Connect with us


A drill to take the pain out of missing short putts



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.


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.

Your Reaction?
  • 201
  • LEGIT24
  • WOW7
  • LOL5
  • IDHT3
  • FLOP2
  • OB2
  • SHANK9

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



  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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


The Wedge Guy: The easiest-to-learn golf basic



My golf learning began with this simple fact – if you don’t have a fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, it is practically impossible for your body to execute a fundamentally sound golf swing. I’m still a big believer that the golf swing is much easier to execute if you begin with the proper hold on the club.

As you might imagine, I come into contact with hundreds of golfers of all skill levels. And it is very rare to see a good player with a bad hold on the golf club. There are some exceptions, for sure, but they are very few and very far between, and they typically have beat so many balls with their poor grip that they’ve found a way to work around it.

The reality of biophysics is that the body moves only in certain ways – and the particulars of the way you hold the golf club can totally prevent a sound swing motion that allows the club to release properly through the impact zone. The wonderful thing is that anyone can learn how to put a fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, and you can practice it anywhere your hands are not otherwise engaged, like watching TV or just sitting and relaxing.

Whether you prefer an overlap, interlock or full-finger (not baseball!) grip on the club, the same fundamentals apply.  Here are the major grip faults I see most often, in the order of the frequency:

Mis-aligned hands

By this I mean that the palms of the two hands are not parallel to each other. Too many golfers have a weak left hand and strong right, or vice versa. The easiest way to learn how to hold the club with your palms aligned properly is to grip a plain wooden ruler or yardstick. It forces the hands to align properly and shows you how that feels. If you grip and re-grip a yardstick several times, then grip a club, you’ll see that the learning curve is almost immediate.

The position of the grip in the upper/left hand

I also observe many golfers who have the butt of the grip too far into the heel pad of the upper hand (the left hand for right-handed players). It’s amazing how much easier it is to release the club through the ball if even 1/4-1/2″ of the butt is beyond the left heel pad. Try this yourself to see what I mean.  Swing the club freely with just your left hand and notice the difference in its release from when you hold it at the end of the grip, versus gripping down even a half inch.

To help you really understand how this works, go to the range and hit shots with your five-iron gripped down a full inch to make the club the same length as your seven-iron. You will probably see an amazing shot shape difference, and likely not see as much distance loss as you would expect.

Too much lower (right) hand on the club

It seems like almost all golfers of 8-10 handicap or higher have the club too far into the palm of the lower hand, because that feels “good” if you are trying to control the path of the clubhead to the ball. But the golf swing is not an effort to hit at the ball – it is a swing of the club. The proper hold on the club has the grip underneath the pad at the base of the fingers. This will likely feel “weak” to you — like you cannot control the club like that. EXACTLY. You should not be trying to control the club with your lower/master hand.

Gripping too tightly

Nearly all golfers hold the club too tightly, which tenses up the forearms and prevents a proper release of the club through impact. In order for the club to move back and through properly, you must feel that the club is controlled by the last three fingers of the upper hand, and the middle two fingers of the lower hand. If you engage your thumbs and forefingers in “holding” the club, the result will almost always be a grip that is too tight. Try this for yourself. Hold the club in your upper hand only, and squeeze firmly with just the last three fingers, with the forefinger and thumb off the club entirely. You have good control, but your forearms are not tense. Then begin to squeeze down with your thumb and forefinger and observe the tensing of the entire forearm. This is the way we are made, so the key to preventing tenseness in the arms is to hold the club very lightly with the “pinchers” — the thumbs and forefingers.

So, those are what I believe are the four fundamentals of a good grip. Anyone can learn them in their home or office very quickly. There is no easier way to improve your ball striking consistency and add distance than giving more attention to the way you hold the golf club.

More from the Wedge Guy

Your Reaction?
  • 86
  • LEGIT13
  • WOW6
  • LOL1
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP4
  • OB1
  • SHANK8

Continue Reading


Clement: Stop ripping off your swing with this drill!



