Recently, I was a part of a putting challenge that had a grand prize of $25,000. Thirty amateur golfers hit a relatively straight putt from 10 feet. If the putt was holed, you advanced to a 30-foot putt. If that putt was holed, they would get a chance from 50 feet to win the cash. Of the 30 golfers, only four made the putt from 10 feet, and then none of the four made it from 30 feet.
There was certainly the pressure of putting for a lot of money and 30 other golfers watching you. However, only 13 percent of the putts were made from 10 feet.
What I also observed was how these golfers missed the putts. The 10-foot putt moved slightly from left to right, but it wasn’t a putt that you would give the hole away. Of the 26 golfers that missed the 10-foot putt, 22 of them missed the putt on the low side of the hole. Only four golfers missed on the high side, and only two of those putts had the proper speed to go in the hole.
Many years ago, noted short game guru Dave Pelz conducted an extensive study that resulted in him stating that 85 percent of all putts missed – pros included – missed on the low side of the hole. This informal study of mine hit his results exactly on the button. Twenty-six putts were missed, and 85 percent were missed on the low side.
The biggest takeaway from this event is that virtually every golfer doesn’t play enough break in the read of a putt. I have observed this phenomenon for years but never formalized the observation until observing this putting challenge.
I often ask my students to challenge themselves to miss the putt on the high side of the hole if they don’t make the putt. To me, if you miss on the high side, every rotation of the ball is getting closer to the hole as it loses speed. If you miss on the low side every rotation of the ball is moving away and farther from the hole as it gets below the hole. Often times, golfers can sense they haven’t played enough break in their setup, don’t adjust, and just hit the ball harder to attempt to hold the line.
The next time you play golf, challenge yourself on every putt to miss on the high side if you don’t make the putt. You’ll find that your missed putts will end up closer to the hole, and you may just make a few more putts by playing more break.
Tim Cusick is the Director of Instruction at the Four Seasons Resort and Club/Dallas at Las Colinas. The Northern Texas PGA named Cusick Teacher of the Year in 2005, 2009 and 2015, as well as the 2014 Horton Smith Award winner for education. He’s the author of ‘The Four Keys to Improve your Swing.’ Follow him on Twitter @timcusickgolf and visit his website: timcusickgolf.com.