Putting on the Style
The great danger for juniors is being told to focus too much on technique when they putt perfectly well with great feel and intuition. But there are certain things that you need to be aware of that will help you to develop a solid stroke, and some of these pointers are outlined here. Above all, the drills that I am going to show you are designed to enable you to practise your putting with the emphasis on feel. That's the way I do it, and that's the way to hole more putts.
Your putting style has to be your own individual design, something you feel totally comfortable with. But at the same time you want to make sure that your routine in setting up to the ball allows the arms to hang and fall into a comfortable position, one that gives you the makings of a safe, pendulum-type stroke.
When I practise I always like to work on exactly the routine I use on the course. I like to create a nice angle at the hips so that my hands fall into the comfortable position, with the arms nicely extended. I have my putter adjusted to 34 inches in length to accommodate my posture, and you should check with your pro that the length of your own putter suits your style. Now, let me show you some great practice drills...
Keep your head still...
until the ball is away
Another tip from the master himself, though I do think at times Nick [Faldo] takes this discipline a little too far. It's true that you should keep your head as still as possible until the ball is on its way - at least until it is beyond your peripheral vision. That's what I concentrate on. I keep my head still until the ball is out of view. Then my head rotates to follow the line of the putt all the way to the hole.
Picture the dustbin lid
When I study a long putt, one that I'm happy to get close for a simple two-putt, I try to get this image of a three-foot circle around the hole. To be more exact, the semi-circle that extends beyond the hole is my real target area, as I'm always trying to get the ball up to the hole. Once you are set to go, it's the rhythm and the smoothness of your stroke that is key to getting the ball to roll 'end over end'. When you strike the ball sweetly (which the coin drill below will help you do) it really does keep rolling on and on.
How do you improve your strike?
First up, a neat drill I picked up from Nick Faldo. All you need is a thin coin, which you simply place on the green right behind the ball (left), just as if you were marking it. The idea then is that you make a smooth stroke and strike up and through the putt without touching the coin. The more you do this, the more you will develop a slight upstroke that imparts true roll on the ball. Aim to strike the ball bang on its equator as you release the putter smoothly. Try this drill on long putts for a better sense of pace control and also from three or four feet to hole out those must-make putts with extra confidence.
The best training exercise I know...
Alignment is relatively easy. Whether you like to stand with your feet slightly open or closed, the key is to make sure that your hips and your shoulders are square to your line. That way you will be encouraged to swing the putter on a natural path. And this drill is fantastic when it comes to tracking your stroke and grooving a natural path that sees the putter swing back and forth on your line to the hole. Simply place two clubs side-by-side to create this putting corridor, leaving about half an inch either side of your putter head. Then it's all about repeating your stroke and rattling the ball into the back of the hole.
Having those tracks gives you instand feedback as to the line of your stroke - take it too far outside and you strike the outer shaft, take it on the inside and you touch the inner shaft. A true stroke runs clear all the way back and through, sending the ball straight into the hole.
DIY with a paint brush!...
For a smooth and flowing stroke, I often imagine there's a paint brush attached to the end of my putter, and then try to paint a line on the green as I make the stroke. This helps me to create a flowing action, and it works great on the short putts. Try it: paint that line on the green going back and then through to the hole - and watch the ball disappear.