Not the dreaded headcover under the armpit drill! As if your body is defective and can’t function by itself! Have you seen how incredible the human machine is with all the incredible feats of agility all kinds of athletes are accomplishing? You think your body is so defective (the good Lord is laughing his head off at you) that it needs a headcover tucked under the armpit so you can swing like T-Rex?

Your Reaction?
  • 0
  • LEGIT2
  • WOW2
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK2

Continue Reading


How a towel can fix your golf swing



This is a classic drill that has been used for decades. However, the world of marketed training aids has grown so much during that time that this simple practice has been virtually forgotten. Because why teach people how to play golf using everyday items when you can create and sell a product that reinforces the same thing? Nevertheless, I am here to give you helpful advice without running to the nearest Edwin Watts or adding something to your Amazon cart.

For the “scoring clubs,” having a solid connection between the arms and body during the swing, especially through impact, is paramount to creating long-lasting consistency. And keeping that connection throughout the swing helps rotate the shoulders more to generate more power to help you hit it farther. So, how does this drill work, and what will your game benefit from it? Well, let’s get into it.


You can use this for basic chip shots up to complete swings. I use this with every club in my bag, up to a 9 or 8-iron. It’s natural to create incrementally more separation between the arms and body as you progress up the set. So doing this with a high iron or a wood is not recommended.

While you set up to hit a ball, simply tuck the towel underneath both armpits. The length of the towel will determine how tight it will be across your chest but don’t make it so loose that it gets in the way of your vision. After both sides are tucked, make some focused swings, keeping both arms firmly connected to the body during the backswing and follow through. (Note: It’s normal to lose connection on your lead arm during your finishing pose.) When you’re ready, put a ball in the way of those swings and get to work.

Get a Better Shoulder Turn

Many of us struggle to have proper shoulder rotation in our golf swing, especially during long layoffs. Making a swing that is all arms and no shoulders is a surefire way to have less control with wedges and less distance with full swings. Notice how I can get in a similar-looking position in both 60° wedge photos. However, one is weak and uncontrollable, while the other is strong and connected. One allows me to use my larger muscles to create my swing, and one doesn’t. The follow-through is another critical point where having a good connection, as well as solid shoulder rotation, is a must. This drill is great for those who tend to have a “chicken wing” form in their lead arm, which happens when it becomes separated from the body through impact.

In full swings, getting your shoulders to rotate in your golf swing is a great way to reinforce proper weight distribution. If your swing is all arms, it’s much harder to get your weight to naturally shift to the inside part of your trail foot in the backswing. Sure, you could make the mistake of “sliding” to get weight on your back foot, but that doesn’t fix the issue. You must turn into your trial leg to generate power. Additionally, look at the difference in separation between my hands and my head in the 8-iron examples. The green picture has more separation and has my hands lower. This will help me lessen my angle of attack and make it easier to hit the inside part of the golf ball, rather than the over-the-top move that the other picture produces.

Stay Better Connected in the Backswing

When you don’t keep everything in your upper body working as one, getting to a good spot at the top of your swing is very hard to do. It would take impeccable timing along with great hand-eye coordination to hit quality shots with any sort of regularity if the arms are working separately from the body.

Notice in the red pictures of both my 60-degree wedge and 8-iron how high my hands are and the fact you can clearly see my shoulder through the gap in my arms. That has happened because the right arm, just above my elbow, has become totally disconnected from my body. That separation causes me to lift my hands as well as lose some of the extension in my left arm. This has been corrected in the green pictures by using this drill to reinforce that connection. It will also make you focus on keeping the lead arm close to your body as well. Because the moment either one loses that relationship, the towel falls.


I have been diligent this year in finding a few drills that target some of the issues that plague my golf game; either by simply forgetting fundamental things or by coming to terms with the faults that have bitten me my whole career. I have found that having a few drills to fall back on to reinforce certain feelings helps me find my game a little easier, and the “towel drill” is most definitely one of them.

Your Reaction?
  • 12
  • LEGIT2
  • WOW2
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP2
  • OB0
  • SHANK8

Continue Reading