Simple and Easy, but Effective
Here’s the typical scenario for most putting practice and pre-round warm-ups: take a stack of discs, pick a spot, throw them all, gather them up, pick a new spot, lather, rinse, repeat. There are a couple inherent problems with that. One being that more often than not, the stack of discs are not all alike, sometimes not even all putters. Hard to work on consistency in one’s putting when the disc shapes themselves are inconsistent from one to the next. Another problem is the repeating motion as one works through a stack. Never is putting on the course a flurry of putts from exactly the same spot. It’s one disc at a time from one location at a time. The third and fourth and fifth putts in this method really do nothing for the player at all.
So what’s the best way to warm up before a round or to practice in the back yard? Well, there’s probably no best way but there are certainly better ways than the one described above. Here is but one example of a simple yet effective way to increase one’s accuracy and confidence around the basket.
What you need:
- 2 putters as close to identical as possible (same mold, roughly same weight, roughly same level of “beatness”)
- ~30-35 feet of putting space (lengthwise…width doesn’t need to be more than 7-8 feet)
- 1 target (basket, pole, square drawn on a wall, whatever)
What to do to prepare:
- Mark off distances of 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 feet from the basket
- This can all be in the same line or circles around the basket, depending on available space
What you do:
- Start at the 10 foot mark and try to make 20 putts in a row, by pairs. If you miss with the first disc, putt the second if you feel like it (practice is still practice) but do not count it.
- After making 20 in a row, move to 15 feet and try to make 10 in a row, again by pairs
- After making 10 in a row, move to 20 feet and repeat. Then move to 25, and so on.
- After making 10 30-footers in a row, repeat the process in reverse: 25 feet, then 20, then 15, then 10 (20 putts).
- Set up and throw each putt in the same manner one would on the course. Don’t rapid fire. Take your time.
- End the drill at any point you feel fatigued, even if the cycle isn’t complete. Start over from scratch (10 feet) the next time and every time.
Philosophy of the Drill:
First, let’s start with why just two discs and not a stack. This isn’t a matter of trying to make as many putts as one can in as little time as possible. This is about quality before quantity. As mentioned earlier, throwing a stack of discs fails to emulate real round conditions. Third and fourth and fifth putts from the same spot in a short amount of time do little for improvement as the player is just repeating motions in a way that will never occur in a real round. Every in-round putt is going to be the first (and likely only) throw from that spot.
Even with just the two discs, be sure to set down the second disc while throwing the first. Again, this is to more accurately emulate in-round conditions. How often does one attempt a putt with another disc (or two or three) in their off-hand? Not holding the second disc also forces the player to stop, reset, and re-start the putting routine with each successive throw rather than firing off the second disc right behind the first. The key again is to repeat the entire putting routine that one would use on the course with each practice putt.
Why count the putts in pairs? Basically, to make it easy to count. But also to add pressure to the first putt of a string. If one doesn’t hit that first one, the second one becomes meaningless rather than just another attempt to start a string. And after a couple times retrieving that first miss, one will want to bear down and make sure to throw two meaningful putts each go around. And that leads to why one must hit so many in a row to advance to the next spot: building pressure.
There will always come a time when one is on the course playing a round, be it with friends or in a tournament, and hitting the putt on 17 or 18 will be the difference between winning and losing, a new personal best or not, a course record or just short. The knees start knocking, the mind starts racing, and nerves take over. What better way to emulate that type of pressure than forcing oneself to hit that 8th and 9th and 10th putts from 20 feet in order to move on or finish up? And there’s nothing that will frustrate one quicker than missing putt #9 or worse, #10. To get so close, only to have to start all over again, it plays with the mind.
OK, so one has attempted the drill a few times without ever coming close to completing the cycle. Why is that not a bad thing? Because, in all honesty, it would take one forever to actually complete it, and who has that kind of time? It would be the rare day that even the best putters in the world could succeed at hitting 110 putts (20+10+10+10+10+10+10+10+20) in a row from varying distances. As the player moves further from the target, their accuracy percentage is going to drop…it’s natural. Also, given that misses and re-starting the count will be a very likely occurrence, fatigue is likely to set in before one even gets through half the drill. Limit sessions to 20-30 minutes maximum, because tired practice is not productive practice. If a 25 or 30 foot putt never gets thrown in a session, that’s really OK. It gives you a goal to build toward.
Are you crazy, not practice 30 footers? What about 40-footers? Or 50-footers? I miss those all the time on the course.
Yes, indeed, don’t worry about them. Here’s why: having total confidence in the shorter putts will, in turn, make you a better putter from longer distance. And putting is all about confidence. The primary reason the longer putts tend to miss is that one is afraid, even sub-consciously, of running past the target and leaving a long return putt. When that occurs, one tends to leave putts short or throws them in such a way that while the threat of “blowing by” is decreased, the odds of going in are decreased as well. If one, through these drills, can become so proficient and confident from 15-20 feet that they’re all going to go in, then one can putt more aggressively from long distance and know that one can still make the 15 foot come-backer after a miss.
And believe it or not, putts in the 10-20 foot range are far, far more commonplace in a given round than any other. Assuming that one would be faced with such a range on say, 12 out of 18 holes, hitting all 12 as opposed to half of them (six) is the difference between shooting a 60 and a 54, or a 72 and a 66. Go ahead, count the number of missed putts inside 20 feet of the basket during the next round, then think about what “could have been”.
Mastering the 15-foot putt will improve one’s game much more quickly
than mastering the 300-foot drive…and it’s easier to accomplish, too.