putting distance control

Putting is a game of Visualization and Feel and hence it’s very important you try and heighten those senses whenever you practice. For me putting is an almost pure mental game. Jordan Spieth, one of the best putters on Tour says “I love the artistry of it”.

Dave Pelz’s studies show that distance control in the short game and putting is 3 times more important than direction. In other words, distance control needs to be practiced.

Distance control is also known as “feel”. A great way to work on your feel is to take the visual element away and putt with your eyes closed. Suzanne Pettersen actually did this for a while during tournaments, putting everything within 20 ft with her eyes closed. This gives you an idea of how important feel is for putting. This meant her focus was totally absorbed by the sense of feel, which would have enabled her to quiet her mind and access a fluid stroke. I don’t suggest you do this in competition, but doing this as part of your putting distance control practice, will increase your feel and you’ll see improvement in your distance control on the course. You’ll notice that you really “dial in” to the feel of the putting during your rehearsal strokes, and connect with that feeling when you’re over the putt and during the stroke.

A Great Distance Control Practice Drill

This exercise isn’t really about how many putts you hole, it’s about becoming aware of the feeling associated with the length and direction of each putt. Once you have the line in your mind’s eye and you are correctly aligned, it is all about feel and making a good positive stroke. This drill will help you achieve this.

1. Take 3 balls and a drop them down approximately 10 ft from a hole. I say “drop them” so you don’t have exactly the same putt each time.

2. Go through your putting routine of reading the putt, visualizing the line (and seeing the ball go in), feeling the stroke and addressing the ball.

3. When you are about to start your back-swing, close your eyes. Really try to connect with the feel of the putt before you hit it. Then hit your putt.

4. Before opening your eyes, make a call on where the putt finished. E.g. short-right, long-left or holed it!

5.When you open your eyes and see where the ball has come to rest, grade yourself on how close you were to the putt you felt. E.g. If you missed long-left and you called it:

Long-left = 2 points
Short-left, Long-right = 1
Short right = 0 points

If you holed it and you called it, give yourself 3 points.
If you holed it and you called a miss, give yourself 2 points.

6.Next pick a hole 15ft away and then repeat for a 20ft putt so you have a total of nine holes. Total up your score and make it a target to beat before you can leave the putting green after your next putting distance control practice session.

The reason I have developed a scoring system for this exercise is that I strongly believe you should always include some pressurized practice. The more you can do this, instead of practicing “consequence-free”, the more you can get “comfortable feeling uncomfortable” when you feel pressure on the golf course. Over time, this exercise will heighten your feel for putts of all distances, build a more confident putting stroke, and ultimately lower your scores.

Photo by Hone Morihana