is important to me as an instructor is that you are comfortable when doing so. Having said that, I shall give you a few key points to be aware of when gripping the club and getting into your stance. The key to a good grip is to place your hands on the handle of the club in such a way that will not allow you to use your wrists or flip the club at impact.
This is a common mistake golfers will make. Place the handle of the club in your fingers with your thumbs on top of the handle.
Try and keep your grip pressure relaxed and consistent in both hands.
The key to the stance is to be in good balance. To do this you must ensure that your weight is on the balls of your feet.
To achieve this you must flex your knees slightly.
We also want your arms to hang from your shoulders in a relaxed fashion (not rigid). Finally, it is important to attempt to stand in such a way that will allow your eyes to be directly over the ball. This will assist you in taking the putter straight back through along your intended line sending the ball towards your target.
The ball should be positioned forward of the center of your stance.
THE STROKE — The stroke itself is the key to great putting. There are a few key components that make a great putting stroke.
These components include: shoulder driven; quiet lower body and head; accelerate through the ball; tempo.
What we are attempting to do is take the putter straight back along your intended line and then straight through.
By doing so the club face has a better chance of staying square and as a result the ball will roll truer towards the hole.
To do so we need to use the shoulders instead of the hands for a good putting stroke. A good drill to feel the correct stroke is to take a club and place it on your chest and lock it in under your arms.
With your hands together, take a few practice strokes and this will assist you in feeling the shoulders and back opposed to just using your wrists.
To ensure that you make consistent, solid contact, you need to keep your lower body and head still.
Too many people use their lower body throughout the stroke.
When the lower body stays still, you can feel the shoulders moving better and as a result you will make more solid and consistent contact.
Distance is determined by how far back the club goes, not at the speed of your swing. I see a lot of players take the club back a short distance and then either speed up or slow down their swing speed to accommodate for the length of a putt.
This is incorrect and will result more times than not in either coming up short or blasting the ball past the hole. Be sure to allow the club to go back further for longer putts and not as far back for shorter putts.
The through stroke should be about the same length as the back swing.
Finally, your tempo needs to be the same for all lengths of putts.
Tempo is the speed at which the clubs goes back and through the ball.
This is the missing link in most players’ putting stroke and is key to being a good putter.
The next time you are on the driving range spend some of your practice time on the putting green perfecting these techniques.
I guarantee they will lower your score and your enjoyment of the game.
Scott Bergdahl is the head professional at Lakewood Golf Resort near Sylvan Lake.