Lesson Tee: Jeff Coston

Winter is the time to work on putts

The  next month or so, the weather can be a bit harsh. I have the conviction we can improve our golf games in spite of the cold and wet conditions.  I would like to write this month about putting.  Let’s discuss some principles; practical methods; and technique improvements indoors.

First, to me the two most important putts to work toward mastering would be beyond 25’ and inside 5’.  Let’s look at the 25’ and beyond.  Some call it a lag putt.  I do not take their view.  I believe we attempt and focus on making all putts. 

If our target is smaller in focus we will end closer to the hole and even make a few more putts.  If a golfer is just attempting to get it close in a three foot circle the miss will be well outside that intended circle.  I suggest our first step be proper speed to and beyond the hole.  Place a club 2 1/2’  beyond the hole.  Focus on making the putt with the speed to finish the putt between the hole and the shaft on the ground 2 1/2’ beyond the hole. 

coston-columnHow many can you get between or in the hole out of 15 attempts?  This would be a measurable task.  Putt a set uphill then downhill and finally level with various breaks.  Putt 5 sets of 15 putts 25’ to 35’.  Also put a coin 2/3rds of the way on the apex of the putt (or the high point of the break). This will give you feedback as to how you are doing in regard to hitting the proper line.

Proper speed is the key to successful long putting.  It is much easier to trust long putts if you have a good sense for speed.  Make longer fluid strokes on longer putts. Have the pace of stroke like the tic tock of a grandfather clock.  Play the 1 – 2 beat in your mind even as you putt.  This drill and focus will help eliminate three putts and help your score.

Secondly, short putts 5’ and in.  The closer most golfers get to the hole the harder they tend to try. Fear of missing becomes a factor and the stroke suffers.  Misses occur and the negative cycle begins.  I suggest you hit some uphill 2’ putts.  Commit to a very specific read no matter what.  Commitment overshadows doubt.  Place a dime directly in front of the hole. (1/2 inch)  Focus on rolling your golf ball over the dime.  This gives us a small target so even if you miss the dime the ball still goes in the hole.  As you make these 2’ putts over the dime focus on your read, your small dime target and your mental 1 – 2 back and through stroke.  1 is the finish of the backstroke and 2 is when you strike the ball.  It is the tic-tock rhythm.  When you focus on 1 – 2 or tic-tock your mind has no time to lock onto bad mental interference.  After you are comfortable with the 2’ putts move on to 3’ and so on. 

I work mainly on my putting technique in the winter.  Inside where it is nice and warm.  I use two main aids for my technique.

First, I have a 2 x 4 or an arc board.  (photo)  I attach a clip to the back of my putter and slide it along the board. The clip keeps my clubface from over rotating. The board trains my putter path.

Secondly, I use Mike Bender’s Rite on Line. We call it the mouse trap.  This helps me get my putts started on line.  This is key to making putts.  I hit putts through the tiny hole and train my stroke or my hands ( yes, hand path) to  consistently move on the same line.  Not many golfers take putting instruction and yet good putting is vital to low scores and more fun in golf. I would encourage golfers to take some putting instruction from a qualified coach.  Make a putting plan, do some drills and spend time on technique.  There is proper and improper technique even in putting.

Jeff Coston is a former PGA Tour player.  He is multi-award winner of the PGA Northwest Player of the Year.  He can be reached at Semiahmoo Resort by calling 360-201-4590. See www.jeffcoston.com.