Tom Watson once said, “Mechanics are about 10 percent of putting. . .feel is 90 percent, but good mechanics lead to good feel.” Today, I got straightened out on both. If you’ve never had a professional putting lesson, it will be well worth your hard earned dollars to get one. The trained set of eyes a pro can provide is invaluable. Here’s how my first ever putting lesson played out.
My instructor is great because there are no preconceived notions of what a lesson will look like. He always asks what I am working on and trying to solve for and tailors the instruction accordingly. Today, I told him I thought I wasn’t a bad putter but wanted to be a great putter. I average between 31 and 32 putts per round and have a good feel for distance since I’ve been using a system of pacing off putts that I learned from Ian Hardie. My problem for the last two years has been direction. Basically, I don’t trust my ability to aim the putter. If I can’t trust my aim, I lack confidence. Recently I’ve had some success on longer putts using the line on the golf ball as an alignment aid, but have struggled with this on putts I should make.
As we got going, he asked me to start with a few flat 20 footers and to verbally take him through my routine as I read the green, rehearsed the stroke, and executed. I hit these well but he noticed I was lining the putt up more towards the toe of my Ping Answer. The trouble manifested itself when we changed to a small right to left four foot putt. We agreed the line I wanted was on the right edge of the cup. I used the line on the ball to aim the shot but when each of us viewed the line from behind the ball, we saw different aiming points. I thought I had lined it up on the right edge, but he saw it aimed right at the middle of the cup. Jeez-o-flip! It was there that we agreed I should not be using the line on the ball because I couldn’t trust that I could aim it straight. Visions of Fast Eddie Felson in The Color of Money were coming to mind. Was my vision hosed? Did I need corrective glasses? Turns out, no. I learned the issue was my failure to line the putt up on the center of the club face. In addition, I was making a little too much forward press and fanning the blade open a bit. I made the mechanical corrections and started banging them straight on my chosen line – confidence back! It is a tremendous relief knowing I can stand over a putt, see nothing but white on the golf ball, and aim it straight at my target.
It’s hard to believe but PGA professionals sink only 50% of their putts from eight feet. They are putting on greens that are faster and more difficult than you or I will ever putt on but even so, I’d love to make 50% of my 8-footers. My failures hit hard last week when I missed an easy 4-foot birdie putt, and didn’t even hit the hole because I wasn’t sure where I was aiming it. It was then that I knew I needed a lesson.
The final takeaway was to put an alignment aid on my 40 year old Ping Answer. As it was, there were no markings and my pro felt I should have a dot over the sweet spot so I don’t have any more toe spanks. The paint is drying as I’m finishing this post.
Hope you are rolling it pure and playing well.