On the surface, putting seems to be a very simple task. Just about anyone, even non-golfers, can pick up a putter and hit a few putts. The stroke is small, doesn’t require any real strength, flexibility or swing speed. However, it’s a skill that confounds many golfers each and every day. Why is putting so elusive? You can point to set up, alignment, technique, green reading, equipment and they all share in becoming a good putter. I tend to look at one area that stands out from all the other elements of putting. The element is speed. It’s sounds so basic, so simple, but to most golfers, even Tour pros, it’s the most difficult aspect of putting.
Speed starts with being consistent in the contact on the face of the putter. You must hit your putts in the same spot each time. Preferably, in the middle of the putter face. However, even if you were to error slightly off center, as long as you’re consistent, you can be effective.
Next comes rhythm and pace. Your putting stroke has to have a consistent rhythm and pace to it. You can be very elementary in working on this by using a count system. Simply say the number “one” for your backstroke and number “two” for your forward stroke. It’s basic but it works. Quicken the one-two if you have a long, uphill or slow putt. Draw out the one-two if you have a faster, downhill or shorter putt.
Now comes the component that most golfers miss – the length of the stroke, particularly the backstroke. The length of the backstroke determines the pace, rhythm and speed of the putt.
For example, if I have a flat 20-foot putt, I need to determine the length of my backstroke. By doing so, it will determine my forward stroke, rhythm and pace. If I make a backstroke that is too short or too long, I will have to quicken or slow down the pace of my stroke coming into the ball. A great exercise for this is to set up to a 20-foot putt, make a practice backstroke too short, then too long and ultimately find the correct length in the middle. This will help you determine your forward stroke, pace and rhythm, ultimately allowing you a better opportunity to hit the putt the proper speed.
Make 2016 the year you work to improve the speed of your putts. By doing so, you will undoubtedly shoot lower scores and enjoy the game more.