Gunby: Putting – The great equalizer
Tee it Up
A putt, even from two inches, counts the same as a booming 300-yard drive. The easiest area of our game (and score) to improve upon is putting.
Most students that I encounter want to lower their score. They usually focus their improvement with the full-swing shots. They do not understand that 63% of our score is derived from less than full shots, which includes pitch and chip shots as well as putts. This percentage is the same for amateurs and tour professionals. The PGA Tour winners average about 27 to 28 putts per round while the Champions Tour winners average 25 to 26 putts per round and the LPGA Tour winners average 28 to 29 putts per round. Evaluate your rounds. If scoring lower is your goal, focus on your short game.
There are only two things that you should be concerned about when it comes to a sinking a putt: direction and distance. By far, distance is the most important factor of the two. Remember this acronym: D.I.E. – Distance Is Everything.
Forget the adage “Never up, never in.” It should be “Never in, never in.” It doesn’t matter if you are six inches short of the hole or three feet past the hole, it did not go in. But I would rather have the six-inch putt versus the three-foot putt for my next shot!
Distance control comes with practice and “feel”. It is no different from throwing a ball or tossing quarters. It is a “feel” thing. The “feel” comes from our dominant hand. Most of us are right-handed and play golf right-handed so our “feel” hand is the right hand. The left hand helps with the directional control, just like in shooting a free throw in basketball.
Players ask me how to grip or hold the putter. I don’t care how you hold it as long as you are successful. I remember Mark Calcavecchia showing me the “claw” grip in 1996 at the Raven Golf Club in Phoenix. He said that it really helped his putting. I told him that it looked kind of weird but if it works, who cares. I did not think it would catch on, and just like many investments that presented themselves to me that I thought were crazy, I was wrong!
The most popular hold (I use the word “hold” versus “grip” because of the tension referenced in each word), is the reverse-overlap hold. This puts all the fingers of your “feel” hand on the putter grip and the lead hand index finger overlaps the “feel” hand. For a right-handed player the right hand (“feel” hand) is lower on the grip than the left.
The most important thing to remember when experimenting with different holds is that you must feel comfortable. You must be able to control the distance and be able to roll the ball successfully and consistently towards the target. Figure out what works for you and don’t be afraid to experiment.
We will discuss more ideas concerning putting in our next column to assist you with your putting prowess. Stay tuned!
John Gunby Sr. is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.