Putting Distance Control

One of the Best Putting Drills For Increasing Feel

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, putting distance control needs to be practiced.

Putting 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 in 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 Putting 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

Free Mental Game of Putting Course

David MacKenzie

is a mental golf coach and lives in Washington DC. He is the founder of Golf State of Mind, a teaching program designed to help golfers condition their minds to overcome fear and play with confidence.

This Post Has 4 Comments

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    Jos den Hartog

    Hi David, I am a Dutch golf teaching professional in Portugal and I use this drill always in my lessons. People are amazed how well they putt. They are not distracted by the hole or technique anymore so everything is focussed on playing the ball. On the other hand, not much people use it on the course or as a practice. They only do this exercise during the lessons. Strange is’nt it?


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    Robert Beckley

    I practiced putting with my eyes closed several months ago to help with my occasional case of yips. My thinking was, you can’t be scared of what you can’t see. I noticed at the same time that this drill helped with my feel. I even tried it with chipping and it works there, too. I remember practicing this impossible downhill chip where a shot 10 feet from the cup would be respectable, and with my eyes closed I holed two and lipped out the third. Go figure. By the way, thanks for sending me the emails. I enjoy them.

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      Thanks for the feedback Robert. You are absolutely right that so much of how we interpret what we see with the eyes can cause a negative reaction. Once we have decided on a line and close our eyes, we have no choice but to go along with what we have decided. So many times the average player will look again at the putt or chip and then change their mind at the ball which causes doubt and a bad shot. This exercise is great for just working purely on feel as you have work from memory, which is essentially what you are doing with the swing – just using the unconscious part of the brain. As I said in the article, Suzann Pettersen did it for a while, putting everything within 20ft with her eyes closed. I wouldn’t recommend it to all students, but once you know you are aligned correctly and you are confident you can hit the ball out the center, then why not? Sounds like you have a great short game!

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    Thanks for the comment Dan, my drills are largely based on improving the senses of visualization and feel which are somewhat overlooked by conventional teaching. This is the most effective way to improve. Then it’s all brought together with a good shot routine. In my opinion, practicing the short game is far more important than the long game and there are so many great drills like this to do it. Hope you are enjoying my articles, please feel free to contact me directly about any questions you might have. I also offer a free 1 on 1 session over the phone with a purchase of the CD. Good luck!

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