TAKE 2 WEEKS OFF, THEN QUIT

Drop back 5 and punt…Take two weeks off and quit…This is the advice you get when things are going wrong and you can’t seem to do anything right.

That all came back to me on the putting green yesterday. Just like every golfer everywhere, I sometimes develop bad habits in my golf game. I start aligning myself wrong, or I start moving my head, or I start decelerating my putting stroke. Then, until I can figure out what’s wrong, I suffer.

It has been three months since I held a putter in my hands. Yesterday, when I went to the putting green for the first time since my surgery, I expected to do badly.

We’ve had a lot of rain here this winter, even some flooding. There are still a dozen roads not repaired from being washed out in spots where the floodwater  took them away. The weather has affected the golf course too. The greens are trying to get their health back, but right now, they’re watered down flat, like cement, uncontrollably fast.

So I went to the putting green and took my own advice, and chose two holes, about 20-25 feet apart, one a bit uphill of the other, and tried to get a feel for how hard to hit the ball. My first putt was toward the downhill hole, and on that impossibly fast green, it stopped within a foot of the hole.

I was shocked! But as I continued my practice, I was surprisingly effective, both uphill and down, both left-to-right breaks and vice-versa.

Then I realized, “Take 2 weeks off!” I had been away from the game long enough. All my bad habits had worked their way out of my system, and I was putting purely according to my training without any of the bad habits that tend to work their way into my game.

Two weeks off really works!!!

IMPROVE YOUR PUTTING

Putting is 1/2 the game of golf. 36 of the 72 strokes to par are putts. Count ‘em. If you can 2-putt every green, you’re playing 1/2 the game at even par.

To putt well, you must master distance and direction. Direction is easy, just aim at the hole, allow for some break, and almost always, the line of your putt is good enough. Distance is the bug-a-boo. leaving the ball short of the hole, or blasting it too far past the hole, or most dreaded of all, misjudging the break and getting bad distance and direction.

Here are a couple of tips.

Before every round of golf, spend 5 minutes on the practice green. Take 3 or 4 balls with you, and putt them back and forth between two holes 20 to 25 feet apart. Don’t try to make the putts. Close to the hole is what you want. Try to feel how hard you need to hit the ball to wind up close to the far hole. If you’re sensitive to it, you can feel a rhythm of how hard to make your back swing and how hard to swing through the ball to make it roll the exact distance you need.

Make sure that your back swing is long enough so you don’t have to force the putter head through the hitting stroke. But don’t make it so long that you wind up decelerating into the ball. Short putt…short back swing. Long putt,,,longer back swing.

Impress the good rhythm into your consciousness, into your computer brain. On the course, your brain will adjust the rhythm to allow for shorter and longer putts…15, 30, 35 feet. For really long putts, take one or two practice putts from 1/2 the distance to the hole. Then go to your ball, and practice hitting twice as hard as the halfway putts. It helps.

For more suggestions to improve your game, read HOW SHORT HITTING, BAD GOLFERS BREAK 90 ALL THE TIME, available on Amazon. $2.99 for the ebook, $9.99 for the paperback.

DUSTIN’S THREE-PUTT

I have never played in the US Open. I can’t imagine playing for the championship of Upper Maple Street, let alone an entire country. So I can’t tell you what Dustin Johnson was thinking Sunday before or after he three-putted the 18th hole.

But I know I’ve been there and done that in my local dollar Nassau. I was 10 feet from the hole on the 16th green, with a chance to win the hole and go even on the bet if I could just get down in 2 putts. My thinking: “Just get this close enough for a tap-in. You don’t have to make the putt, just make sure you end up close to the hole.”

Then I slammed the ball five feet past the hole and missed the come-backer. What a jerk (Only jerk wasn’t the word I used). It happens…to the best of us, and to us lesser mortals. And there’s not a darned thing we can do about it except choke back the embarrassment and keep on plugging.

If you’re a golfer, it’s happened to you. If it hasn’t it will. Be prepared. Luck is a part of life. Sometimes it’s good, some times it’s bad. Be happy if yours is mostly good. Some people know nothing but bad luck.

Dustin Johnson is probably one of the five best golfers in the world right now. He has a lot to be thankful for. But the sun doesn’t shine on the same dog’s back all the time.

Read HOW I CUT 50 STROKES OFF MY GOLF SCORES, available as a book or Kindle on Amazon.

 

HELP WITH PUTTING

We have already discussed the importance of putting to the game of golf. 2 putts per green is playing half your round at even par. That’s a big concession that every golfer can take advantage of, because putting is the easiest part of the game and the easiest to improve.

Good putting requires knowledge of 2 things, direction and distance.

First direction. Stand behind your ball. Look at the basic slope of the green between your ball and the hole…up, down, or sideways. Look for a ridge or some other alteration to the general direction the ball will fall. Plan to hit the ball on a line that will allow the ball to fall into the hole as it loses its momentum and becomes affected by the slope of the green.

Direction is easy. Distance is tough. But you have a secret weapon working for you. Your brain is a computer. Put some important information into it, and your brain will save it and output the information when needed.

Before your round, go to the putting green with three balls and your putter. Practice putting between two holes about 20-25 feet apart. FEEL THE RHYTHM needed to hit the ball that distance. Don’t worry about sinking these putts, just try to master putting the correct distance between the holes so that you ball ends up close to the target hole.

Once you are feeling how hard to hit those 20-25 foot putts, practice short 2,3, and 4 foot putts. You want to sink those, both in practice and on the course.

When you get on the course, your computer brain will automatically estimate the information of how hard to hit 10, 20, 30 foot putts. You’ll have a lot of second putt tap-ins for easy 2 putt greens.

And here’s another tip. Don’t try to sink any putt longer than 6 or 7 feet. 2 putts is par. try to get down in two putts. Trying too hard to sink those mid-range putts can leave you with longer second putts and bring about score-killing 3 putt greens.

 

 

THEORY OF PUTTING

It isn’t always smart to expect to sink a putt. Unless you are within 6 feet of the hole, you’re probably better off to try to get down in two putts. The first should be putted close to the hole and the second should be tapped into the hole. After all, two putts is par on every hole.

By the same reasoning, the smart golfer uses two different theories of putting if he is trying to sink a putt under 6 feet, or if he is trying to putt close to the hole on his first putt and leave an easy second putt.

If you are trying to sink your putt, estimate hitting it hard enough so that it will not lose momentum and tail off at the hole. Usually this is estimated to be hard enough to run 12 to 18 inches past the hole.

If you are trying to hit it close to the hole, estimate how hard to hit the ball to get it to stop at the hole, so that you are left, not with a 12 to 18 inch putt, but with a very short tap-in.

Of course, there are those putters who do not differentiate between the putting theories and use the same technique no matter the situation.

I personally use the stop at the hole theory all the time. I figure a 2 inch putt short of the hole is equal to a two inch putt beyond the hole. I’m interested in the 2″ leave.

Many golfers want to never leave a putt short. “95% of all short putts don’t go in,” they say. I say, “95% of putts that go past the hole don’t go in either.”

DON’T MOVE YOUR HEAD

If you’ve ever played golf, you’ve been told “Keep your head down”. That is usually interpreted to mean, “Don’t look up to see where you’ve hit the ball until AFTER you’ve hit the ball”.

Both the statement and the interpretation are wrong. You should keep your head UP, and keep your eyes DOWN. But in both cases, keep your head in the same spot. Don’t move it up, down, or sideways until after you’ve hit your ball.

Hitting a golf ball includes rotating your front shoulder under your chin on the backswing. If your head is down on your chest, the shoulder bumps your chin and moves your head…so keep your head up so that your shoulder can rotate under it.

Keep your head still because you are swinging the golf club, basically, in a circle, and your head is the center of that circle. You know what happens if you move the center of a circle…the whole circle moves. Since your ball sits on the arc of that circle, it is important not to move the circle…or you’ll miss the ball!

Here’s an important tip. One of the overlooked times when beginning golfers make the mistake of moving their head and screwing up their swing is at the transition from backswing to hitting stroke. At this critical moment, you MUST remember to keep your head back! If you start your hitting stroke with a forward head movement, it will change your shoulder position and cause you to radically change your swing circle. Be very careful of this move. It will kill your swing and your game. Keep your head in the same place until after you have hit the ball and it is well on its way.

 

PUTTING IS EASY

“Drive for show. Putt for dough” , an old truism. Making putts can make up for a lot of bad long shots.

Putts are the most important shots in the game, and the easiest to improve. 2-putting a green is playing 1/2 the hole in par. Get your long putt close and get your short putt in.

OK! I get it! But how do you get down in 2 putts regularly?

First, I have a game. I call it Solitaire. It’s simple. Go to the putting green with 5 balls and 4 tees. Set the tees in a line, 3, 4, 5, and 6 feet from a hole. The standard putter is about 3 feet long. Lay it on the ground at a hole to measure 3′, and stick a tee in the green. Then do it again to get 6′. Then estimate 4′ and 5′. Putt 5 in a row or 9 out of 10 into the hole from 3′ and 4′. Then 5 in a row or 8 of 10 from 5′ and 6′. If you miss from 4, 5, or 6, feet, start again from 3 feet. And don’t leave until you’ve met your goal from all 4 positions in one string.

That’s how to learn to make the short putts.

For  getting the long putts close to the hole, go to the golf course early. Take three balls to the putting green. Putt them back and forth between two holes that are 20 to 25 feet apart. Don’t worry about sinking these putts, just try to get them close to your target hole. After about a dozen putts, you should have the feel for how hard to hit the ball to put it close from that distance.

