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How to make six-footers: 10 Rules From Dave Stockton

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By Dave Stockton
With Guy Yocom
Photo By Scott Mcdermott
October 2008

1. Take “try” out of the equation

When I faced a 15-foot putt to win the 1976 PGA Championship, the amount of time I took surprised a lot of people. Instead of grinding over it, I took less time than usual — 15 seconds in all. But I did not rush. I knew that if I got hung up dwelling on how much the putt meant, my chances of holing it would have dropped dramatically.

The moment you try to make a putt, you’ll miss it. Conscious effort doesn’t work. Try this experiment: Get a pen and paper and jot your signature. Now write your name a second time, trying to duplicate your first signature exactly. Chances are you’ll make a mess of it, because instead of doing it automatically, you’re now applying conscious effort. Your approach to the six-footer should be like signing your name: Do it briskly and subconsciously.

2. Think speed more than line

Speed and line are equally important, but the amateur tends to be preoccupied with the line. As you read the green, do it with the idea that you’ll roll the ball 16 inches past the hole — if you miss. After you’ve set up and taken dead aim, don’t give the line another thought. Avoid being too aggressive with the six-footer, because the edges of the hole might come into play and cause a nasty lip-out.

3. Stay away from dead straight

When Tiger Woods faced that 12-foot putt on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines to send the U.S. Open into a playoff, he called in his caddie, Steve Williams, to help with the read. I’ll bet Tiger saw the putt as breaking to the left but was bothered by a hunch that it might be dead straight. If there’s one thing a good putter hates, it’s an absolutely straight putt. The reason is, if you start the putt straight, you have a margin for error of only half a cup on either side. Tiger needed Steve to confirm that the putt would break left, because the entire cup would be exposed if Tiger started the ball to the right. The putt indeed broke a couple inches to the left, and Tiger snuck it in on the right edge of the hole.

If the putt for all the marbles looks straight, look again. Study the area near the hole. Remember, the ball will be rolling so slowly when it gets within two feet that even the tiniest slope will cause it to break. Try to at least favor one side.
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4. You’ve already made the putt

You might have heard that it’s helpful to form a positive image of the ball going in, but you should take it further than that. Imagine the ball tracking the entire six feet, as though you’re watching a video replay of the putt dropping. This image should be so convincing that, if the putt doesn’t fall, you should be shocked. That’s how I feel when I’m putting well — I’m absolutely stunned when the ball doesn’t go in.

Do everything you can to place the six-footer in the past tense. How many times have you missed a putt, raked it back for another try and instinctively knocked it in? Adopt this “second chance” mentality on your first putt.

5. Be a painter, not a carpenter

For the good putter, the most common miss under pressure is the push. When the heat is on, there’s a tendency to hit at the ball instead of stroking through it. Like driving a nail with a hammer, the putter stops abruptly at impact. It doesn’t release to a square position, and the clubface is aimed to the right. Putt as though you’re pulling a paintbrush, your hands leading and the clubhead trailing as you stroke through.

6. Your last thought: none at all

You should have no coherent thought as you draw the putter back. Avoid saying an actual word or phrase to yourself, even a seemingly positive one such as smooth. All it will do is block the overall sense of flow you must feel to make a good stroke. The only “thought” should be a vague feeling of relaxation, readiness and rhythm. All you’re doing is allowing your subconscious mind to take over so you can invite that wonderful sense of feel where you know the putt is going to go in. Remember, there is no actual language when you’re in that sharp mental state called The Zone.

7. Get your eyes over the ball

Putting mechanics are mostly a matter of preference, but there is one universal rule for putts from six feet and in: Eyes over the ball. For most players, that means standing closer to the ball. This simplifies things enormously. It’ll help you swing the putter straight back and through. It’ll make you less handsy and decrease your chances of fanning the face open and closed excessively. And you’ll see the line better. Come to think of it, it’s a good rule for all putts.

8. Focus on that first inch

In determining the line of the putt, the only area of true precision is the first inch the ball travels. If you’ve read the putt correctly, all you need to do is make the ball roll over a spot one inch in front of it. Be painstaking about that inch. At address, keep your eyes riveted on the spot. Your biggest priority is to keep your eyes still until the ball has traveled one inch past impact. This will keep your head from moving, which is a cardinal sin. Even if you feel anxious, focusing on that all-important spot will guarantee a smooth stroke.
stockton

9. Forget about bad greens

Under pressure, all of your senses are heightened. There is a tendency to see more obstacles than usual along the line — scuff marks, ball marks, footprints, disruptions in the grain and so on. Ignore them. If you strike the ball solidly and impart a true roll, the chances of anything knocking the putt off line are remote. If a spike mark is so significant that you’re sure it will affect the roll, play a shade less break and roll the ball with a bit more speed to avoid it.

