Having good pace is critical to performance on the greens, regardless of your ability if you cannot judge the pace of the putt you have you will struggle to convert, very often especially under pressure we tend to leave the ball short of the hole due to having a tentative stroke.
As I watched the last round of the WGC FedEx St Jude Classic you could see even the best players in the world struggle to get the pace correct, leaving putts short, breaking too early and then later on in the round rushing the ball past…inevitably three putting more than they should.
Below are a few tips to help you get a better feel over your putter and hopefully eliminate the nasty second putt and get you holing out more often.
1) Be loose
We don’t want tension creeping through your hands, into your forearms and shoulders as this will fuse your putting stroke, instead let your arms hang freely and have a nice and loose grip, it should be comfortable but still in control as you move the club back and forth.
2) One hand to save it all
Whilst many of us try to stay connected in the stroke this leads to more tension and a very wooden stroke without feel. Next time you are on the putting green try stroking the ball with just your right hand (left hand for left hand golfers). It will feel strange at first but you will get a better understanding of the release in your stroke.
3) Get a grip
Conventional grip: Just like you swing the club, it allows you to feel a bit of lag and the release of the putter. (See Tiger woods and Rickie Fowler)
The reverse grip: also known as left hand low for the right handed golfer, this is ideal for players who get a little too much wrist action and want to feel that the hands don’t move, the downside to the grip is the stroke is more fused together and very difficult to release the right hand. (Jordan Speith is a great example of this)
The Claw, Pencil (or other variations): This to me is the happy medium, it eliminates the “wristy” action but still allows for some release. (Tommy Fleetwood has used this to great effect in past seasons)
With your grip you can always experiment and I would encourage it so you can get an idea of what you are looking for, just be aware of the pro’s and con’s in each.
4) All in the eyes
Close your eyes: A good practice drill to help you gain feel in your hands, is to close your eyes, we are generally guided by our eyes in terms of distance so by removing them we have to feel it more in our hands and shoulders.
Look at the hole: You may have seen Jordan Speith do this with short putts but it can work just as well with the longer ones. By looking at the hole, and not the ball, during your stroke you build up the necessary calculations and then transfer them into your hands and arms.
The above drills give you a sense of total feel, not technique so you will putt with more instinct and judgement.
5) Before hitting the course
Take three clubs/tees/sticks to the putting green, lay them at various distances. Then try putting one ball to each of the three targets you have chosen. This will get you a better feel for the green speed.
Also as the drill is random target you will develop feel quicker than just hitting the same putt over and over again as we do in block practice.