When you get on the course, let your brain automatically judge how hard to hit the ball on all putts from 10 to 40 feet. It will do this surprisingly well, at least to put you within a couple of feet of the hole or better. Then use the skills learned at Solitaire to putt those short putts into the hole.

Finally, on putts longer than 40 feet, set yourself up halfway to the hole, and take a couple of practice strokes swinging with the tempo you’d use from that halfway distance. Then  go back to your ball and take a couple of practice strokes at twice that tempo. Then putt the ball. This is a good way to estimate how hard to hit the ball.

And remember, in putting, line is important, but distance is more important!

WHO IS FRED FIELDS, ANYWAY

HI! I’m Fred Fields, author of How Short Hitting, Bad Golfers Break 90 All the Time, a great little golf book that will show any golfer with a handicap of 10 or more how to lower his scores significantly.

I started playing golf as a 13-year-old who scored in the 120s and wound up as a sixty-something with a 6 handicap who scored regularly in the 70s.

In my journey from the 120s to 70s, I learned how to hit the ball straight, but didn’t improve my ball striking very much otherwise. What I DID learn, was how to THINK on a golf course. How to use my marginal swing, and effectively score 50 strokes better.

Ben Hogan once said, “Golf is 20% talent and 80% management.” If you don’t know what that means, My books will translate that sentence for you so that you can understand what Mr. Hogan was saying. Essentially, he said that golf strategy isn’t just “Go for the pin!”

I tell it all in my book, mentioned above, and in my new book, which I hope to have on bookshelves by the end of the year, titled, How I took 50 Strokes Off My Golf Score.

My book is available on Amazon for $9.99, or on Kindle for $2.99. And for the frugal, you can borrow it for free if you are a member of the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

Any golfer who reads one of my books will change how he looks at his golf game for the rest of his life.

AVOID THE WRONG PRACTICE SWING

I saw something on the golf course recently that really amazed me. A golfer intentionally input the wrong information into his mind and body just prior to hitting the ball. And he did it prior to every swing.

His pre-shot routine included taking a practice swing where the club head passed between his feet and his ball. Then, without moving closer to the ball, that is, without moving his feet, he swung at the ball. As you may have guessed, this man scored over 120.

This is obviously not a good idea for a pre-shot routine. On the other hand, how many of you, just prior to hitting an uphill (or downhill or sidehill) shot, stand behind your ball, looking at your target and take your practice swing perpendicular to the shot you are about to hit? You’re doing the same thing. Giving your mind and body the wrong practice immediately prior to hitting the ball.

Early computers were called mechanical brains, which is what they tried to become, a mechanical improvement on the human brain. And that’s what they are today. You put information in, it works with the information, or remembers it, and it puts out information on request. That’s what your personal brain does. You do that every day. You remember stuff, like addresses and phone numbers and multiplication tables. You work with information, like figuring the route to a location you’ve never driven to before.

This is good to know on the golf course. Your brain is a computer, use it. Practice putting 20 to 25 foot putts on the putting green prior to a round of golf, and your computer brain will remember how hard to hit 20 to 25 foot putts…and estimate how hard to hit 15 to 40 foot putts. If you have a 60 foot putt, take a few practice putts from halfway, then hit the 60 footer twice as hard as the 30 foot practice strokes.

And when you take a practice swing, practice the shot you are about to hit. Put correct recent information into your computer brain, not incorrect recent information.

PLAY 1/2 THE GAME AT EVEN PAR

If you can two putt every green, you’ll be playing half your round of golf at even par. That’s right. The scorecard allows for two putts on each hole to score a par.

Even if you can’t drive the ball like a pro, you probably, with some practice, can improve your putting. The key to remember is that you are trying to two putt every green. You only have to get the first putt close to the hole, then sink the easy tap-in that’s left. There’s no need to even try to sink any putt over 6 feet. Just try to get it close to the hole for the easy second putt.

There are two theories of putting. The first is to try to putt the ball about 18 inches beyond the hole. The second is to try to stop the ball right at the hole.

The reason for the first theory is that, for the rolling ball to hold its line, it must maintain its momentum past the hole. If it stops at the hole, is may roll off line just enough to miss the cup.

On the other hand, since we are trying to two putt, stopping the ball at the proper distance is the better choice for us. Trying to putt past the hole can be a dangerous choice if the ball goes even a short distance past the 18 inches figured on.

The proper putting stroke is to keep your head still, power the putting move with your shoulders, not your hands, and accelerate your putter’s face through the ball. Missed short putts are almost always the result of head movement, deceleration, or a swing that’s “too handsy”. Use no wrist action. Keep your hands still. swing with your shoulders.