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Gunby: Work on your short-game aim in the winter months – with a metal yardstick
Tee It Up

We are in the midst of our cold-weather golf season. In the next few columns, we will discuss what I suggest to get the most out of the days when we cannot play. In the winter, even if it is cold outside and the course is closed, you can develop better mechanics and improve your golf game without striking a single ball.

If your goal is to improve your handicap or scores, and you average 32 putts or more per round, then I would suggest working on your short game – pitch shots, chip shots and putting. No matter if you are an amateur or professional, 63 percent of your score is derived from less-than-full shots. Let’s take putting for example.

A great way to improve your aim is to take a metal yardstick – I prefer the metal yardstick over a wooden one as the wooden one may not be straight – and lay it on the floor.

Then practice looking at the target – where the yardstick is pointing – from directly behind. Approach the yardstick, holding the putter and placing the putter on the yardstick. Make sure the putter head is perpendicular to the target, which is easy to see with the yardstick.

Now, look at your target and then back at the putter and get used to your aim. Repeat this routine. Do many repetitions every day. Your aim will improve.

Using the same yardstick, you can practice your putting stroke. Again, use your aiming routine. After you have aimed the putter, look at an imaginary ball in front of the putter and close your eyes.

As soon as you close your eyes, stroke a putt. Feel the tension in your hands staying consistent throughout the stroke. Vary the tension and figure out what works for you.

This tension will vary on the distance you must putt the ball. Feel some things no one can teach you, but you can learn on your own, such as rhythm, balance and timing.

The reasons I suggest doing this with your eyes closed are important. The reason we practice is that we want to develop fundamentally sound habits, and habits are defined as subconscious actions. Putting is very individualist and requires personalized feel; not mechanically focused-conscious thoughts. The kiss of death when putting is watching the putter head go back and forth.

Distance control is obtained through feel. And distance is the most important aspect of putting (the only other, and much lesser, factor is direction). Focusing and watching how far back and through the putter goes will destroy feel and distance control. Just feel the putter and the stroke. Continuing with your eyes closed, imagine various distances and feel it.

Another mistake that many will make with their eyes open is trying to keep the putter on target line throughout the stroke. Consciously attempting to keep the putter on a straight path will ruin your distance control. The putter will naturally travel on an elliptical arc. That arc depends on the type of putter, the golfer’s putting style, the length of the stroke, the lie of the putter, etc., but trying to keep the putter on line is futile.

More ideas on how to practice indoors to improve your golf game will be forthcoming.

John Gunby Sr. is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at sportsdesk@prescottaz.com.

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