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The Wedge Guy: Putt like you don’t care

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I think what makes putting so frustrating and difficult is that we put lots of pressure on ourselves to make “everything”, because it seems like the pros do. And it always seems like there’s one guy in our group who’s winning because he’s making “everything.” There is no question that the biggest killer to a smooth and effective putting stroke is tension . . . and tension primarily comes from the pressure we put on ourselves to make every putt.

The first “fundamental” of good putting is to be realistic in your expectations. What we see on TV on each week seems to be the tour pros making putts from everywhere. But stop to think that you are watching the leaders, and the cameras are always going to show the ones that go in, right? A study of statistics on the PGA Tour’s website reveals some very interesting insights:

The best players are making all their putts inside 5 feet, but understand that the PGA Tour requires a flat area around the hole – you very rarely see a putt of that length that requires a starting line outside the hole.
Move out to 10 feet and only 14 players are above 50% this season so far; only 38 players are above 25%. How do you stack up now?
Moving to the 20-25 foot range, the tour average is about 1 out of eight, despite what you see on television every weekend.

Remember, these are guys that do this for a living, that practice their putting hours a day and enjoy near-perfect greens, caddies and books to help insure a perfect read every time. Maybe you should cut yourself some slack, huh?

But back to tension and pressure . . . what happens when we start putting pressure on ourselves is that we begin a downward spiral of tension, correction, tension, more correction, etc. Which eventually makes the hole look like a thimble and causes more misses, frustration, tension . . . well, you get the idea.

So that brings me to the title of today’s article. One of my friends has a personal putting mantra of “putt like you don’t care”. I think that is a very cool way to keep yourself loose and focused on the hole and the idea of making the putt, rather than allowing the tension and pressure of making the putt get in the way of the calmness and looseness that good putting requires.

In the early stages of my golf industry career, I designed putters and made an in-depth study of the best putters at all levels, from historic tour professionals to recreational players. What I’ve learned is that the best putters that I observe have almost nothing in common. I’ve seen a diverse selection of putter designs, completely different putting styles, mechanics that really don’t look that good . . . but they all do one thing the same.

Every good putter I’ve ever known really thought they were going to make every putt. They never had a doubt that they would make a good stroke. They never doubted their read of the break or speed. So they didn’t allow even one negative thought to get in their head. And that allows them to “putt like they don’t care”. Except that they do.

The best putters seem to be those guys who find the last shot on every hole to be the most exciting. They treat the one that can finally get the ball in the cup like it is the one that counts the most. A great putt can make up for a bad drive, a so-so approach or a chip or pitch that really wasn’t all that stellar. But that last stroke on every hole is the great redeemer. It makes it all OK.

I remember my Dad – who was a great putter – had a saying after he kind of chopped up a hole and then saved par with a great putt. He’d always offer up, “Well, that’s three of them and one of those.”

So, the next time you are out on the course, give “putt like you don’t care” a try. Ease up on the expectation that you have to make any putt, and just make a relaxed and tension-free go at it.

If it doesn’t go in, fine. But I’ll bet you sink more than you have been.

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Terry Koehler is a fourth generation Texan, a native of a small South Texas town and a graduate of Texas A&M University. He has had a most interesting 40-year career in the golf industry. He has created five start-up companies, ranging from advertising agencies to golf equipment companies. You might remember Reid Lockhart, EIDOLON, SCOR, or his leadership of the reintroduction of Ben Hogan to the golf equipment industry in 2014. For almost 25 years, his wedge designs have stimulated other companies to slightly raise the CG and improve wedge performance. He has just announced the formation of Edison Golf Company and the new Edison Forged wedges, which have been robotically proven to significantly raise the bar for wedge performance. Terry serves as Chairman and Director of Innovation for Edison Golf, which can be seen at www.EdisonWedges.com. Terry has been a prolific equipment designer of over 100 putters and several irons, but many know Koehler as simply “The Wedge Guy”, as he authored over 700 articles on his blog by that name from 2003-2010.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Frank Walley

    Nov 11, 2020 at 10:35 pm

    Terry,
    Thanks, good advise. And maybe experience some confidence around the green after consistently apply this approach.

  2. Acemandrake

    Nov 11, 2020 at 3:16 pm

    “Speed is everything” is my single thought before hitting a putt. It clears my mind of multiple thoughts and brings athleticism to the process.

    Like shooting a free throw where you’re only concerned with how much force is needed to get the ball to the basket.

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