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Practice Putting
with Purpose

Practice Putting - can you improve your performance without it? Is it possible for you to putt better simply by reading and thinking about it? Can you will your ball into the hole?

Practise Regularly Structure Your Practice Indoors or Outdoors? Every Putt - A Straight Putt
Practising Indoors Breaking Putts Practising Outdoors Practise under Pressure

Practise Regularly

There have been studies that have demonstrated that virtual practice - performing an activity in your mind – is better than no practice at all. However, there is a difference between dreaming of doing better and rehearsing a specific skill in your mind.

There is no substitute for actual practice. Michael Anthony in his book The Mental Keys uses the expression "First you do the work, then you get paid" as the natural order for success.

Practice Putting on a regular basis is a must if you want to lower the number of putts you take on average during a round.

However, you should proceed with caution. The expression that 'Practice makes Perfect' is hopeful thinking as practice is most likely to make permanent rather than perfect.

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Structure Your Practice

Most Practice Putting is ineffectual unless it is structured and provides reliable and immediate feedback. Professional golfers, when they are struggling with their putting, call on the services of a putting coach in order to get proper advice and feedback on their stroke.

Simply grinding out the hours alone will not be the best use of your time unless you can measure your performance and learn from visible feedback.

The alternative of just knocking a ball about on the practice green for 10 minutes or so is also a waste of time if, in doing so, it is your intention to improve.

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Indoors or Outdoors?

I believe that if you are serious about improving your putting, you should structure your Practice Putting and divide your time to practising Indoors and practising Outdoors.

You should also practise in a way that it is possible for you to gain reliable feedback.

Putting on an average practice green is hardly more valuable – in terms of learning about your stroke – than putting on a gravel parking lot.

Inaccurate feedback blinds you to the reality of your putting.

Dave Pelz’s Putting Bible

There are two productive areas of practice putting that you should focus on for best results:

  • Learning to putt your ball end over end in a straight line (Indoors)

  • Learning to putt your ball consistently the Correct Distance (Outdoors)

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Every Putt - A Straight Putt

Every putt is a straight putt, but most golfers have difficulty in putting straight. Picture yourself standing on a Pool or Billiard table with its perfectly flat and true surface.

  • Could you putt the length of the table and pocket the ball without touching the cush?

  • Could you do it 10 times in a row?

I read or heard somewhere that this was how Ernie Els used to practise his putting as a youngster.

The concept of every putt is a straight putt is simple, yet difficult to grasp when it is obvious that the ball-track to the hole is curved. Poor putters try somehow to steer the ball into the hole with their hands.

Good putters on the other hand putt their ball in a straight line to a predetermined spot and then allow the slope of the green to deliver the ball to the hole.

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Practising Indoors

Learning to putt straight is best learned indoors under controlled conditions. However, putting on a smooth carpet is not ideal, as the surface is seldom true, despite what you may think. This is where a Putting Aid can help to give you accurate feedback on your ability.

I know of two Putting Aids that help you to learn how to hit a straight putt. You can find them through the Google Search Engine. Or you can improvise by buying a yardstick from your local hardware store.

The Rail

  • The Rail

    The Rail by Harold Swash is a tapered metal strip, a metre in length (39 inches) allowing you to putt from the narrow (¾ inch) end to the wide (one inch) end, or from the wide end to the narrow end which is more difficult. The objective is to roll the ball down the rail without it veering off.

  • The Putting Stick

    The Putting stick is 46 inches long and one inch wide with a few more bits and pieces that essentially does the same job as the Rail. It too will show the accuracy of your stroke. In other words you will learn with practice how to make a straight putt.

  • The Yardstick

    Like any putting aid there is a cost associated with the marketing of a name brand product. I use the Rail because I like the unique challenge it offers when you reverse ends.

    However, I have found that a yardstick from the hardware store can give you similar feedback on the accuracy of your putting at a less expensive price.

In all cases when you position the putting aid on the floor, check that it is 100% level over its full length by using a bubble level. This is most important, as the slightest slope will give you inaccurate feedback on the accuracy of your stroke.

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Breaking Putts

Apart from a straight uphill or downhill putt on the local fall line, no putt is dead straight for its entire journey to the hole.

Most of the putts that you will encounter during your round will have a degree of break. This is because there will always be some contour on the green around the hole in order to prevent water from pooling on the surface.

The ball-track of a successful breaking putt is a combination of its starting direction and the speed the ball is travelling by the time it reaches the hole. The two elements of path and speed are interdependent.

Your challenge is to pick a path that, when matched with the end speed of your ball, sees your ball falling into the hole and staying there.

  • Path - the first part of your two-part practice putting is learning how to putt straight end over end. This will enable you to set your ball off in the direction of your aimpoint. This practice is best done indoors.
  • Speed- the second part of your two-part practice putting is learning touch; the ability to stroke your putt so that it arrives at the hole with the correct end speed. This you can only do outdoors under actual conditions.

You can’t learn touch simply by reading about it. You have to experience it. Fortunately nature has equipped us with an inbuilt sense of touch.

Three-dimensional vision allows us to reach out and grasp the doorknob without bothering about intricacies of spatial perception. We can throw a ball to another person without thinking about the mechanics of throwing a ball.

In putting, touch is usually associated with distance control. It is having a good feel for the speed of the green.

The force you apply with your putter will send your ball a certain distance across the green. If your putter, the make and model of your ball, and stroke tempo are always the same, then the length of your backstroke will be the only variable that you can control to change the length of your ball’s roll.

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Practising Outdoors

How do you practise Distance Control? There are a number of standard drills. However, putting from various distances to the fringe, or to a tee peg stuck in the ground, is as good a benchmark of your performance as any other drill.

In all your practice putting, you must practise with purpose. Otherwise don’t bother. It is quality not quantity that will bring you results. Learn how to putt straight and learn how to stroke your putts so that they arrive at the hole with the same end speed.

If you can learn both skills well, you will putt better. Even if you get the wrong read on a putt, your next putt will be a simply tap-in.

As long as you play golf you will never totally master how to putt straight or how to stroke the ball the correct distance, but you can always improve with attention to your practice putting. Match your expectations with the level of your current ability; remembering that even robots can’t achieve a perfect score.

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Practise under Pressure

To make your Practice Putting more like the real thing, you should introduce the element of pressure. You can simulate pressure by setting yourself a goal of, say, making 10 putts in a row on the Rail or Putting Stick and not quitting until you succeed or until your back gets too sore to continue. As you head towards a score of 10, each putt seems to get a little harder.

Outdoors you can challenge the best (never the worst) putter in your group to match-play for a dollar closest to the tee peg for each of 18 putts. You will soon get accurate feedback on how good your distance control is under pressure.

The one thought to leave you with is that the more time you give to your Practice Putting, especially under pressure conditions, the more you will build your confidence through increased competence.

You will putt better, not because you were lucky, but because of the time and effort you spent before in practising with purpose. "First you do the work, then you get paid".

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Related Topics

Practice Putting

two productive areas

Distance Control