How do you measure putting success? Do you track putts per round? I do but am rethinking that approach. A conventional rule is that putting takes up 43% of the strokes in a round of golf. Is that a good measurement? If a pro shoots 70 with 30 putts, does he have a better day than me if I shoot 77 with 33 putts? They are both 43%. Hard to tell because the input for putting stats hinges on many factors not related to putting. The most valid metric is Strokes Gained Putting, which is hard to capture. SG measures the distance and result of all your putts plus the performance of your opponents on the same course. Rather complicated and only available to tour pros. So, as amateurs, what to measure?
Let’s first look at the seven inputs to good putting:
Difficulty of the green (grass surface and undulations)
Quality of short game
Line and speed are the traditional factors players work on because they are most easily controlled. Those of us who play in different weather conditions and on several different courses can have wider variances of putting performance. Players who loop the same course get comfortable with the speed and reads and often “know” where the putts are going. They appear to be very good putters on their track but can struggle during away rounds. Nerves are hard to control and very problematic for folks who exhibit the yips (choking under pressure). Course management is essential. On fast greens, it’s much easier to putt uphill and critical to leave the ball in good positions. Lastly is short game. If you can chip and pitch to within three feet, you’ll one-putt far more often no matter how good your stroke is. So, what to measure?
The answer is to measure what you can use or don’t measure anything. Approach your improvement on and around the greens holistically and attempt to address what you feel is off for a round or set of rounds. For example, I had been struggling with controlling my line. Putts were starting left of my intended target. So, I started to spot putt (align the putter with a point six inches in front of the ball) and my alignment problem was solved. Last time out, I struggled with controlling the speed because my course had let the greens grow out a bit to preserve them in the hot weather. I don’t think I need to make any adjustments here because the weather could change at any moment along with their mowing patterns. You get the point. If you play enough golf, you’ll become familiar with your shortcomings and can use these anecdotal observations as the genesis of your practice plan.
If you’re a beginning golfer, invest in a putting lesson. A pro will show you how to grip your putter, execute the basics of a good stroke, and read the greens. For the intermediate and advanced players, make sure to mix your technical practice with game simulation exercises. Try putting practice with one ball and play 18 holes of different length putts. If you have room on your practice green, a 9-hole game of up and down is a great tool to teach yourself how to perform under pressure. Throw a ball off the green and play it as it lies. Use the short game shot of your choice and play the ball until holed. Count your strokes. This type of practice works very well for players who struggle to take their practice games to the course. If you’re having trouble on and around the greens, give these a try.
How do you measure your success on the greens?