Perhaps you play where putts are good "inside the leather." Or the length of putter. Or, based on Sergio Garcia's 17-foot concession in the World Match Play Championship, maybe your "gimme" putts are considerably more liberal.
But if you adhere strictly to the rules, are trying to establish or maintain a handicap, or play in any kind of organized competition, you'd better know how to make short putts consistently.
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Phil Mickelson is a perfect example. Here's an established PGA Tour superstar who practices short putts religiously, sometimes holing more than 100 3-footers in a single practice session. On Saturday in the Wells Fargo Championship, Mickelson couldn't miss on his way to shooting a 63. And yet a day later, Mickelson's putter betrayed him, not once, but several times over the final round.
Then there's Luke Donald, who has reportedly made an astounding 1,399 of his last 1,400 putts from inside three feet. That might be unobtainable to the average golfer, but it's sure better than standing over a 2-footer, worrying that it'll lip out, again.
So how do you build confidence before standing over a short putt? PGA Professional John Crumbley, director of golf at Mystery Valley Golf Course in Lithonia, Ga., has a favorite three-step lesson he shares with his students on the putting green. It's called "Hit, Hold and Look."
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Hit the ball. Hold the finish. Look to see it go in.
"Practice this on the putting green and you'll find that you'll make more short putts during your round," Crumbley said.
So what is Hit, Hold and Look? Crumbley explains:
"When I say hit, I mean make a good solid stroke on the line you've intended with the speed you feel is correct," he said. "With hold, finish your putting stroke with your eyes still focused on where you made contact with the ball. Then look: Once your putting stroke is finished, you can look up to watch the ball roll in."
This routine will keep you from perhaps not making square contact with the putter because you looked up too early or rushed the putt. It's all about taking your time, just like you would on any other part of the green.
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So how do you practice putts to build your confidence? Crumbley has two drills. The first involves parallel rails. You can even use the shafts of two of your longer clubs, if you want.
"Practice with two rails, pointing straight into the hole from 1 to 3 feet," Crumbley said. "Pick a straight-in putt. The optics of the rails gives you the feeling you can't miss."
Another good drill involves aiming for something other than the cup.
"Practice putting to a can instead of the hole from two to five feet," Crumbley said. "It's mentally easier to hit something above the ground than a hole in the ground. You'll find you almost never miss the can."
Hit, Hold and Look. As Crumbley said. it definitely beats the strategy used by most amateurs, which is "look, hit and hope."
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