Stroking putts in the sweet spot will help you save strokes fast

Monday July 8th, 2013
Dave Pelz says that without feedback, you'll never learn why you miss putts and how to fix them.
Angus Murray

When you mis-hit your irons and woods, it’s obvious: The ball falls off line quickly and lands short of your target. On some toe hits, you can feel the grip twist in your hands as the clubface rotates open in response to poor impact. (You don’t feel it as much on heel hits because contact is made closer to the shaft, which results in far less clubhead twist than on toe shots.) In fact, catching the ball on the toe or heel can be painful; when you fail to hit it square, the shock of impact transfers up the shaft to your hands, instead of to the ball.

The impact mark left on the clubface can also tell you about your strike. On most swings from the fairway you’ll find a grass stain where the club met the ball, whether it was on the sweet spot, toe or heel. Looking at these marks in addition to assessing shot shape provides clues that you can use to adjust and apply necessary swing changes.

This sort of instant feedback for your full swing is critical to improving. Unfortunately, it’s not available for putting. Even though your putterhead does twist on mis-hits, the force of impact is too small to provide any useful sensations. And since most amateurs are never 100 percent sure of the correct speed and break, they can’t use the roll of the ball to differentiate good strokes from bad ones. Without feedback, you’ll never learn why you miss putts and how to fix your problems. It’s the reason your putting seldom improves, even after you practice.

To get necessary feedback, apply some pressure-sensitive impact tape (available at most golf shops) to your putterhead. Center it over the sweet spot and play 18 holes in a non-tournament round. Don’t check the tape after each putt—wait until you finish your round. You’re looking for a pattern, not individual strikes.

If your pattern is tight, focus your future practice time on aim and green reading. If it’s wide, get a lesson and try to shrink it by 1/8”. Also, use the feedback from the tape to make corrections to your setup and stroke. If, for example, most of your strikes are near the toe, work on moving the putter straight down the line instead of cutting across the ball as you do now. Without giving you all the technical details of why it works, let me just say that shrinking your impact pattern by 1/8” will cut five strokes from your handicap. I have the research to prove it.

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