I had just hit a 6 iron pin high, about 15-feet right on No. 17. I was about to play my second-to-last hole in the 108-hole European Tour Qualifying Tournament, and was either right on the cut line or one shot from getting my tour card.
I remember walking up to the green thinking that I hadn’t made many putts that day, and I was due (jedi mind tricks on myself). I just kept telling myself to go through my routine and hit the best putt I could. That was my goal. I had practiced and prepared to the best of my ability and on that day, I holed the putt. The process helped me a great deal, and I went on to secure my tour card, tying for the last spot by making birdies on Nos. 17 and 18.
The process and practice routines I used to make clutch putts down the stretch have no magical formula; any a golfer of any level could hole the putts that I made. I’ll share what I’ve used to practice and prepare to make putts in my career, and if this helps you make some putts, well, who doesn’t like to make putts? Here’s my short list of priorities.
- Great putters don’t care if the ball goes in or not. I’m serious.
- Speed rules.
- Hit putts where you are aimed, which is more difficult than it sounds.
A little disclaimer before we get going; I’m going to share with you what I’ve used for years to work on my putting. I’m not getting paid to promote certain products; I just know what works for me and if that helps you, fantastic.
Here’s what I’m looking for during my practice sessions.
The first image is a typical practice setup I would use. The thing on the ground is made by Dave Pelz, and it gives me feedback about my setup and my putting stroke. Once I’ve got a good read on the putt, I’ll use some tees to anchor the device to the green and get to work. In this image, I’m looking for a couple things.
- The coin on the ground, in coordination with this device, gives you great feedback about where you are aimed, letting you know exactly what it feels like to aim at that coin on the ground. You are teaching your mind, body, and eyes how to aim properly, which is very important in putting.
- By gently pushing the putter face up against the device, you know the putter is perfectly aligned and perpendicular to the starting line of the putt.
This image shows where your eyes are in relation to the starting line of the putt. A quick way to check your eye position without this aid is to get over a putt like you’re ready to hit it, but have an extra ball in your hand. Then hold the ball right in front of your eyes and drop it. Where the ball lands shows where your eyes are positioned in relation to the line of the putt. I’ve always putted with my eyes just inside of the line, which is represented by the image below.
This image below shows what it would look like if your eyes are too far over the line of the putt.
Most great putters I’ve known operate with their eyes slightly inside the line of the putt or directly over the line of the putt. Here’s an image of the overall setup. You’ll see the tiny gap under the ball and the putter flush against the device. That shows me that I’m perfectly lined up with my eyes just inside of the ball.
The goal with all of this is to start the ball on the line you have chosen for the speed you’ve chosen. In the images above, you’ll see two little steel marbles at the end of the device. If you’re not starting the ball online, the ball will hit one of these ball bearings and you’ll get immediate feedback. You’ll have to intuitively figure out how to consistently get the ball through the two bearings. Sometimes the path of the putter head may travel too far inside or outside, and sometimes the putter face will be closed or open at impact. This is where you learn how to hit putts on line consistently. Start with comfortably hitting putts through the widest setting then slowly move the bearings in as you become more consistent.
Taking It To The Course
When I get on the golf course, all I’m trying to do is imagine every putt I hit is coming out of this device. I simply have to aim myself correctly for the speed I’ve chosen. It doesn’t matter if the putt breaks one way or the other. All you can do is hit the best putt you are capable of hitting on the line you’ve chosen. If this sounds familiar, it’s because this was all I was thinking about when I holed that putt on the second-to-last hole of European Tour qualifying.
Here’s the same putt without the training device, a putt you’d likely see on the golf course. I try to find something 8-to-12 inches in front of my ball I can use as a reference for alignment.
See the leaf on the ground. Even though it’s close to my line, I’m not going to move it because if I hit it I’ll probably miss the putt. You can look for anything on the green to help you line up your putt: old ball marks, discolorations, etc.
Knowing I’m aiming just inside the leaf, I’ll get over the putt and imagine the device sitting on the ground with the white line aimed just inside of the leaf. Once I get over the ball, I know I’m aimed to the best of my ability and the only thing left to do is pull the trigger.
Remember, all you can do is hit the best putt you can. Once the ball leaves your putter face, there is nothing you can do. Sometimes bad putts go in, and sometimes great putts don’t. The most important thing you can do is create a measurable, consistent setup. Once you get on the golf course, you’re just picking a line, using your setup and letting go of the outcome.
The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training
If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”
Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.
In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.
The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.
[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]
Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.
Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.
So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!
Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers
There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.
If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.
My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).
Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.
Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.
If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.
Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.
Clement: Effortless power for senior golfers
Are you struggling with range of motion? Want more EFFORTLESS POWER? We are truly the experts at this having taught these methods for 25 plus years, while others were teaching resistance, breaking everyone’s backs and screwing up their minds with endless positions to hit and defects to fix. Welcome home to Wisdom in Golf!
Clement: How to turbo charge your swing
The shift in golf instruction continues and Wisdom in Golf and GolfWRX are right out there blazing a trail of fantastic content and techniques to get you to feel the most blissful, rhythmic golf shots you can strike! This here is the humdinger that keeps on giving and is now used by a plethora of tour players who are benefitting greatly and moving up the world rankings because of it.
The new trend (ours is about 25 years young) is the antithesis of the “be careful, don’t move too much, don’t make a mistake” approach we have endured for the last 30 years plus. Time to break free of the shackles that hold you back and experience the greatness that is already right there inside that gorgeous human machine you have that is so far from being defective! Enjoy!
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