In 1995 Ben Crenshaw won his second Masters! Shortly after that win, we had the pleasure to follow him around the incredible Pine Valley Golf Course. What a pleasure to watch a revered player take on a great course. Ben Crenshaw was and still is a player. What we marveled at more than his ball striking, which was never dominant, was his putting prowess. For Crenshaw to be successful, he has to be the very best putter on the tour. For many years, he was. He held that reputation longer than he deserved because once you are a good putter, you are always a dangerous opponent.
You can lose distance, you can develop large muscle issues, things happen. But, if you can putt, you can always score.
Good putting is the result of an ability to read the putt, execute a disciplined putting stroke which delivers the ball on that successfully read line and rolling the ball down that line. Today, we are not discussing your putting stroke. We are going to discuss two putting events. We are going to perform two drills. We are going to get our head set and keep it still and we are not leaving until you know how to roll the ball. That’s right, actually roll the ball.
Let’s begin with your head. If your head isn’t on straight, we’re going nowhere. Most golfers do not know that they are moving their head. Keeping the head still and behind the ball is important in every golf swing. Moving the head in putting is simply inexcusable. You may not realize your head is moving, but everyone else does. Head motion is unmistakable.
Here’s how we identify the bobbers. If you putt right-handed, ask a pal to stand left, ahead of your left shoulder. You have a ball on the green and a putter in hand. You will line your putt and are ready to take your stroke. Your friend now takes his left hand and places his extended fingers very gently on the left side of your forehead. You start your putting stroke. Hmm. Have a problem? Feel like you cannot take the putter back because your head is pressing forward into his fingers? You are a bobber, partner.
Okay, you get the putter back, now you are going through your stroke. Do you feel it? You are pressing into your friend’s fingers. You are moving your head! Stop that! You are probably missing an inordinate number of short putts and rarely getting your ball on line. Head movement is a killer. We cannot help you putt if your head is moving. Plain and simple, there is only one cure. Stop moving your head. Take a solid, balanced stance. Focus on the back of the ball. Better yet, focus on the back, upper half of the ball. Put a mark there. Watch the putter blade go through that mark.
For the most part, we like a short take away and a long follow through. This makes it even easier to keep the head back and still. The great putters do not move their heads. Watch them. They are a study in concentration. A fluid balanced putt does not need any help from your head. It doesn’t want it.
There are other things that can be wrong with your putting. But, we cure the head and we move on to step two. Proper roll. If your head is not moving, but you do not roll the ball properly, you cannot make many putts.
Proper roll is sometimes called overspin. It seems to track to the hole. It is definitely not underspin. Once upon a time, we had a good golfer looking for help. He had tried every conceivable cure. Nothing was working. Long putters, short putters, blades, anvils, it didn’t matter. He even tried putting one handed. That was worth a chuckle… or two.
Here’s how we cured his problem. We painted three golf balls blue on one side, leaving the other side white. We set the balls down next to each other on the green. The painted blue side was on the left side of each ball. We told our friend to putt. We did not say a word. He stroked three putts about ten feet. He laughed. We asked him to do it again. He did. “Did you see that?” he asked. “Two weeks ago,” we offered.
“Thank you! Thank you!” He smiled and we got to work.
What our friend saw is what you might see. Instead of the left hand side of the ball, or the blue side, staying on the left hand side as the ball rolled, it looked like a Hoyt Wilhelm knuckle ball. The blue and white side spun over from side to side and every single putt came up well short and way off-line of his target. There was no way our friend was going to make very many putts. He was striking the bottom of the ball, creating underspin.
So, we got to work. The first thing we did was work on getting him to concentrate on striking the ball at its midsection. We wanted the ball to track. We would not allow him to ground his club. We asked him to take a serious practice stroke above the ball. Soon, he got the feel.
We shortened his takeaway and lengthened his down–the-line finish. It was amazingly simple, amazingly comfortable. Within twenty minutes, his entire stroke looked and felt better. Yours will too. Get your painted balls to the putting green!
He is now one of our best putters. Never short, always near the cup. Never – never misses a short putt. Our former one handed putter, actually loves to putt. Try it, it works!