10. Take advice with a grain of salt
Most amateur golf is played at four-ball match play. If you’re going to use your partner for reading greens, make sure he knows how you read putts and how firmly you hit them. The best partner I ever had was Al Geiberger. We did well in the old “CBS Golf Classic” series, because our putting styles were similar. When Al said, “It breaks half a cup,” I knew he said it knowing how hard I would stroke the putt. Whether it’s a member-guest or your weekend game, see how the two of you read putts. Make it a focal point of your partnership.

Read More http://www.golfdigest.com/magazine/2008-10/stocktonrules#ixzz1fdC8mhRx

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Instruction

Dennis Clark: Hitting from the turf

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I have seen as much as 4-5 MPH increase in clubhead speed when my students hit form a tee compared to hitting off the turf. Why?  Fear of FAT shots.

First question: Are you better hitting off a tee than on the turf?

Next question: When you play in a scramble and you have the option of dropping in the fairway or slightly in the first cut, do you choose the rough-especially when hitting over water or sand?

The answer to all these the same: Because the vast majority of golfers do not have a bottom of the swing arc safely in front of the golf ball consistently.

Consider a PGA Tour event, Korn Ferry, Champions Tour, LPGA Tour, whatever…You might see missed fairways, missed greens, hooks, blocks, etc. but we rarely, if ever, see a FAT shot. They simply do not hit the ground before the golf ball. Of course, there are exceptions, into the grain on short pitches, for example, but they are just that-rare exceptions. On the other hand, go to any golf course and watch average golfers for a while. Fat shots are not uncommon. In fact, they, or the fear of them, dominate most golf games.

The number one mistake I have seen on the lesson tee for over 35 years is unquestionably a player’s inability to control the bottom of the golf swing. I have seen everything from hitting 4 inches behind the ball to never reaching the bottom at all It has been my experience that that hitting fat shots is the number one flaw in most golf swings.

Let’s start with this fact: elite level players consistently reach a swing bottom (low point) some 3-4 inches in front of the golf ball-time after time after time. This happens for a variety of reasons, but the one I’d like to look at today is the position of the golf club at impact with the golf ball.

The club is leaning forward, toward the target, the hands are ahead of the club head, never straight up over it, never behind it-always, always leaning forward is the only way to consistently bottom out in front of the golf ball.   

A player cannot hit a ball consistently from the turf until he/she learns this and how to accomplish it. For every golfer I teach who gets into this position, I might teach 50 who do not. In fact, if players did not learn how to “save” a shot by bailing out on the downswing (chicken wing, pull up, raise the handle, or come over the top, (yes over the top is a fat shot avoidance technique) they would hit the ground behind the golf ball almost every time!  Hitting better shots from the fairways, particularly from tight lies, can be learned, but I’m going to be honest: The change required will NOT be easy. And to make matters worse, you can never play significantly better until you overcome the fear of hitting it fat.. Until you learn a pattern where the bottom of the swing is consistently in front of the ball, the turf game will always be an iffy proposition for you.

This starts with a perception. When first confronted with hitting a golf ball, it seems only natural that an “up” swing is the way to get the ball in the air-help it, if you will. The act of a descending blow is not, in any way, natural to the new player. In fact, it is totally counterintuitive. So the first instincts are to throw the club head at the ball and swing up to get the ball in the air; in other words, it makes perfect sense. And once that “method” is ingrained, it is very difficult to change. But change if you must, if your goal is to be a better ball striker.

The position to strive for is one where the left wrist (for a right-hander) is flat, the right is slightly dorsiflexed, and the handle of the golf club is ahead of the grip end. Do your level best to pay attention to the look and feel of what you’re doing as opposed to the flight of the golf ball. FEEL that trail wrist bent slightly back, the lead wrist flat and the hands ahead. It will seem strange at first, but it’s the very small first step in learning to hit down on your tight lies. If some degree of that is not ultimately accomplished, you will likely always be executing “fit in” moves to make up for it. It is worth the time and effort to create this habit.

My suggestion is to get on a Trackman if possible to see where you’re low point actually is, or perhaps you may just want to start paying close attention to your divots-particularly the deepest part of them. I’m sure you will get into a pattern of bottoming out consistently in front of the ball when you begin to learn to get the hands ahead and the club head behind. And best of all, when this becomes your swing, you will lose the fear of hitting the turf first and be free to go down after the ball as aggressively as you like.

