Like Clockwork: One Drill to Keep Your Putting Stroke Fluid
By Keith Stewart, PGA
Stewart Cink’s record-breaking performance this past weekend in Hilton Head gave us all inspiration as golf fans. While Cink held the focus of the golfing community, we all shared in an opportunity to learn from this professional player. Although this seems like a fine occasion to discuss Stewart’s bunker technique, there was something else this weekend that resonated more deeply when it comes to understanding what really helps us all play better.
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Golf is NOT a static game. If you make it into a motionless endeavor, it only gets harder than it already is. Take a moment and consider Stewart’s approach to short putts we witnessed over the weekend. He was actively moving prior to hitting those putts. In seeing this, we are reminded of the simple fact that golf is a fluid game.
Let’s jump right into an experiment.
Take 6 golf balls and head to the practice putting green. Find a hole that has a slight slope surrounding it. Imagine the hole is a clock. Start at 1 o’clock and place a ball at two feet from the hole. At 3 o’clock place a ball at three feet from the hole and place another ball at four feet from the hole at 5 o’clock. Repeat the same setup at 7 o’clock (2’), 9 o’clock (3’) and 11 o’clock (4’). The setup doesn’t have to be perfect, approximate distances measured by your feet will work just fine.Once you complete the setup, take a turn going around hitting the six putts. Keep score on how you did. Because we picked a slightly sloped area each putt will have a little break to it. That’s good. After all, this is practice as well. As you hit all six putts, make sure you go through your normal routine. Now here’s the experiment, set the six balls back up again. This time hit each putt once you set your feet. You know the break, just take your stance and pull that putter back.What were your results? Some of you will have a better score with your routine, some will have a better score with no routine. A majority of you will have similar scores or a “tie” between the two. If you fall into the first case, you might be a good putter from close range; congratulations. If you fall into the other two categories it’s time to consider a change.
The best putters in the world never stop moving as they putt.
Set the drill up again. This time pay attention to your routine and look for instances where you freeze. Make a mental note of each stop zone. Hit all six putts when you are making this assessment. Once you are certain of your freeze frames, start practicing by continuing to move through that period(s) in your routine. The easiest way to do this is by speeding up your routine. Don’t leave any motion gaps.
If you have just one stop zone, great, if there’s more than one, practice moving through them all. Conquer one at a time and in order. That’s how your brain works. Keep going back to your drill to test yourself. Removing the motionless moments in your routine will increase the likelihood you will react, more than think, when you putt.
Feel free to do a similar experiment with your chipping, pitching or full swing. It’s easy to experience how keeping our body in motion will improve performance. Not to mention, your partners will thank you for playing a little quicker as well!