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A drill to take the pain out of missing short putts

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One of the most frustrating things in all of golf is missing a short putt you know you should make. You stick it close to the pin for birdie, or hit a nice pitch in tight enough to save par, and step up to that mere formality only to yank the confounded thing left, shove it right, or convince yourself of some imaginary break by the time you stand over it that doesn’t turn out to exist.

I’m convinced that some of the most colorful words in the English language have been invented at these moments, which can drive otherwise sane and rational individuals to engage in displays of behavior that might have the casual observer calling for the “men in white coats” to intervene. And while doing this (again and again and again) can be the precursor to a nasty case of the dreaded yips, I want to intervene before it ever gets that far by pointing out a very common mechanical (not mental) flaw that I’ve observed over the years by a vast majority of players who end up in this frightening place

First of all, most golfers don’t hit short putts as firmly as they should, and being tentative at short distances sets you up for these issues. Unless you’re dead downhill, or staring at the crest of a tier on the opposite side of your ball, you ideally want to hit putts under 4 feet hard enough to take most of the break out of them (if there is any), which also helps mitigate the subtle bumps and inconsistencies in the greens. This translates to at least 18 inches beyond the hole. Dave Pelz did some research to back this figure up a few years ago, but we won’t get into that right now.

Secondly, you need to make sure you keep your shoulders moving until the completion of the stroke. In the vast majority of players I’ve seen who struggle with this distance, you see their shoulders either slow or stop completely at or near the moment of impact, allowing the momentum of the putter head to take over as the lead wrist breaks down and the face closes. This results in the ball being pulled from the intended target line, and after missing more than a few that direction you begin to understand why alignment adjustments (read problems) creep in.

Because the overall length of the stroke is pretty small at these distances, regardless of how aggressive your approach, this mechanical flaw can be subtle enough that even fairly accomplished players are often found to suffer from it without even realizing it.

Here’s a way to start to correct the problem.

First of all, you need to practice putting with your glove on. Don’t wear a glove? Invest in one for this drill and I promise it will pay for itself in just a few short rounds with the money you make back from your golfing buddies when you start making those putts again.

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Second, get a freshly sharpened pencil from the golf shop and slide it into your glove at the back of your wrist with the point facing down until it is in as far as the middle of the back of your hand (as seen above). If you keep your lead wrist flat (as it should be) throughout your stroke the sharp point of the pencil will never come in contact with the back of your hand. Stop your shoulders and let that lead wrist break down during your stroke and you’ll get a painful little reminder as the pencil point pokes you in the back of the hand at the moment of break-down.

To further help avoid lead wrist breakdown, make sure your goal as far as pace is concerned is a point well beyond the hole. Even look at a spot at the back of the cup you want your ball to hit as it goes in, rather than focusing on the front of the hole. Once you start doing these things, it should start taking the pain out of missing short putts… literally. Try it, and let me know what you think.

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Mike Dowd is the author of the new novel COMING HOME and the Lessons from the Golf Guru: Wit, Wisdom, Mind-Tricks & Mysticism for Golf and Life series. He has been Head PGA Professional at Oakdale Golf & CC in Oakdale, California since 2001, and is serving his third term on the NCPGA Board of Directors and Chairs the Growth of the Game Committee. Mike has introduced thousands of people to the game and has coached players that have played golf collegiately at the University of Hawaii, San Francisco, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Davis, University of the Pacific, C.S.U. Sacramento, C.S.U. Stanislaus, C.S.U. Chico, and Missouri Valley State, as men and women on the professional tours. Mike currently lives in Turlock, California with his wife and their two aspiring LPGA stars, where he serves on the Turlock Community Theatre Board, is the past Chairman of the Parks & Recreation Commission and is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Turlock. In his spare time (what's that?) he enjoys playing golf with his girls, writing, music, fishing and following the foibles of the Sacramento Kings, the San Francisco 49ers, the San Francisco Giants, and, of course, the PGA Tour. You can find Mike at mikedowdgolf.com.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Dill Pickleson

    Oct 24, 2016 at 1:41 am

    i got lead poisoning. but, i made the putt!

  2. James

    Oct 24, 2016 at 12:49 am

    I had 42 putts on Friday…..wish I had seen this earlier!

  3. Pingback: A drill to take the pain out of missing short putts | Swing Update

  4. gdb99

    Oct 19, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    I’ve missed many 3′ putts in my life! I still remember missing 8 – 3′ and less putts in one round!
    I will be working with this drill!

  5. Kelly

    Oct 19, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    I haven’t tried this drill yet, but it all sounds spot on. I miss these types of putts a couple of times a round. I believe that I have actually added a couple of words to the vulgar side of the English language at these times — they just haven’t caught on yet. All of the issues described are things I can relate to when I miss these putts. Thanks.

  6. knoofah

    Oct 19, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    Four times as many views/likes for Tiger’s new company. This is why people’s games never improve. It’s hard to get excited about (practicing) putting, but it’s most people’s weakest area of their game.

  7. Philip

    Oct 19, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    For myself I stopped setting up fully and now just setup with on leg square to my line, place my weight on the one leg, while letting my arms hang with the putter in line with my foot and just let my arms swing. I started this for 4 feet and in, however, I am finding it really effective for up to 6 feet too if I want to remove the break. I started this because I used to see the line and decide to take it out, but by the time I setup with my entire body over the putt I would have time to doubt the force I was going to use and end up lightly tapping the putt and watching it go around the cup instead of banging it into the cup.

