Even if you’re never going to play professionally, the old golf truism, “Drive for show, putt for dough” holds weight. If you want to lower your score on the golf course, the putting green is the best place to do it. Remember that scene from one of my favorite golf movies, Bagger Vance. During the film, the narrator contrasts the extremely different golf styles of Bobby Jones and Walter Hagan. He says, “Bobby Jones’ swing was an artful display of pure grace in motion. Hagan on the other hand hit more bad shots in a round than anyone, but had long ago learned one thing: 3 bad shots and 1 brilliant shot still make par.”
So let’s reflect. Of course, Hagan’s “three bad shots” were not complete shanks – and were probably more controlled than most of our “good” ones. What he’s talking about are more slight misses off the tee or the approach – shots that force him to get up and down for par. However, since no weekend warrior is going to hit 18 fairways and greens, and two-putt each hole on our way to an easy even par round (Do we even hit 50% of fairways and greens in a round?), we should think more like a Walter Hagan. But the question still remains: can we hit that one brilliant shot?
No, I’m not talking about some miraculous low stinger from the woods that rolls two feet from the hole. But what about a 10-foot putt for par, which could make (or break) that four or five stroke difference we want from our game. So how do you start draining these 10-ft. shots?
Well, assuming you’re missing these putts not because you didn’t read the putt right, but because you didn’t execute the putt itself. There are generally two ways to approach hitting a putt: either hitting it softer and playing more break, or hitting it firmer and playing less break. This is not a guide on how to read greens—that comes from just playing a lot of golf—so let’s focus on what we can control: putting mechanics and our overall approach.
The “Connect the Dots” Approach
I believe this is one of the best ways to approach a putt of any length, but especially those 10 feet and shorter. For this approach, do the following:
- Line up your ball – I like to draw a straight line somewhere on my ball, and point it at my target. If you don’t want to do this, use the brand name on the ball to line up your putts.
- Imagine a closer hole – Pick a spot ½ or ¾ of the way to the hole (depending on the speed uphill, downhill, or straight) and pretend that spot is the hole. Whether it’s a discolored spot on the green or a complete imagined hole, use this to line up your ball.
- Judge the speed – Now that you’re lined up, you need to judge the speed. Keeping your “spot before the hole” in mind, tell yourself that you want to hit the ball firm enough to get to the back of the imaginary hole. For straight putts or anything with relatively little break, I would always choose to hit the ball a tad harder and take the break out of the putt. This requires that you hit the ball in the center of the putter, which brings me to the next drill…
Tee Box Putting
Note: you are not actually putting on the tee box. This drill is easy and you have probably seen many people doing it, though you might not have known what it was called. It’s simple but important, because if you have done what I suggested above and lined yourself up right, you still have to hit the ball square to get it to go where you want it to go.
- Put two tees down on the green just a centimeter or so longer than the head of your putter, so your putter fits perfectly between them.
- If you want to, set tees up all around the hole so you get different angles, but the most important aspect of this drill is to hit the ball in the center of the club.
- Use the “connect the dot” method while lining your putter up between the tees, and practice, practice, practice those 10-foot and under putts!