Ok, so how is this accomplished? While many players are looking for a magic bullet or a training aid which might help one miraculously get into a good impact position, I dare say there is not one. It is a trial and error proposition, a learn-from-the-mistakes kind of thing achieved only through repetition with a thorough understanding of what needs to be done. The hardest thing to do is IGNORE the outcome when learning a new motor skill, but you must do it. A couple of things you might try:

  • Start with 30-50 yard pitch shots, paying close attention to the hands leading at impact. Again ignore the outcome, look only at the divot.
  • Hit a TON of fairway bunker shots. Draw a line in the sand 3-4″ in front of the ball and try to hit it.
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Instruction

What you can learn from the rearview camera angle

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We often analyze the golf swing from the face-on view or down-the-line camera angle. However, we can also learn how the body moves in the swing from the rearview or backside view.

When seeing the swing from the rearview, we can easily see how the glutes work. The trail glute actually moves back and around in the backswing. This means the glute moves towards the target or towards the lead heel. Note the trail glute start point and endpoint at the top of the backswing.

To some, this may seem like it would cause a reverse weight shift. However, this glute movement can enable the upper body to get loaded behind the ball. This is where understanding the difference between pressure, and weight is critical (see: “Pressure and Weight”).

This also enhances the shape of the body in the backswing. From the rear angle, I prefer to have players with a tuck to their body in their trail side, a sign of no left-side bend.

This puts the body and trail arm into a “throwing position”, a dynamic backswing position. Note how the trailing arm has folded with the elbow pointing down. This is a sign the trailing arm moved in an efficient sequence to the top of the backswing.

Next time you throw your swing on video, take a look at the rearview camera angle. From this new angle, you may find a swing fault or matchup needed in your golf swing to produce your desired ball flight.

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How to stop 3-putting and start making putts

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When we are 3-putting we are ‘stuck in the box’. This means that when we are standing over the putt the second before we make our stroke everything happens to ‘go downhill.’ When this happens, depending on your playing level, things can become a bit erratic on the putting surface.

When a 3 putt happens, it is typically because you failed to do something before you made your stroke. The large majority of my 3 putts happen when I am not completely SOLD on the line of my putt, aka not committed. Questioning anything over the ball will lead to 3 putts.

Here is a breakdown/checklist on how to approach the green and get your ball in the cup without hesitation.

1. It starts with the approach shot into the green and the decision of direction you make to enter the hole. Scan the entire green with your eyes on the walk-up. Left to right and right to left. Look for a few seconds before you step onto the putting surface. This helps determine the high side and the low side, or if the green is relatively flat. Don’t be picky, just look and make a decision.

2. Once you get to the ball, mark it. Take 3 steps behind your ball mark. Now you must pick a line… Left, Center, or Right of the cup. (Skip step 3 if you know the line) It should take seconds but for those that are not sure it will take longer. Understand that every putt has a statistical level of difficulty. So to increase the odds, players must avoid putting in the unsure mind, and take the time to figure out a line. I also find that people who are 3 putting are overly confident and just not committed aka too quick to putt.

3. To commit, you must find the angle of entry into the cup. Walk up to the hole and look at the cup. How is it cut? Determine if it is cut flat or on a slope angle. This will help you see the break if you are having a hard time. Then determine how much break to play. Cut the hole into 4 quarters with your eyes standing right next to it. Ask yourself, which quarter of the cup does the ball need to enter to make the putt go in the hole?

I encourage using the phrases ‘in the hole’ or ‘to the hole’ as great reinforcement and end thoughts before stroking the ball. I personally visualize a dial on the cup. When my eyes scan the edges, I see tick marks of a clock or a masterlock – I see the dial pop open right when I pick the entry quadrant/tick mark because I cracked the code.

Remember, the most important parts of the putt are: 1.) Where it starts and 2. ) Where it ends.

4. To secure the line, pick something out as the apex of the putt on the walk back to the mark. Stand square behind the ball mark and the line you have chosen.

5. To further secure the line, place your ball down and step behind it to view the line from behind the ball. Don’t pick up the ball mark until you have looked from behind. When you look, you need to scan the line from the ball to the cup with your eyes. While you are scanning, you can make adjustments to the line – left, right or center. Now, on the walk into the box, pickup the mark. This seals the deal on the line. Square your putter head to the ball, with feet together, on the intended line.

6. To make the putt, look at the apex and then the cup while taking your stance and making practice strokes to calibrate and gauge how far back and through the stroke needs to be.

7. To prove the level of commitment, step up to the ball and look down the intended line to the apex back to the cup and then back to the apex down to your ball. As soon as you look down at the ball, never look up again. Complete one entire stroke. A good visual for a putting stroke is a battery percentage and comparing your ‘complete stroke’ to the percentage of battery in the bar.

8. Look over your shoulder once your putter has completed the stroke, i.e. listen for the ball to go in and then look up!

If you find a way that works, remember it, and use it!

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