Dave Stockton's all time top ten putting tips
Dr Paul Hurrion
In his prime in the early
1970s, Dave Stockton
once went some 950 holes
without a three-putt. Still
blessed with his revered
putting game that brought
him 25 titles – including five
majors – Stockton is now a
consultant for TaylorMade
as well as a putting coach
to tour stars who have collectively
notched 30 wins
over the last year, including
Rory McIlroy’s victory at the
US Open. On his recent
visit to the UK, he shared
his top tips with Gi’s
CONSIDER GROOVE TECHNOLOGY.
Putting is an art but there is some equipment
out there that will help everybody. In
particular, I have seen at first hand how
much the grooves on the face insert of the
TaylorMade/Rossa putters can improve
golfers of all levels. The impact and roll
characteristics are very different to other
putters, as can be measured in the lab. The
benefits are astounding in terms of reducing
the skidding and jumping of the golf ball and
inducing pure roll as early as possible after
impact which helps the ball to keep its line.
DEVELOP A FORWARD PRESS.
I’m a firm believer that, unlike most golf
shots, the grip of the putter should remain
perpendicular as long as possible through
impact for both putts and short chip shots.
This keeps the putter-head low to the
ground which allows the golf ball to hug the
surface of the green and develop true roll
more quickly. The forward press encourages
that movement – with Phil Mickelson
being one of the finest exponents. Of
course, this naturally de-lofts the clubface so
you must check that you’re starting with
enough static loft on your putter at address.
For most players I suggest 4 degrees.
THE LEFT HAND/RIGHT HAND ROLES.
For a right-handed golfer, the right hand provides
the power and the feel in the putting
stroke, the left hand merely ‘goes along for
the ride’. But the left hand must do that in
order to keep the putter-head low through
impact and not pull ‘up and out’ of the shot. Like with a basketball shot, the right hand
does most of the work and left would seem
to do nothing – but there too it ‘goes along
for the ride’. This is another key secret to
getting the true roll you need.
I like to split the putt into three equal parts
but give much more emphasis to the final
third when the ball will be travelling much
slower and be most prone to movement
from even the smallest of slope. Look for
any break near the hole in order to favour
one side of the cup, which will improve your
margin of error over a seemingly straight
THE ‘ONE-INCH’ MARKER.
Like Jack Nicklaus did with his tee shots, I
like to a pick a spot on my putting target line
very close to my ball at address. Though in
my case it’s only about one or two inches
inch away from the ball. That target is then
in my field of view at address – whereas a
target at the other end of the putt is not!
Then all I do is to feel my left hand going directly
over that spot as I swing through impact,
which also crucially helps me keep my
BEWARE OF PRACTICE SWINGS.
For many players I advocate not taking any
practice swings as this causes you to think
too much. But if you do, at least do it directly
behind the golf ball on the target line –
rather than parallel to that line, as most players
do. That way you are viewing the path
your ball will actually take, just as you would
with a practice shot with a pool cue. Keep
looking at the hole, getting the feel of the
path of the putt rather than looking down at
the imaginary ball position or the movement
of the putter head on the ground.
IGNORE THE LINE
ON THE GOLF BALL.
Many balls have alignment marks on them but
if someone lines it up like that when I’m teaching
them I’ll roll the ball over so they can’t see it!
It’s just an extra thought to have in your head
and it often looks wrong when you actually
stand over the ball at address. In any case, my
focus isn’t on the ball itself – I’m thinking about
that spot an inch or two out on the ground.
People often putt worse as adults as they do
as kids by getting too wrapped up in technique.
I don’t think putting is nearly as difficult
an endeavor as people make it out to be. I
don’t like words like ‘try’ and ‘hit’. You need to
stroke the putt with ‘feel and roll’ rather ‘trying
to hit it’. There’s a big difference. Get a
rhythm to your routine. I keep my putter
head moving even before starting my backswing
by placing it ahead of the ball before
returning it to the address position. It is my
way of keeping a sense of flow which I have
internalized subconsciously so that I have no
formal swing thoughts to distract me.
There’s so much emphasis on knowledge,
perfection and optimization in every area of
golf these days. But when it comes to putting,
trying to get everything perfect will invariably
make your tension levels rise. Be
relaxed in your approach and throughout
your routine. Step up there and feel that
you’re rolling it and letting it go.
Visualise the putt on its path to the
hole and dropping into the cup. Develop a
ruthless putting aura where you are genuinely
surprised if the ball doesn’t drop. When I’m
putting well I have a level of confidence where
I’m actually shocked if I don’t hole it!
Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine