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How to putt with precision
Lynn McCool

In the second part of our exclusive instruction series covering the fundamentals of the game, Lynn McCool suggests a series of simple DIY exercises and drills that can improve your accuracy on the greens – and shoot lower scores...

Balance is your foundation to a solid, repeating stroke

Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker…all great putters and while they each display a different stroke one thing they all have in common is that when you see them set-up to strike a putt they look as though they could stand there all day. Their address position looks so comfortable and stable and that’s because they all have great balance in their feet.

Rock gently back and forth until you find your ‘centre’ – and then build your posture on that perfect balance.

Either of the two extremes – i.e. weight too much on the heels (left) or towards the toes – will jeopardise your overall balance

In contrast, poor putters can easily be identified by their lack of balance in the set up position, their weight often tipping their body either backwards away from the ball or forwards towards it (illustrated below). Given the objective of a repeating stroke is to deliver the putterface squarely to the back of the ball along a pre-determined line and path, the importance of balance should be quite obvious. Without it you simply introduce another variable that destroys your consistency.

Finding good balance is easy: take a good posture and then ever so gently rock your body weight back and forth until you can sense that ‘centred’ feeling in your feet (right), your body planted securely. That is the feeling you want as you stand over every putt – total stability. With a balanced base the clubface is more likely to stay online as the stroke is executed.

Feet, hips & shoulders all track the ball-to-target line for perfect alignment

The second common fault I see all the time is poor body alignment. Most golfers concentrate on aiming their putter correctly at their target and fail to think about where their body is aiming. The hips really are the indicator. If the hips are open or closed in relation to the target line it will affect the putter face at impact leading to pulled or pushed putts. I like golfers to address their putt with their body perfectly square to the target and then to focus on maintaining these parallel lines by keeping the hips still as they make their stroke.

Use a cane or an old clubshaft to check that a line across your hips is square to your feet at the set up

And then make sure that the relationship is kept intact throughout the stroke

A simple way to improve your body alignment is to slide a cane or old golf shaft through your belt loops so that it follows your target line. Get a friend to take a picture of you at address to ensure your body lines are parallel. Then make your stroke and focus on keeping the hips square with no rotation so that the shaft stays pointing at the target. The shoulders should rock back and through allowing the putter to strike the ball straight to the target.

Fault: If you address the putt with your hips and body alignment too open or too closed the putter will have to make compensations to follow a straight path and you’ll be prone to pulled or pushed putts. Fix: Refer to the drill above regularly so that you keep the hips square so that the shaft points parallel to the ball to target line throughout the stroke.

Fault (left): with the hips closed, the putter can work too much inside the line on the way back

Fault (right): while a tendency to open the hips through the impact area can cause the putter to work left

And let arms & shoulders control the stroke

We all have the temptation to look up as soon as the putt has been struck. It’s natural to feel anxious and want to know whether the putt has dropped, but even taking the slightest peek too soon can be destructive. When the head turns, the body moves, the hips open and the putter face turns.

The greatest putters are the players who trust their stroke implicitly and don’t need to look up to see where the ball has gone. They simply keep their eyes down and listen for the sound of the ball dropping at the base of the cup. A great way to ensure your head and body stay still is to rest a cane or shaft against each of your hips as I’m demonstrating here. Now make your stroke and concentrate on keeping your eyes focused on the point where the ball was struck. The shafts should remain in place.

Fault: Any slight body movement and the shafts will fall to the floor – a clear indication that you have looked up.

Heighten your sense of ‘feel’

Golfers often say to me that they struggle to judge the pace of their putts. I explain that we all have an inherent, in-built, feel on the greens; you just need to learn to tap into your instincts. Part of the problem is that we tend to practise putting towards a hole and rarely spend any time on non-target related feel exercises. The eyes-closed drill is a simple yet effective way to enhance your senses. It also has an amazing effect on de-cluttering your mind so that your brain doesn’t interfere with your stroke.

Close your eyes and make sure your eyelids don’t flutter (if they do it’s an indication that you’re still thinking too much!). Now, make a practice stroke and pay attention to the feel of the motion. Do this for a few minutes and then add a ball. Visualise how far you think it has rolled across the green. Then open your eyes to see the result – how accurate was your guess? Repeat this drill increasing the length of your stroke, and you should have a much greater awareness and feel for what length stroke rolls the ball what distance.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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