4 Easy Putting Drills to Save Strokes

The old saying is “Drive for show, Putt for dough.” While a few researchers disagree that short game is the most important part of golf, putting is clearly important because that is when the ball goes in the hole.  Yes, everyone needs to get closer to the green or closer to the hole on approaches, but golfers can make up for many mistakes with a great short game.

Improving the short game is a little more of a challenge at home. Most of us don’t have putting greens in our backyards.  My next DIY project is an artificial green, but until then, my 30 minutes of putting work is at home most weeks.  I have a 4 drills/tools I enjoy that helped me improve the last couple years to where I normally average less than 2 putts a round.

Dime Drill

Putts roll in the hole if they are on the right line and are the right speed. While speed is extremely important, carpets at most homes prevent speed work.  Reading through different magazines over the years helped me develop a drill for putting line using a dime.

My goal is to start the putt on my intended line and keep it on the correct line to the hole. To focus on the line, I grab a dime.  I put the dime on the ground about 1 ft. in front of my ball.  I line the ball up to roll over the dime and stroke the putt.  If I strike the putt correctly, the ball will roll over the middle of the dime.  I practice soft and hard putts over the dime about 4-6 times.  I then move back to 2 feet and try to roll it over the dime.  I will keep moving back until I get to 8-10 feet.  The idea is to keep the ball on line as long as possible.

I vary the 1 coin drill with a 2 coin drill. I will put the dime a foot in front of my ball and a nickel about 4-5 feet in front of the dime.  I try to stroke a putt over both coins.  The 2 coin drill forces me to line up correctly over both coins and keep the ball on line.  Adds to the difficulty.

Face Tape

Distance on the carpet won’t be the same as a golf course, but you can still work on distance at home. Consistent distance comes from hitting the ball in the same spot of the club with every stroke.  I use putter face tape to check my strikes.  I put on the face tape and hit a couple putts.  I check the tape to see if the strikes were consistent.  Even if you aren’t hitting in the middle, hitting consistently will make the distance consistent.  You can always play shots that are consistent.

 

Yard Stick

The putting sword training aid that many, including Michael Breed, advocate using can be replaced with a simple yard stick. The idea is the same as the coin drill.  Try to keep the ball rolling down the yard stick as long as possible.  You can also use the yard stick as a stroke and alignment check.  Place the stick on the ground.  Place the club with the toe just inside the stick.  Putt balls trying to keep the putter moving along the stick.  It promotes the straight back and straight through stroke.  It won’t help those who have an arc stroke as much.

 

Drills on the carpet are good for practice, but I know everyone loves hearing the ball fall in the cup. I bought the accelerator putting green below to putt the ball in the hole.  It isn’t perfect, but I find it forces me to hit a putt hard enough to roll about a foot past the hole.


Putting is definitely an art form. Many ignore putting because they think a green is necessary for improvement.  I think you can significantly improve by keeping the putt on the intended line for as long as possible.  You can do that in your house.  If you have a great drill you do at home, put it in the comments.  Cheers for less putts!

Swing Changes on a Tour Course – Exhilarating and Futile

The US Open at Oakmont started today. Oakmont Opens live in infamy for not only who wins, but also the brutal nature of the course.  Tiger once said a 10-handicapper couldn’t break 100 on the course.  I believe this is a hard course, but this is still golf.  The course can’t be that tough, can it?  I love playing tour courses to experience the difficulty to bring me back to reality.  I had that experience again last weekend.

In a twitter interview, Zach Johnson listed TPC San Antonio as one of the hardest courses on tour. The Oaks course at the TPC is rated tough, but I was surprised he listed it as one of the hardest.  After last weekend, I definitely agree the Oaks is a beast.

The JW Marriott and TPC facility are fantastic. If you make it to San Antonio, I highly recommend the resort.  The resort includes a waterpark for kids, numerous outdoor options, and 2 great golf courses.  My kids loved it, and I played a round at the Oaks.

I am blessed to have played multiple great courses over the years, including Whistling Straits and Torrey Pines South right before the 2008 open. TPC San Antonio includes similar challenges.  The only thing it lacked was the ocean/lake views.  You need every shot in your bag, and then some you don’t have.

