Dave Pelz, one of the foremost short game and putting instructors in golf, offers schools and clinics across the U.S. Click here to find out more information.
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Your mid- and longrange putting is fine, but short putts make you nervous. And it's frustrating because you know that you should make more short putts than long putts. You might think your stroke is to blame, but it's not. The problem lies in your inability to aim correctly.
Why it's happening
You make the common mistake of mis-aiming at address. This doesn't create huge problems on long putts because there's enough time to correct putter alignment during a long stroke. Plus, you don't expect to hole your long putts anyway. On short putts, however, mis-aiming is a costly error.
Aiming your putter too far right on a straight three-foot putt will often cause you to miss because there's no time to make corrections in a short stroke (especially if you don't know that you're mis-aimed in the first place).
This flaw is so prevalent among the students in our schools who struggle with short putts that we use laser beams to measure and adjust their aim even before working on their stroke mechanics.
What to do
Attach a straw with a big wad of bubble gum to the center of your putterface so it points straight out from the sweet spot. In our schools we use the "Teacher Pointer," a straw mounted on a dowel that runs perpendicular to the putterface. (You can find this and other teaching aids at www.pelzgolf.com.) The straw allows you to see exactly where your putter is aimed. You may be surprised to see how far to the left or right you aim your putter when you think you're pointing it straight at the hole.
A device like the Teacher Pointer is helpful because it allows you to stroke putts while seeing the proper aim so you can feel it. Practice your aim on putts from two feet out to six feet this way, then remove the straw and stroke putts from these distances. You'll find that when you putt with good aim, short putts are a lot easier to make.
Research & Data
Short putts are super important!
In recent testing at the PGA Tour Superstore World Amateur Handicap Championship, we used the PGA Tour's ShotLink system to measure the length of every putt for 400+ golfers on four holes. More than half of all putts (53%) were from six feet or less, and the number of misses was substantial. The same holds true on the PGA Tour (except not so many misses). In 2006, 45% of all putts were from inside six feet. Pro or novice, improve your short putting and you'll shoot lower scores.
Good wedges = fewer putts
Last October, Tom Kite holed-out three mid-range wedge shots for eagles in the first two rounds of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. Then Jim Thorpe one-upped him by "staking" five wedge shots in a row during the final round to take the tournament by two shots.
As one who appreciates good putting and short-game play, I thought it was beautiful. And Thorpe's and Kite's shotmaking display prompted me to add an addendum to an age-old saying: "Drive for show, putt for dough...and wedge it close for lower scores!"
Question: I've recently added lead tape to my putterhead and it has helped. Is this the way to go?
—Jim G., Allentown, Pa.
Answer: On tour, the pros with better putting strokes tend to prefer lighter-weight putters. Those with not-sogreat strokes tend to like heavier putters, perhaps because they are more difficult to move quickly, jerk or manipulate during the stroke. There's no one answer for all golfers; experiment to find a putter that optimizes your speed control while also helping you hole the most putts. Take care when adding weight; extra weight with the same length shaft will increase swingweight and affect your touch for distance.
Question: I see a lot of pros hit chips with their lofted wedges when there is plenty of green to work with. I've always been told to use a 7- or 8-iron in this situation to get the ball rolling ASAP. What do you think?
—Alice W., Cheyenne, Wyo.
Answer: Some things to consider: (1) Using low-lofted clubs to hit low-running chips minimizes the chance of "fat" or "skulled" shots while wedges require more precise contact; and (2) level and smoothly contoured greens favor low-running chips while highly contoured and terraced greens favor highlofted shots that carry near the hole and stop quickly. The variety of shot situations mandates that you practice both techniques, and have a good feel for how well you can execute each. Then play the "easiest-to-get-it-close" shot in every case.
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