Perfect your putting with these five mini games

February 1, 2017

Does putting practice feel like a chore? Make it fun — and banish three-jacks for good — with these five easy moves.

1. Throw down a challenge

Grab a buddy and head to the practice green. Your assignment? Challenge him to a nine-hole putting match. The stakes: a dollar, or a beer in the clubhouse—whatever gets your competitive juices flowing.

2. Vary the distances

Start with a “makeable” putt, but no gimme—perhaps a 9- to 15-footer. Give the putt full focus, as you would in a match, and follow your routine as you take turns, depending on who’s away. After both players hole out, select a longer putt—say, from 10 to 22 feet. Then alternate between short and long putts until you complete all nine “holes.” Low score wins.

3. Switch between birdie and par modes

The key to winning this game is placing each putt in its proper on-course context. View the short ones as birdie opportunities (“I’ve gotta drain this!”), and the longer rolls as par saves (“I’d take a two-putt from here”). The trick? Favor line over speed on short putts and speed over line on the longer ones.

4. Match your focus to length

Focusing on speed on long putts helps you assure an easy two-putt. And with better speed, you’re more apt to pick the right line, so you’ll hole more longer ones. From short range, prioritize read and aim. If you start the ball on the right line from “birdie” distance, odds are you’ll find the cup, even with imperfect speed.

5. Learn the power of patience

Alternating between birdie and par situations teaches patience; you take your pars in stride until a birdie chance arises. If you’re patient, you’re less likely to “force” a tough putt to drop, which will help you cut way down on three-putts. You’re armed with a smart, actionable strategy. Now, enjoy that cold one in the clubhouse. You’ve earned it.