Just tap it in

Just tap it in

By Mary Doyle
Photos by Golffile

November 29, 2019

Speak Spieth’s language

As mentioned in the previous article, the basics of putting revolve around finding a solid roll, and gaining a sense of pace. So far, we have mentioned very little about holing putts, or direction in general. That’s what this piece is for. In order to hole more putts you need to be able to start the ball on the line you pick, and know what line to pick. Therefore this piece will discuss start direction and slope.

Probably the best putters to look at in this century, would be Jordan Spieth. Inside 25ft, Spieth is spectacular. This part of his game never seems to waver, so when he can find the fairway, expect to see his name close to top of the leader-board that week – this year Spieth has slipped down the world rankings, but has still managed to come out as the player with the best ‘overall putting average’ on the PGA tour. To be able to ‘hole-out’ well, and what Spieth has seemed to have mastered, is the ability to match up pace and slope in order to pick the right spot to start a putt on.

This piece will again offer some guidance with regards to Start direction and Slope.

Start Direction

Both of these components are closely related, but I’m going to discuss start direction first because if you can’t start the putt online, then picking the right line is useless. Your aim and start direction are both dependent on the pace you want to see the ball roll into the hole at. For example, let’s say you have a flat, right to left putt, and you think it’s going to be a little slower than usually, so you decide to hit it a little harder. This decision will effect you’re start line, and in order for the putt to go in, your start line must be closer to the centre of the hole than it would be if you wanted to play the putt at dead weight – this is because the ball has less time to break. Having said that, in order to start the ball online consistently you need to find a way of stroking the putt with a square face. This is where the idea of ‘pulling’ or ‘pushing’ the putt comes into play. Once you’re able to stroke the putter with a square face, you need to figure out a way to aim square to your target or start line.

(Drill work) – “possibly take this out and add a link to a drill blog post, could include other two drills from other post on this page also” A great drill to work on both elements of start direction is called ‘the gate drill’, (we need more creative names). Find a straight putt and mark out a mid-length putt, let’s go with 7ft. With a tee make a little hole in the green, this is where you’ll take each putt from, then make another mark 2ft in front of your starting point and before the hole, then grab another tee and use the second mark as the space where you’ll set up your gate. To make a gate grab two tees and set them a little wider than a golf ball, the wider the gate the easier the drill, then make sure you set it up square with your target line; since this putt is straight, the starting point, gate and hole should all line up with each other. The aim is to get the ball through the gate and into the hole. It might sound easy, but trust me, this a quick way to finding out if you can start the putt online or not.

Slope

Once you can start the putt on line, you can focus on picking the right line for the slope you’re faced with. As previously mentioned, pace and line are interconnected. Your line will change depending on the pace you hit it at. Therefore, you can add more break if you hit a putt at dead weight, or you can take break away by hitting a putt harder.

To help with starting a putt online, a lot of professionals, including Spieth, draw a line on their ball so they can line it up easier. I would have to classify Spieth as being super meticulous with this, but the results for speak themselves, so it could be an approach to take onto the greens.

In order to use this method efficiently, you need to focus on the apex of the putt. The apex of a putt relates to the highest point the ball must reach in order to go into the hole at the pace you’ve chosen to hit it at. Hence, if you want to use a line on your ball, you must line it up with where you want to start the ball for it to reach the apex – not the point where you want the ball to enter the hole. In short, if a putt has five feet of break, and you line it up with where you think the ball will enter the hole, instead of the apex, you will miss on the low side every time.

Drill — To highlight the apex of a putt you should use the gate drill again, but this time pick putts that have an obvious break. You may need some time to find the right start line and pace for a putt, but once you find it, challenge yourself to hitting five putts through the gate and into the hole in a row before finishing up. You should also use this drill on different types of slopes; uphill right to left, downhill left to right etc. in order to highlight how the speed of a putt changes the start line.

Putting can seem like the most straight forward element of the game, but if we’re taking 50% of our shots on the green, we should give it the respect and attention it deserves. If you’re reading this and thinking “god it sounds very technical”, one of our PGA professionals would be able to make this information a little more digestible in a lesson.

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