Sending out an S.O.S. for your putting!

Is your putting in distress? Are you three putting more than one putting? Every day I see recreational golfers, as well as some of the best players in the world, struggle with putting, which can lead to a lack of confidence and missed putts.

How does this happen? Putting often becomes inconsistent for golfers when the player misses a short putt early in the round or three putts. They can putt poorly the rest of the day while almost anticipating or adding up the three putts as the round goes on.

Let’s talk about how to overcome these thoughts and feelings and build a putting stroke with a routine that will hold up under pressure. Sound putting is founded on three principles: Solid, Online, Speed or S.O.S.

SOLID

Hitting the putt solid in the center, or sweet spot of the putter, can be achieved by working on a very simple gate drill. Place a ball 3 feet away from the hole and place your putter down behind the ball. Next, set up two tees about a ½ inch outside the sides of your putter creating a gate. Then practice hitting putts without hitting the tees, and when you feel comfortable from 3 feet away you can then move out to 4 feet.

ONLINE

A string drill is a very simple exercise to practice getting the putt started online. You can make your own aim line by getting two knitting needles (or pencils) with a 10-foot string tied at both ends. Find a straight 4-foot putt on the practice green and place one needle 12 inches behind the hole and the other end stretched out behind the ball. Now just practice hitting putts down the line with your putter and the ball under the string. Continue moving back farther along the string as you practice and see if you can keep the ball rolling down the string line.

SPEED

Most three putts are caused by poor speed, which leaves the golfer too far from the hole after the first putt. Proper speed control can be achieved by some simple drills. Here is my favorite one. Take five balls and three tees, go to the edge of your putting green and place the first tee 18 inches from the fringe, the second tee another 18 inches from the first tee, and the last tee out another 18 inches. You should now have tees 18 inches, 36 inches and 54 inches from the fringe.

Next, go 10 inches away and drop your five golf balls and try to putt the first one as close to the fringe without going off the green. Continue to putt the other three balls while trying to get the second as close to the 18 inches tee, then another ball to the 36 inches tee, and the 54 inches tee, and then putt the final ball back toward the fringe. In a very short amount of time you will start to develop much better speed control.

Remember, good putters believe that they will make putts; their goal is to just roll the ball on the correct speed on the line. They separate themselves from the result, they let themselves get into their routine and the process.

All properly hit putts don’t go in and sometimes we all misread them or the ball hits a bump or old ball mark, but good putters don’t let it affect their confidence or beat them up over it. Good putters use positive self-talk to praise themselves for hitting a good putt while bad putters beat themselves up, or say things like “I can’t buy a putt today” or “I told you I wasn’t going to make it.”

Putting comes down to proper mechanics, a solid routine that you can repeat under pressure and a good attitude. As noted sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella said in his book “Putting Out of Your Mind”: “If you think you will make the putt you probably will and if you don’t think you will you probably won’t.” In either case it’s your attitude that determines your outcome.

Tony Emma owns and operates the Siena Golf Academy, based at Siena Golf Club. He has been a Class A member of the PGA of America for the past 18 year and was formerly a lead instructor with Golf Digest Schools, the director of instruction at Legacy Golf Club and a teaching professional at Callaway Golf Center. Emma can be reached by phone at 672-4653 or e-mail at tony@tonyemmagolf.com. For more information, check the website www.tonyemmagolf.com.

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