    • Philip

      Oct 19, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      I also had issues with alignment when so close to the hole so by using only my right leg (dominant right eye) I find it easier to putt on the line.

  8. joe

    Oct 19, 2016 at 11:44 am

    “To further help avoid lead wrist breakdown, instead of using a pencil, use a needle you find under a bridge. This way you’ll be much more concentrated on not getting the AIDS, hepatitis, or tetanus, instead of the yips.”

  9. Chris

    Oct 19, 2016 at 11:18 am

    Solid advice.

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Instruction

Stickney: Sit on it (for a better backswing)

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As we know golf, is a very tough sport and one that involves many moving pieces. Whenever something overreacts or moves too much on the way back, you end up playing catch-up on the way down. One of my favorite things to watch is how the head moves or doesn’t move on the backswing. Sure, you can have some movement, but you can’t have too much or you put yourself behind the eight ball.

I have charted the head position of a tour player at address and we can see that this is a very normal set up position. It is one that looks positioned to do great things.

However, en route to the top, you can see that this player has put himself into a position where his rear knee straightened too rapidly off the start of his backswing. When this occurs the pelvis “runs out from under” the upper body on the backswing the hips will react and begin to slant downward. (You can see a -10 degree tilt versus 3 degrees the opposite way at address for you number people.)

This causes the head to move out in front of where it was at address. This is not a bad position for the irons but for a driver we have a pending issue. If you don’t make a compensation from here then the player will have an angle of attack that is too much downward through impact with their driver.

As the player moves into his transition, the hips have leveled as the rear shoulder lowers the club into delivery but the head and pelvis are still too far out in front of the ball. The only thing you can do from here is fire the lead side upwards and hope that your head falls back into the correct position. If so, you will have the correct angle of attack, if not, you will chop down on the ball causing your launch conditions to be faulty.

And as we see here that this is precisely what this player did at the very last minute…not the easiest way to swing the club but it is functional IF you make the right correction. So, now that you understand how simple things like the action of the lower body can cause your head to move and your angle of attack to become faulty, what is the secret to controlling your lower body?


Just “sit” on the rear knee flex slightly longer during the backswing as you see here. This will slow down the tilting of the pelvis on backswing and thus your head will stay more in position en route to the top.

Personally, I teach both flexion and extension of the rear knee to the top, depending on what the player is wanting to do, so it really does not matter. However, what does matter is the rate at which it begins to straighten for those of you who do allow it to lengthen. I try to make most of my students hold the most of their address flex until the club moves between belt and chest high, any sooner and you risk the faulty pivot we saw above.

Therefore, take it from me and “sit on it” slightly longer for more quiet head motions as well as a more balanced backswing—your angle of attack will thank you!

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Davies: Training the trail elbow in the golf swing

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Alistair Davies shares with you how to get the correct trail arm and elbow action in the downswing. He shares some great drills that can be done at the range or at home to help lower your scores.Get the correct training for the trail arm here today!

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The important lessons you can learn from Peter Senior’s golf swing

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He may not be a household name in the United States, but Australia’s Peter Senior has a swing for the ages. At 60 years old, Senior has 34 worldwide professional wins including the 2015 Australian Masters beating a competitive field with several top-ranked players in the world. Turning professional in 1978, his career has spanned over 40 years.

Senior’s game and swing have stood the test of time, and the longevity of his career should be recognized. Senior formerly worked with Australian instructor Gary Edwin, and the structure to this swing taught to Senior paved the way for a future of consistent, high-quality professional golf.

Having a great golf swing isn’t the only key to becoming a great golfer, one must learn to play the game. However, you can learn a lot from Senior’s swing.

The origin to Senior’s swing lies in his set-up. Senior sets up in what I call his “hitting angles” or a position that mirrors impact.

From this position, Senior is able to simply keep these angles he established at address throughout the swing. This is why the set-up is so critical. The further he deviates from these “hitting angles”, the more he will have to find that impact position with his body in the backswing and downswing. In other words, more movement. The goal of his backswing will be to maintain these original starting angles.

From the picture, Senior has maintained his original body shape that he established at address. From this position, it will be much easier and repeatable to return the club to impact.

Note how his impact position now mirrors his original address position. All his original angles were maintained with a slight bump of the body towards the target. From impact, he can simply fold up his arms as his right side of his body rotates around his left side, keeping the clubface square to the body.

This standing tall finish position with the head following the torso is much easier on the back. His body has come forward and around beautifully, covering the ball for a proper strike.

The beauty of Senior’s swing lies in its simplicity. The changes Senior made to his swing can apply to anyone. Let’s look at two simple drills to make your swing more efficient and powerful.

“To a large extent, my backswing is a product of my set-up position” – Tiger Woods, Golf Digest 2020

To get into these impact angles simply practice pushing into an impact bag with the head and shaft of the club. Make sure your trail arm is tucked, lowering the trail shoulder as you pressure the bag.

To get the feeling of the proper coil from this set-up position, grab an impact bag and hold the bag in front of you.

From here, swing the bag around you with your arms keeping the top of the bag level. You will feel the trail side of your body move back and the lead side move out, coiling around your spine angle.

The trail glute will also move back and around with this drill, a key move the great Ben Hogan used to pivot his body. To develop an efficient swing and a long, injury-free career, take note of Peter Senior’s key moves.

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