TPC San Antonio – Oaks Course

The course begins with a reasonable par 4. Drive the ball in the fairway.  Approach a green with a couple bunkers.  One thing I notice at tour courses is everything is bigger.  The fairways are larger.  The greens are bigger.  TPC San Antonio follows that model.  I feel like I can hit every fairway.  I proceed to hit it left into the rough.  The rough isn’t Valero Texas Open length now, but the grass isn’t muni short either.  The ball nestles down with at least half an inch of grass blades above the ball.  Thick rough means tough shot, but I pull out a bogey.

Hole #2 is a reasonable par 5. I pull it left again.  Hack away through some rough a few times.  Tough chips and end with a double.  Hole #3 is a long par 3 over water with a huge bunker right.  You can’t miss short or right.  My first shot, short and right.  I hit again from the tee thinking I just mishit the shot.  I smash a beautiful 5 iron perfectly on line.  I am looking at the ball and the hole, and then is splashes just short in the water.

All my tee shots draw left, so I aim down the right side. I proceed to hit 3 straight fairways on 6, 8, and 9.  I got up and down on 5 and 8, so I am playing reasonably.  As I finish the front 9, I notice something odd about #9.  The hole flyover on the GPS carts (which are great) explains #9 is the only hole without a bunker.  Thinking about it, nearly every landing zone and every green is surrounded by large bunkers.  Bunkers large enough to build sand fortresses to live in.  It would be nearly impossible to play a round on the Oaks without being in at least 1 bunker.

Hole #11 is an outstanding risk-reward hole. A short par 4 with a 50 yard bunker in the middle of the fairway.  The fairway also stops with rough between it and the green to prevent running the ball all the way onto the green.  The left side of the fairway gives a great angle to the green.  The entire right side of the green is protected by sand.  Strategy is a must.  I failed to play strategically.  Double bogey.

TPC11

I was able to get the vast majority of my daily steps on hole # 14. The reasonable par 5 has a long bunker down the entire right side near the green rivaling the sand on the left of 18 at Pebble.  I miss my approach right of the bunker.  I helped my son setup for his shot, and then I walked backwards for what seemed like a mile to get around the bunker to get to my ball.  I should have walked right through the middle.  Exercise is good though.  I pitched it well enough to walk away with bogey.

Hole #16 is fun and nightmarish in the same breath. Great medium par 3.  Grab a 6 iron and go for it.  However, try to stay on the correct side of the green because there is a bunker in the middle of the putting surface.  I pull extra clubs and miss the bunker.  I also miss the green long.  Chip and 2 putt for bogey.

TPC13

The nice par 5 finish is also a great risk-reward. Hitting down the right side will setup for a good 3 shot par.  However, the hole has a creek down the left side with another fairway to go at the green.  Long hitters can challenge the water and go for broke.  I played it down the right, stayed dry, and took a bogey.  Conservative, but decent, finish.

TPC14

Zach definitely knows what he is talking about. TPC San Antonio’s Oaks course is tough.  Tons of bunkers with speedy greens.  Having a good strategy and playing to the right spots gives great options.  However, slight misses are penalized.  I loved playing the course.  My iPhone pics don’t come near doing it justice.  I will take my 95 and tip my cap to the pros.

Struggle and Joy of My Last 2 Golf Rounds

Pure joy, frustration, exhilaration, anger, fist-pumping, despair, and anticipation for the next round can all describe my last 2 rounds on the golf course. Golf evokes the widest range of emotions in a short 3-4 hours.  I experienced all those emotions twice in the last few days.  I can’t wait to go back.

April and May are busy months for me, so I wasn’t able to play rounds. I stayed on track with my plan, but optishot simulation is as close to the course as I came.  Optishot is nice, but it isn’t the same as the course.

 

Round 1 – Choctaw Creek 

I played a round at Choctaw Creek on Day 1. Choctaw Creek isn’t the best maintained course, but I found a great deal on Golfnow.  Our region received significant rain the last couple weeks, so the fairways weren’t mowed low (or at all) and shots wouldn’t roll out.  It played much longer than the 6000 yards on the scorecard.

The round started exactly as planned. I scored well on the optishot recently, so my expectations are high.  I placed my first drive in the middle of the fairway.  Great start.  I hit the second shot poorly and left it short of the green.  Chipped it past the hole.  2 putt bogey.  Not terrible.

