Three-putting can trash a good round. The fix? A three-step plan to kick garbage technique to the curb. Here's how to keep your strokes to the absolute minimum.
There are three errors that can lead to a three-putt: failing to correctly read the green, not getting the ball all the way to the hole (or drastically over-shooting it), and starting the ball off line. I have an easy fix for each. Your job is to practice them. Even 10 minutes of work can make a huge difference. Pay special attention to the first one, because it's tough to recover from bad reads. You don't have to be perfect—somewhere in the ballpark will do. Ready? Let's save some strokes.
1. FEEL YOUR READS
For some golfers, it's difficult to detect slope with just the eyes. If this is you, use your body, which is at the crux of the AimPoint system used by so many players on Tour. Before you can tap your innate slope sensors, however, you must first calibrate your personal center of balance. Only then will you be able to use gravity to find your way home. Follow the steps below.
Get Centered: Stand flat-footed on the green. Center your head over your spine and look toward the horizon. It should feel as though your head is "floating," which will help balance your inner ear. The idea is to feel like you're supported only by your skeleton.
Hold Sway: Once you feel centered, deliberately lean forward from your ankles, then rock back slowly to your heels. Now, center up again. You shouldn't be firing any muscles here. You're literally swaying with the breeze.
Feel the Read: Repeat the sway. As you center up a final time, you're in prime position to detect any slope under your spikes, something you can't do if you're not properly balanced. Let gravity guide you. More pressure under your left foot? The putt breaks left.
2. KNOW YOUR ROLL
The best way to improve distance control is to roll putts to various distances and create a log of stroke lengths. The reason why this hasn't worked for you in the past is that you've always practiced putting to a hole, which naturally shifts your focus from training putt length—what you should be working on—to holing putts.
Try This: Place a large, easily identifiable object on the edge of the practice putting green. (I use a roadside construction cone with my students). A large, brightly colored target gives you the visual feedback you need to train distance control without the make/miss distraction that comes with putting to a hole. Roll putts from various distances so that they just barely reach the edge of your target. You'll be a pro in no time.
3. NIX FALSE STARTS
You've got the read figured out and feel great about the speed, but if you can't get your ball started on the right line, you're dead. You have an aim issue, and you might be able to fix it with a simple setup adjustment. Use some chalk or a string and mark a straight line on a flat lie about three feet long (photo below). Make a few tension-free putts. Don't worry about path, stroke length, or your takeaway—just make sure your natural stroke flows through impact along the chalk or string line. If your putts seem to start mostly left of the line, move the ball slightly back in your stance. If your putts start right, move it forward.