Improving your game is a hard-fought process. As a lifelong golfer still in search of playing his very best, I can assure you that breakthroughs rarely happen overnight. That's why I'm taking a different approach with this month's column. Instead of instructing you how to pull off a certain shot or execute a particular swing move, I'm offering one of my best pieces of strategic advice. This tip won't turn you into a 300-yard bomber or help you knock down the pin. What it will do is dramatically improve your scores without making you expend the time and effort that long-term fixes demand. In fact, you won't even have to practice it. All you have to do is watch your missed putts roll to a complete stop. How simple is that?
I can hear the naysayers: "Pelz, shouldn't you tell me how to make putts, not watch the ones I miss?" Hey, even pros miss more putts than they make. Watching the rollout on your misses—until your ball completes its final revolution—arms you with information that instantly helps you cut down on three-putting. Most golfers don't realize that the path the ball takes beyond the hole after a miss (what I call the "through-roll") mirrors the path it will take on your comeback putt. By watching how the putt moves past the hole, you'll know exactly how it will break coming back. There's no guessing and no second thoughts. When you roll the second putt, simply retrace the through-roll from your first putt.
Let me demonstrate. Check out the photos above. In the left photo, I've used six balls to replicate the exact through-roll of a six-foot putt that I've just hit. (We covered the cup to find out how the putt would break, and placed the balls there to illustrate this point.) As you can see, the putt broke about two inches to the right (half a cup) in its through-roll. Next, we filled the cup with water (right photo) to the point where the overflow trickled out of the hole. Why? Because water runs downhill, of course, and the outflow reveals the "fall line," or line of zero break, in this area of the green. Every putt you face will break toward the fall line. As the right photo shows, both the original putt and the comebacker break toward the fall line. They're essentially the same putt, just on opposite sides of the hole.
Normally, you'd be shaking in your Softspikes on a breaking comebacker of this length. Not anymore. Because you kept your eye on the through-roll and saw that it broke (in this case) two inches to the right past the cup, you know that your next putt will break two inches to the left (and toward the fall line) on the way back. Just make one adjustment: Cut the break on the comebacker in half (one inch instead of two) because that putt will roll much faster than the through-roll did.
Instead of looking skyward and cursing when you miss that first putt, keep your eye on the ball. Three-putts will be a thing of the past.
Dozens of short-game and putting video lessons at golf.com/pelz. Follow Dave Pelz on Twitter @dave_pelz.