Larry Ramstad: Put your putts to proper practice

Every day I notice a steady stream of golfers making their way to the driving range with a goal in mind to improve their scores on the golf course. What I also notice is the not-so-steady stream of golfers to the putting green.

The majority of the traffic on the practice green consists of golfers who have a few minutes before they tee off, so they grab a couple golf balls from their bag and aimlessly stroke a few putts around to different hole positions with the purpose being to get a feel for the green speed before they go play.

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A typical pre-round putting session would be to drop a couple balls on the green, locate a nearby hole, hit a putt in that direction, watch the putt. Then, drag a second ball into position and hit that putt towards the same hole, making any adjustments to speed and direction that may need correcting. This routine is repeated a few more times before the player finally goes to the first tee.

The issue I have with this is you are subconsciously saying it’s OK to be lacklustre, because a second chance is coming and no routine is being rehearsed. My advice would be to do this only for the first few minutes, with the purpose to simply adjust to green speed and find a preferred putting tempo.

Make certain that the last few minutes of your putting warm-up is to go through the exact routine that you intend to take to the course. That way you will get into the same mindset that you need when you’re playing.

Keep in mind that the proceeding putting is really just a warm up prior to a round of golf. This is not really putting practice. I know, big shocker!

To practice putting properly, time should be spent on specific drills that will identify and measure performance. If you go to the putting green with four separate drills and spend 15 minutes on each, you’ll have an hour of real practice.

Better yet, your mind will stay focused, and you will be able to measure performance.

A few common drills that you can incorporate into your session are:

1. Clock drill - Emphasis on 3 to 8-foot putts, line up balls around a hole like a clock. Start at a lower distance and when you can sink all the putts, increase the distance.

2. Ladder drill - Emphasis on distance control, line up balls about a yard apart in a line, and hit from shortest to longest. Your goal is to be able to either sink the putt or ensure you roll it about 18 inches past the hole.

3. Gate drill - Emphasis on centered contact and ideal putter-head path, set up your line and then place a tee on either end of the putter. The lower your handicap, the closer to the putter the tees would be. The object is to hit the putt without hitting either of the tees.

4. Jordan Spieth drill - Putt while looking at the hole. Helps calibrate your feel with regard to the distance, and putting is really all about feel.

After the hour session, leave the practice green before it gets old. That way, you will be more likely to repeat this practice in a few days. 

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