Putting. The game within a game that can prevent so many seemingly great players from unlocking their full potential yet to some it seems so simple. Ever wondered why this is?
Over the years that I have been fortunate enough to help golfers of all abilities with their putting, one of the things that has always struck me is that the best putters know why they have missed or made a putt. They can pinpoint whether the error that caused a missed putt came from their start line, read or pace much more accurately than those who don't putt as well. This in itself tells us a lot about why they putt well. They have ownership of their putting.
Something I discuss regularly with the golfers I coach is how to develop this ownership and understanding. In my opinion this is harder to do in putting than any other element of the game because you can't accurately see what's going on when you hit a putt. Let me give you and example to explain my point. Your stood on the tee of a par 5 and glancing at the course planner you can see that it's 245 yards to clear a water hazard that would leave you a simple shot into the green. You know you carry your driver 260 yards so you have the green light to take aim and let it fly. You make contact and straight away you can feel the ball came a little high out of the face. Looking at the flight of your drive you can see the ball launched higher than expected. It hangs in the air for what seems like an eternity and then......splash. The balls in the hazard and your hopes of getting home in two for an eagle chance have gone. Your disappointed of course but you know why it didn't make the carry. It wasn't that you calculated the yardage incorrectly or misjudged the wind direction, you hit the ball too high on the face so understandably it didn't fly as far as you'd have thought. Sounds simple doesn't it?
Lets translate that into putting terms. You stride confidently onto the practice green prior to your round and drop 3 balls. You putt the first towards a flag some 25 feet away, a putt you have hit loads of times. It comes up 4 feet short. What's your reaction? I'm not a betting man but I'm guessing if your honest with yourself, most of you would simply hit the next putt harder. But what if that wasn't the issue and like the drive I mentioned above, what if the ball was launched too high when you hit the putt causing it to bounce erratically on its way to the hole and lose more energy than it would have done if it was rolling more efficiently?
If you can begin to appreciate that there are many factors like this that skew our perception of what happens when you hit a putt then you are on your way. The next step is how to learn to spot the error so you can make the correct adjustments and that's where ownership is born.
So I'll take you right back to the title of these thoughts: Putting, it's all about feel isn't it? Like any aspect of your game of course it is. When your on the course you don't have an alignment stick to check your aim before every shot or a Trackman (other launch monitors are available) to confirm exactly what happened at the moment of truth, impact. But that doesn't mean they are useful tools to utilise in your practice time.
So when it comes to putting, I truly believe it's vital that you can use technology such as SAM PuttLab or Quintic ball roll to allow you to see exactly what is happening when you hit a putt and then design the correct practice drills, routines and feels to take out onto the course with you so after each and every putt, good or bad, you can understand what happened and why.
Trust me when I say, this makes for putting be a much less frustrating experience!