Friday 15 March 2013

Getting Your "Feel" Back After the Winter

As many of us are seeing an end to the cold weather, rain and snow, it's time for the arrival of spring and the start of the golf season.  Depending on where you live, winter can be a time where the clubs are stored away and the rust on your game builds up as you're stuck indoors itching for the warmth of the sun to make its return.  Of course, it's always a good idea to dust off those clubs and start hitting some balls to get that swing back, but one thing many golfers don't realize is that one of the first things that disappears with time away from the game is your "touch" and "feel".  You'll find that it doesn't take very long to get your groove back with your full swing at the driving range, but when you head out onto the golf course for the first time after a winter layoff, it's that short game that seems to cause you the most trouble and costs you the most strokes.  Everyone wants to get out to the driving range and pound buckets of balls, but it's the time and practice put into the short game that will help you the most when you're tuning up for the golf season.  Thus, I've put together some tips and drills on putting that will help you get your feel and distance control back quickly so that you can start saving some strokes early in the season and be well on your way to shooting low scores.

A Simple Routine to Use on the Practice Green

1.  The focus should be on speed and distance control when practicing putting.  To start with, hit your putts at a ball marker you've put down about six feet away (not at a hole).  Don't try to make putts, simply think about the stroke and centering the ball on the putter face.

2.  Set down distance markers and alternate putting to different distances.  Put ball markers at ten foot intervals out to about thirty feet.  Alternate putting balls to the different distances as this will help hone distance control and feel.

3.  To practice long putts, hit from one side of the practice green to the other, trying to stop your ball just at the fringe.  Making a fifty footer isn't something that happens very often, so it doesn't make sense to practice those very long putts by aiming at a cup.  You'll only be disappointed when the ball doesn't go in.

4.  When you're ready to putt at a hole on the the practice green, start by putting from a short distance such as three feet and then slowly work your way further out as you build your confidence.  The key is to practice making putts, not missing them.  Be sure to use a flat part of the practice green.  Short, flat putts are the ones you have to make to get better and making those is what builds confidence.

5.  Always end your practice session by making short putts.  Never walk off the practice green on a miss.  Force yourself to make multiple putts in a row to end your session, even if you have to putt from 6 inches to do it.

Drills to Help Improve Your Putting Stroke

1.  Push Putt Drill
  • The purpose of this drill is to make the putter blade go to the target following through rather than stopping at the ball.
  • From a very short distance (one to two feet) place the ball on a level portion of the practice green.  Set the putter face against the ball with the blade at right angles to the target.  Vigorously push the putter blade toward the center of the cup with enough acceleration so the ball leaves the face.
2.  Pace Drill
  • The purpose of this drill is to develop a stroke which can produce a consistent pace for various distances.
  • Place three balls on the practice green.  Putt one ball to no particular target, but closely monitor the effort it took to get there.  Putt each of the other two balls so they finish the same distance as the first.
3.  One Arm Putting
  • The purpose of this drill is to eliminate wrist breakdown in putting.
  • Grip the putter with the right hand alone so the wrist is slightly extended (back of the hand toward the top of the forearm).  Putt using no wrist action.  Switch to the left hand alone and with the back of the left hand solid, do likewise.  Then putt some balls with both hands mimicking the action practiced when using the hands separately.
I hope you can put the routine and drills above to good use as you prepare for another successful golf season.  It's the little things that make the biggest difference in your score and by following my suggestions along with practicing with purpose, I can assure you that you'll be well on your way to shaving some strokes off your game.  Remember the old saying, "drive for show and putt for dough"!  Till next time...

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