Jordan Spieth. Photo from Golf.com

In the many years I’ve been playing golf, I have never looked at the hole while putting, until today.  The objective was to test whether my distance control would improve and I could specifically eliminate the short miss on medium and long range lag putts.  My pre-round commitment was to try this out on every single putt, regardless of the results.  I had read up on the technique before trying, and the theory is that you let your binocular vision kick in while you make your stroke.  This will free up your body to perform its best and release any tension associated with mechanical thinking.

I have tinkered with various putting methods and pre-shot routines largely to gain a measure of improved feel, but have always stroked the putt with my eyes over the ball.  In today’s round, the change was pronounced right from the start.  Playing #1, I had a 20-footer uphill for birdie and rifled it eight feet past the cup – but I made the down hill comeback and could feel that I more easily kept the putt on line by looking at a spot on the cup.  It felt like my back swing was shorter and I was accelerating through the putt more than usual.  The rest of the round was characterized by excellent distance control with medium and long range straight putts, but I started to falter trying to judge breaking putts.  I couldn’t figure out whether to look at the hole and feel the apex of the putt, or focus on the amount of break and pick a target directly to the right or left of the hole.   On short putts, I was completely lost and had no feel for pace, especially on putts that required any break.  I left the course encouraged because I smacked in a few long ones and felt I just needed to settle on how to play the shorties and the breaking putts.

Some of you may recall that Jordan Spieth (the world’s best putter) won The Masters two years back by looking at the hole on his short putts.  He’s since gone back to sighting the ball rather than the hole, but it obviously worked for him.  I’m a little perplexed that he used the method only on short putts while I was completely lost.

Most games of skill that involve aiming at a target require you to focus on the target rather than the projectile or body mechanics.  Think of a basketball player shooting a free throw.  They sight a spot on the rim and just let it go, feeling how much force and arc to supply.  I was aiming for that feeling.

I just finished reading Charles Henderson’s Marine Sniper, an excellent book and true story about Carlos Hathcock (world’s greatest combat sniper and competitive marksmen).  In it, Hathcock would adjust his rifle scope several clicks to adjust for wind, terrain, and distance, and while the rifle would be realinged, his scope remained sighted on his target.  Does this imply that I should adjust my body for the break of the putt but always look at the hole when I make the stroke?  Still trying to work through this.

Anyone with experience looking at the hole while they putt?  Please share if you do.  Thanks!