Ever played snooker or pool? Had an easy shot on the black and missed it? That usually happens because of bad technique.
Listen to a group of golfers discussing their game after a round. They rarely talk about the bad drives or iron shots they've had that day. However, they will always mention the missed three footer for birdie, or how all those three putts cost them the game.
I'm no different, and there's a reason for that. Once you start to reach a reasonable level of competence, your scores are ruined more often by poor putting than any other reason.
To be honest, putting may look easy, but in practice it isn't. This covers all levels of player, from the club golfer, to even top professionals, who can often be heard saying, "If only my putter had worked better today!" Phil Mickelson, the current Masters' Champion, 4 putted from 8 feet in a PGA tour event last year. So we can imagine how difficult putting can become, especially under pressure.
Thousand of words have been written over many years on this subject. Looking at the number of successful individual styles of putting underlines the fact that putting is a game within the game.
Irrespective of what style you employ, there are basically two correct putter head paths:
a. Square to Square - where the putter head is taken straight back, kept square to the line of the putt, and the same square plane is followed on the through stroke. This is recommended for shorter putts, let's say inside 10 feet.
b. In to Square to In - This method is used for longer putts, the reason being that as the length of the putting stroke gets longer, the putter head starts to move naturally on a slight inward path on the backswing, then comes back square at contact, and then goes slightly inwards again.
Most amateur golfers are inconsistent putters, and we return to the number one reason why: they just don't practice enough. Even those who practice to achieve a repeatable stroke end up trying various styles and often reach nowhere.
Some drills to improve your putting action.
a. For short putts
Find a reasonably straight putt on the practice green. Place two long clubs on either side of the hole, using them as guide rails. Allow the putter head to run straight back and through between the two shafts. The putt might be a small one, but you will be surprised at the different feel you get. With this drill, your wrist is forced to remain locked if you want to repeat the Square to Square stroke over and over again.
b. For longer putts
Leave the clubs on the ground where they are and move a few feet further. As the length of the putt increases, the putting stroke subsequently becomes longer. In this cases the putter head starts to move slightly inside the target line on the way back, returns to square at impact and back inside after stroking the ball. Roll the ball through the shafts towards the hole and you will get instant feedback on whether you are stroking correctly or not.
Practice your putting this way, and join in the 6th Gokarna Open on Saturday. Sink all those 3 footers and you'll probably be a winner.
Deepak Acharya is a golf instructor and Head Golf Professional at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu. email@example.com