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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

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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Instruction

Walters: Try this practice hack for better bunker shots

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Your ability to hit better bunker shots is dramatically reduced if you have no facility to practice these shots. With so few facilities (especially in the UK) having a practice bunker it’s no wonder I see so many golfers struggle with this skill.

Yet the biggest issue they all seem to have is the inability to get the club to enter the sand (hit the ground) in a consistent spot. So here is a hack to use at the range to improve your bunker shots.

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Golf Blueprint: A plan for productive practice sessions

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Practice range at the Dormie Club. Photo credit: Scott Arden

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

You’ve gotten lessons.  Several of them.  You’ve been custom fitted for everything in your bag.  You even bought another half a dozen driver shafts last year looking for an extra couple of yards.  And yet, you’re still…stuck.  Either your handicap hasn’t moved at all in years or you keep bouncing back and forth between the same two numbers.  You’ve had all the swing fixes and all the technological advances you could realistically hope to achieve, yet no appreciable result has been achieved in lowering your score.  What gives?

Sample Golf Blueprint practice plan for a client.

One could argue that no one scientifically disassembled and then systematically reassembled the game of golf quite like the great Ben Hogan.  His penchant for doing so created a mystique which is still the stuff of legend even today.  A great many people have tried to decipher his secret over the years and the inevitable conclusion is always a somewhat anticlimactic, “The secret’s in the dirt.”  Mr. Hogan’s ball striking prowess was carved one divot at a time from countless hours on the practice range.  In an interview with golf journalist George Peper in 1987, Mr. Hogan once said:

“You hear stories about me beating my brains out practicing, but the truth is, I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning so I could hit balls. I’d be at the practice tee at the crack of dawn, hit balls for a few hours, then take a break and get right back to it. And I still thoroughly enjoy it. When I’m hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisply—when anyone is— it’s a joy that very few people experience.”

Let me guess.  You’ve tried that before, right?  You’ve hit buckets and buckets of range rocks trying to groove the perfect 7-iron swing and still to no avail, right?  Read that last sentence again closely and you might discover the problem.  There’s a difference between mindful practice and mindless practice.  Mindful practice, like Mr. Hogan undoubtedly employed, is structured, focused, and intentional.  It has specific targets and goals in mind and progresses in a systematic fashion until those goals are met.

This is exactly what Nico Darras and Kevin Moore had in mind when they started Golf Blueprint.  In truth, though, the journey actually started when Nico was a client of Kevin’s Squares2Circles project.  Nico is actually a former DI baseball player who suffered a career-ending injury and took up golf at 22 years old.  In a short time, he was approaching scratch and then getting into some mini tour events.  Kevin, as mentioned in the Squares2Circles piece, is a mathematics education professor and accomplished golfer who has played in several USGA events.  Their conversations quickly changed from refining course strategy to making targeted improvements in Nico’s game.  By analyzing the greatest weaknesses in Nico’s game and designing specific practice sessions (which they call “blueprints”) around them, Nico started reaching his goals.

The transition from client to partners was equal parts swift and organic, as they quickly realized they were on to something.  Nico and Kevin used their experiences to develop an algorithm which, when combined with the client’s feedback, establishes a player profile within Golf Blueprint’s system.  Clients get a plan with weekly, monthly, and long-term goals including all of the specific blueprints that target the areas of their game where they need it most.  Not to mention, clients get direct access to Nico and Kevin through Golf Blueprint.

Nico Darras, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

While this is approaching shades of Mr. Hogan’s practice method above, there is one key distinction here.  Kevin and Nico aren’t recommending practicing for hours at a time.  Far from it.  In Nico’s words:

“We recommend 3 days a week.  You can do more or less, for sure, but we’ve found that 3 days a week is within the realm of possibility for most of our clients.  Practice sessions are roughly 45-70 minutes each, but again, all of this depends on the client and what resources they have at their disposal.  Each blueprint card is roughly 10 minutes each, so you can choose which cards to do if you only have limited time to practice.  Nothing is worse than cranking 7 irons at the range for hours.  We want to make these engaging and rewarding.”

Kevin Moore, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

So far, Golf Blueprint has been working for a wide range of golfers – from tour pros to the No Laying Up crew to amateurs alike.  Kevin shares some key data in that regard:

“When we went into this, we weren’t really sure what to expect.  Were we going to be an elite player product?  Were we going to be an amateur player product?  We didn’t know, honestly.  So far, what’s exciting is that we’ve had success with a huge range of players.  Probably 20-25% of our players (roughly speaking) are in that 7-11 handicap range.  That’s probably the center of the bell curve, if you will, right around that high-single-digit handicap range.  We have a huge range though, scratch handicap and tour players all the way to 20 handicaps.  It runs the full gamut.  What’s been so rewarding is that the handicap dropping has been significantly more than we anticipated.  The average handicap drop for our clients was about 2.7 in just 3 months’ time.”

Needless to say, that’s a pretty significant drop in a short amount of time from only changing how you practice.  Maybe that Hogan guy was on to something.  I think these guys might be too.  To learn more about Golf Blueprint and get involved, visit their website. @Golf_Blueprint is their handle for both Twitter and Instagram.

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