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Drills to hit the best putts you possibly can

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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.

Alignment

golfwrxputting1

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.

Eye Line

putting2

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.

putting3

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.

putting4

Hitting Putts

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.

putting5

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.

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Rob earned a business degree from the University of Washington. He turned professional in June of 1999 and played most mini tours, as well as the Australian Tour, Canadian Tour, Asian Tour, European Tour and the PGA Tour. He writes for GolfWRX to share what he's learned and continues to learn about a game that's given him so much. www.robrashell.com Google Plus Director of Instruction at TOURAcademy TPC Scottsdale www.touracademy.com

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. KA

    Jun 7, 2014 at 12:21 am

    I got one of these devices about two months ago and it’s drastically changed my putting for the better. When you roll those putts through the marbles on the tour setting you gain so much confidence. It was also an eye opener on playing enough break. Worth every penny of that $50!

    • Rob Rashell

      Jun 7, 2014 at 10:00 am

      KA,

      Agree, very simple and very effective, an eye opener for people who have never used it. Takes a bit to get used to rolling the ball through the close setting and ramps up the quality of your practice.

      Rob

  2. Jadon

    Jun 4, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Where can you get one of these used? Pelz website has them for $50. That’s too much. I can rig something up similar just not as fancy for less than $50.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jun 4, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      J,

      Pelz website only place I’ve found that has them. Let me know if you find another place that sells them.

      Rob

  3. Rob Rashell

    Jun 4, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Jeff,

    Thanks! You more of a feel player?

    Rob

  4. jmichael204

    Jun 4, 2014 at 10:05 am

    Good article because I feel we get too wrapped up in telling people how to gain an extra 15 yards on our drives. Becoming a better golfer will always come from being better around the greens and putting. Putting is also something you can work on at home if you can’t make it out to the course regularly.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jun 4, 2014 at 10:13 am

      204,

      You bet, I used to spend hours in front of the tv rolling putts on the carpet. Thanks for the thoughts.

      Rob

  5. Todd Turner

    Jun 3, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Great device.. It works and is easily stowed in bag.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jun 4, 2014 at 10:16 am

      TT,

      Have you spent time hitting putts with Pelz’s device? Has it helped to improve the quality of putts you hit?

      Rob

  6. Jeff

    Jun 3, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    Solid article. Not too techy.

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Instruction

Clement: This wrist position can add 30 yards to your drive

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Drop the mic on how the wrists should load and be positioned for compressive power, accuracy, and longevity! There is a better way, and this is it!

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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301

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In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.

Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.

Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.

Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”

“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”

“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”

Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?

  1. Make sure the face is clean and dry
  2. Open the blade slightly, but not too much
  3. Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
  4. Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

Make sure the face is clean and dry

If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.

Open the blade slightly, but not too much

Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.

Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.

My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.

Opened slightly

Opened too much

One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.

Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack

As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.

So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.

Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!

Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.

Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.

Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!

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Instruction

An awesome drill for lag that works with the ball!

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Many lag drills have come and gone in this game because they have a hard time working when the ball is there! How many times do you hear about someone having a great practice swing and then having it all go away when the ball is there? This one is a keeper!

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