First Professional Putting Lesson

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.

Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson in The Color of Money. Photo by agefotostock.com

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.

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About Brian Penn

Avid sports fan and golf nut. I am a lifelong resident of the Washington D.C. area and love to follow the local teams. Also worked as a golf professional in the Middle Atlantic PGA for several years and am intrigued by the game to no end. I love to play and practice and am dedicated to continual improvement.
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12 Responses to First Professional Putting Lesson

  1. Brian

    Sounds like your investment was worth every penny. I have never taken a putting lesson and like you believe I am a decent putter. For me, and you from the sounds of it, confidence is an important factor to successful putting. Good luck with journey to being a great putter. I am reading and waiting to hear of your successes!

    Cheers
    Jim

    • Brian Penn says:

      Jim, appreciate the kind words. What I like most about my instructor is that he helps me simplify each part of my game. There is so much data out there on technique and approach and I begin every lesson with a desire to focus on one thing to get better. The whole process of learning this way has been very enjoyable.

      Thanks,

      Brian

  2. Pete Robbins says:

    Hi Brian, one thing that gets me about the professionals, and missing those putts, is that they get a greens chart handed to them, showing all the slopes and burrows on the green, and they still get it wrong. I personally don;t think they should have charts, isn’t there a rule about artificial aids.

    Pete

  3. Brian,

    It’s actually crazy that pros miss half their putts from 8-feet. Although it obviously doesn’t happen, it FEELS like I should make every single 8 foot putt I stand over, even as a 3 to 4 handicap. Glad you’re finding some answers with your putting! My change from left to right-handed (left hand low) is still going well. I still have good and bad days on the greens, but my good days are better and my bad days aren’t as bad. I’m no longer afraid to hit a putt 3 or 4 feet by because I’m cleaning up the short ones way better, which helps to free things up.

    Keep rolling it pure!

    Cheers
    Josh

    • Brian Penn says:

      Josh, those 8-footers the pros hit aren’t all flat! I’m pretty amazed that they make 50% given their greens are usually running 12-13 on the stimp. Of course, there’s never a blade of grass out of place. Must be nice to roll em on those carpets every week.

      Great to hear that you are feeling more comfortable charging those knee knockers; keep it up!

      Brian

  4. Hi Brian,

    Glad the professional putting lesson was worth the money. I myself have never had a putting lesson, but after reading this I may have to set one up. I wouldn’t say I am a bad putter, but I have always had a tendency to miss more 4 to 5 footers then I probably should. Like you, it could be the alignment and the ability to make contact with the center of the putter face. If anything, a putting lesson will give me a boost in confidence, which is very important on the greens!

    Sebastien

    • Brian Penn says:

      Sebastien, it was one of the simplest yet effective lessons I’ve ever had. Will definitely not hesitate to go back for a refresher next time the flat stick fails to behave.

      Thanks!

      Brian

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