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The Key to Putting like Cam Smith is in a Deck of Cards

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

Cameron Smith of Australia lines up a putt on the sixth green during the final round of the FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind on August 08, 2021 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Cam Smith’s flow is the envy of most players on the PGA Tour. Not the epic hairstyle we see blowing in the breeze, but rather his fluid putting stroke. A Top 10 player in Strokes Gained Putting, Cam pulled off an unbelievable feat last week at TPC Southwind at the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational, recorded just 18 putts in 18 holes and tied the PGA Tour record.
He had 15 putts through 16 holes, 16 putts through 17 holes and two-putted the last hole for 18 total. His 8-under par total of 62 put him in contention after 36 holes against one of the best fields in golf. 
What can we learn from this prolific putter by watching him play? Cam only hit 10 of the 18 greens in regulation, so one of Smith’s best skills is being prepared to hit putts from many different lengths close to the hole.
We all practice our putting by selecting a hole and then picking a spot to putt from. We get comfortable and then practice. We might even select a couple long ones, but this style of practice doesn’t resemble real golf. We never know what length we will have at any given time. The uncertainty of playing golf is part of the mental challenge we all face. 
If you want to be a better putter like Cam, start to shift your thinking when practicing on the putting surface.
You will need to bring a couple of items with you to try this vanguard style of putting drill. They are all common house items, but for this exercise, you will need:
  1. Deck of cards
  2. 15’ measuring tape (or longer)
  3. 13 marked tees
  4. A Putter and a couple of golf balls
Here’s how you set up the drill...
  • Find a flat area on the practice putting green, you’ll need about 15’.
  • Take a pen and mark the ball end of the tee with the numbers 2 through 14. Write the number in the small indentation that holds the ball when you tee off.
  • Place the tape measure on the ground with the zero end at the cup and pull it out up to 14’ from the hole. Make sure the tape measure runs parallel to the intending putting line. This is important for the next step.
  • Start at 2’ and place the #2 tee in the ground. Continue this process until there is a tee every foot extending out to 14’ and #14. The tees should be in a straight line next to your intended line of the putt. Make sure they aren’t in the way of the hole. It will almost look like a picket fence of sorts extending away from the hole.
Now it’s time to play your hand…
  • You are going to shuffle the deck and then draw a card. The number will correspond to a tee number. The six of diamonds, go to the #6 tee and putt. If you make it, you have earned a six.
  • Draw another card. This one is a jack of clubs. The jack is the #11. Go to the tee marked #11 and putt. If you make it, you add eleven to your score.
  • Jack is #11, Queen is #12, King is #13, Ace is #14
  • Continue this game for all 18 holes (Draw 18 cards).
  • Keep score for the entire drill and remember your total. You want to accumulate the highest total you can. Each time you practice try and beat your record.
Golf is a game of unpredictability. Make your practice sessions equally as erratic. Cam Smith is a great putter because he makes a vast majority of his putts inside 15’. Become a card shark on the putting green with this drill. It will create a paradigm shift in your mental approach to practice and without a doubt better prepare you for whatever hand your dealt on the greens the next time you play.

Keith Stewart is a 5-time award-winning PGA Professional with 25 years of experience in the golf industry. His network of players, coaches and insiders provide him with a unique perspective on the game. He's a writer on PGA.com and host of the ProShow on ESPN 920 AM Friday afternoons at 3:00pm EDT. Check out his PGA Coaching articles archived here or his conversations on air with this link to his website The ProShow.

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