by: Stephane Boudreau
Since I have been in college, improving my short game has become my top priority. I focus especially on improving my wedge game and putting, but I think I lean more on improving my putting because I think it is the most important part of the game, simply because I putt 18 holes out of 18. Well that’s of course if I don’t chip in, but that probably happens about every 3 to 5 rounds. So let’s face it, I putt on 99 percent of the holes I play. So I figured if I could keep getting better at putting every year, that it would be the best way to improve my scoring average.
Obviously I still spend a large amount of time on my swing and mechanics. But even if I am hitting it great, I still need to putt good to get the ball in the hole. It is when I am playing bad that putting becomes crucial. Making a couple 10 footers for par can be a huge momentum push or bust and can also change the entire outcome of the team while in competition. The goal is to improve my putting so I can become a more consistent player and in the end shoot lower scores on a regular basis.
While putting, there are a large amount of things I need to consider and be knowledgeable about. I need to line myself up properly, read the putt, look at where the grain is going, if it’s uphill or downhill and focus on making a pure stroke. Since I have been living down south and playing Bermuda greens versus playing bent, the biggest thing for me was improving my pace/weight. I found while playing Bermuda greens it was better to be more aggressive with my putts because it would cancel out the grain.
I did that for a while my first year but then my coach taught me how to read the grain and be more aware of it. Learning to catch on to which way the grain goes allowed me to be more of a “die” putter, just like I am on bent greens. I stopped being aggressive because every time I would miss a putt I would have another tester coming back. I find being a “die” putter is much more efficient because of two reasons.
The first reason is simply because at a slow pace, I am making the hole as big as it possibly can be. The ball can curl in the hole from the sides or even from the back. The second reason is because from 20 feet or more, even if I miss it; I am almost guaranteed to have a tap-in for my second putt, technically eliminating the thought of a 3 putt. The thought of knowing ill have a tap-in for my next putt makes me more confident and less stressed. I am not thinking about what my 3 to 4 footer coming back is going to be like; all of my focus is to pick the correct line.
The past 3 years I have been focusing heavily on improving my speed on the greens. Obviously playing at Palmetto Golf Club where the greens are a constant 12 on the stimpmeter helps me improve this part of my putting. But I found that practicing and focusing on my speed on the greens helped my putting tremendously and has for sure made me a more consistent player. My lag putting has become one of my best features. People might argue that every putt that does not reach the hole has 100 percent chance of not going in. But if I am 30 to 40 feet out, I am not thinking about making it every time. I simply thinking hit it within a couple feet and tap it in, no stress and on to the next hole. Also, being a “die” putter does not necessarily mean leaving it short all the time. After some practice it becomes easier to have perfect weight or just a foot past the hole.
Coach Hathaway gave me the “ladder drill” which I suggest you try as well. Instead of focusing on direction, you putt one ball to a distance of three feet. Then the next ball- try to roll it a little past the last one and so on until you get through 10 putts. It’s a great way to practice distance control because you don’t even putt to a hole and worry about missing left or right.
Over the summer and fall I have never made so many 20 to 30 footers in my career and I strongly believe it’s simply because I worked on my pace and I am making the hole the biggest it can be. I recommend putting drills that improves your speed on the greens and practice them as much as you can. I think your putting will improve significantly and also improve your scoring. It will lower your stress on the course by being more confident and not worrying about 3 putting.
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