The second hole started a poor stretch. I pulled the drive way left.  I didn’t get close enough for a chip, so I pitched it over the green.  Couldn’t get up and down for bogey, so double.  Third hole is an uphill par 3.  I pulled an extra club because I wasn’t hitting the ball pure.  The shot landed short.  Chip up.  2 putt. Bogey.

The frustration begins bubbling. Every mishit or off target shot brings me closer to screaming.  I double 5 and 9.  Front 9 47.  Choctaw Creek is not a difficult course.  I take a deep breath and decide to make a swing change.  I know changing the swing mid-round is a terrible decision, but this swing is not working.

As my Golftec post indicated, I have multiple different instructors’ swing philosophies duct taped together for my swing. I can tell I am out of sync and trying to manipulate the club with my hands.  My lower body and shoulders turn faster than my hands move, so I get stuck.  My shots are either wide right or hooks left.  2 way misses are unplayable.  I decided I would swing what felt like only halfway back to keep everything in sync.

In the age of instant gratification, the change tested my patience. Hole 11 and 12 were terrible.  I tripled both holes.  However, I struck the ball more solid.  My short game contributed a few of those strokes.  My swing was more in sync.  Pure strikes built confidence and my short game touch came back.  I played the next 6 holes in 3 over par with 3 one-putts.  I didn’t hit any GIRs, but I placed the ball close enough to get up and down.  I strolled to 18 tee box planning to hit my last fairway, and I did.  I still missed the green with an iron, but an up and down finished off the round with a par!  92 isn’t what I wanted, but only 3 over on the last 7 holes is exactly what I needed.

 

Round 2 – Guthrie Country Club

I found another good deal on Golfnow for Guthrie Country Club for the following day. The course is only a 9 hole course, but the slope is 133.  The greens are tiny.  The fairways are tree lined.  The course is better maintained than Choctaw Creek, but the recent rain still meant the grass wasn’t short.

I finished strong yesterday, so I walked to the first tee knowing today would be better. The first hole is a long par 3.  I struck a 5 wood reasonably well, but it landed short.  Chipped up and 2 putted for bogey.  The greens are moving a little slow, and my putter must be open at impact.  All my putts fall right at the hole.

The 2nd hole is a short par 4.  I crush a driver down the middle of the fairway.  I flush a wedge to 30 feet.  2 putts and a par.  My first GIR in 2 days.  The joy is growing.  The feeling of halfway back still works.  Hitting it solid also means I am not losing distance.

Everything feels and looks better after an easy par. Then the 3rd hole happened.  Crushed driver, but it faded too far right.  I proceeded to hit every tree on the right of the fairway before finally taking my double.  I proceeded with bogey, bogey, double, double, double.  The exhilaration is gone.

I am on 9 with despair. My fix isn’t working.  All my shots are pull hooks.  I finally realize on 8 that I am significantly closing the clubface in the downswing while also pulling left, so I hit numerous pull hooks.  Something must change.  Again, I uncharacteristically make a slight tweek on 9.  I focus on the club exiting right.  I can handle the draw or hook as long as it starts enough right.  I hit a pure 4 hybrid with a baby draw.  The gentle breeze brought it back towards the pin to 20 feet.  2 putt par to finish the firsts 9 at 46.  Not ideal, but progress is possible.

I played another 9 to get my 18 holes in. The back 9 got better, but I struggle with consistency.  The reason making swing changes doesn’t work on the course is because the changes won’t happen every swing.  My swing and emotions flipped back and forth with nearly every shot.  I had great drives down the middle but mishit the approach.  I had 3 doubles on the back, but also managed 2 pars going into 9.

My confidence rose walking to the 9 tee box. Water lines the right, but I hit such a beautiful shot the first time.  I knew I could do it again. I pull the same hybrid, make the same smooth swing exiting right, and the shot came off the club even better.  My ProV1 starts just right of the flag.  A small curve left and lands 15 feet short and right.  The ball rolls towards the hole and stops 3 feet short.  Great Shot!  I loved it.  I sped to the green.  I line up the 3 footer and sink the birdie!  Great finish.  2nd 9 43 for an 89.

Immediate results with huge score drops don’t happen. I am happy I scored better my second round.  I know my focus now.  Feel like half swing to stay in sync.  Club exits right, and I should focus on club hitting ground after ball.  Improving those areas will consistently give me a chance to score well.

 

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