COACH BILL's TIPS
My Thoughts Here is a rather comprehensive list and you will find it tough to do them all at the same time quickly. So be patient with yourself and the process. These are, in my opinion in order of priority to get the most out of these ideas.
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs……If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same…..you’ll be a man, my son.” Rudyard Kipling
Putting is an art as well as a science and ALL good putters think they are going to make the putt when they are standing over (or have a good chance even on the longer ones). Hopefully some of these principles will increase your CONFIDENCE and Scoring!
In my opinion excellent putters do three things very well:
Their head stays in the same position even after the ball has been struck. Some turn their heads slightly, but Tiger is a good example of a great putter whose head NEVER moves until the ball is well on its way to his target. Watch the pro’s!
Although there are a couple of good putters who “pop” the ball (with the arms & shoulders like Brandt Snedeker), with the greens as fast as they are these days, nearly all good putters on the tour putt the ball smoothly with the arms and shoulders. One principle: The faster the greens; the smoother the putting stroke must be. On occasion you may tend to get quick with your stroke…DON’T! Make a “one; two” swing thought in your mind with a good smooth rhythm.
The hands must be “soft but firm”. This sounds like a contradiction, but the feeling in the fingers must be soft, but the wrists must be firm enough to allow the arms and shoulders to control. Once you are aligned (feet & shoulders), focus on the speed (distance) with your arms & shoulders. Arms for short putts; shoulders for longer putts.
In putting (as in almost all shots) you always swing down your shoulder line. Check your shoulder alignment to see your shoulders are aligned parallel with your “target” line. This can be done quickly on every few putts by placing your putter shaft on your chest (shoulders)…probably not a good idea to get in the habit on every putt. Pretty soon you can trust that your shoulders are aligned. Since most putts break right or left, the hole may not be your “target”! Most short putts on relatively flat greens should be played inside the hole. Since these shorter putts are hit relatively firmly, once they are started rolling, there’s not much time or chance for them to break out of the hole! Another principle: “Don’t fall in love with the line and forget about speed”. Good speed (by trusting the shoulders) is the key to less 3 putts!
As a right-eye dominant player, your tendency may line you up left of your target. I have found by closing your LEFT (non-dominant eye) and lining up with your Right Eye, you will be better-aligned with your target. The opposite is true if you are Left Eye dominant.
Fairly soon you will learn to trust your shoulders for exact distance using the principles above in #1b. Again, under pressure, the small “feely” muscles in the hands will usually betray you under pressure whereas the larger muscles will perform well if allowed to control. 5. In tournaments and in your rounds with friends lag the ball on your first putt on your first hole. This doesn’t mean hit it well short; it means once you are set over the putt, really focus on your distance (with those shoulders) so that you leave yourself a makeable putt. No need to tighten up, just trust your shoulders! Then Smooth it!
MOST FULL SHOTS
In most fine golfers the Spine Angle remains the same throughout the entire swing - all the way to the finish winding up looking at the target from underneath the left shoulder before finally straightening up (some straighten so quickly that it seems they haven’t stayed in the posture, but the club has already passed through the hitting area). This allows the club to return to the ball from the same position you started from. When you come out of that posture too early or too quickly, it results in a thin shot (or scull) to the right in that you have not only raised yourself up & out of your starting spine angle, but not allowed your club to continue down your target line. Note: you still want to make a good turn back with the hips and L shoulder under your chin before slamming down the FRONT heel to get the downswing started.
Tempo - In finishing the Backswing you allow the lower, stronger muscles in the feet, legs and hips to lead the shoulders and arms. When the lower body stops moving or is slower than the upper, the results are a pull-hook, chunk (drop kick) or dribble to the left. It’s interesting in that there are many fine players (& pros) who swing fast, but they all have one thing in common: They all finish their backswing allowing their strong legs (bigger muscles create speed) to turn to the left side. Watch Rory McElroy; watch the speed of his hips! It’s the lower body that creates all that distance!
Setup - Most neophyte (early) golfers don’t do a good job of turning back to the right side and then moving left before the upper body (chest, shoulders and arms) move toward the target. Therefore, one alternate choice, especially with the shorter clubs (and critically with the chip or pitch shots) is to start, stay and finish with most (%) of the weight on the left heel or foot or turning AROUND the left leg. This can be 60-70% for the longer clubs and 80-90% on your wedges. This is not quite as good as a proper turn back and through, but may allow your body to “learn to finish on the LEFT side (for a right-handed golfer).
Grip pressure with the hands can totally influence results in the hitting area. The better players allow the larger muscles in the legs, shoulders and the arms to control the swing. The hands can start the turn of the shoulders back (left shoulder under your chin) , but then allow the larger muscles to control. As I mentioned, under pressure, the small “feely” muscles in the hands will usually betray you whereas the larger muscles will perform well if allowed to control. This is especially true when putting!
SHORT GAME- CHIPPING, PITCHING
First, let’s explain the difference in chipping and pitching: (sometimes people use it interchangeably)
Chipping is using a lower lofted club such as a 6,7,8, or 9 iron to “chip” and run the ball to the hole. (Lower flight, less carry and more roll) This involves a larger percentage of roll. Obviously, the longer the club, the more roll proportionately to the flight (air time).
Pitching is using a more lofted club like a Pitching Wedge (47 to 48 degrees of loft), Gap Wedge, Sand Wedge or 58-60+ degree lofted wedge and involves hitting a higher shot to land softer and roll less. In some instances backspin can make the ball stop quicker. If you watch the pros on tour, you’ll notice they pitch more often because their execution, timing and contact with the ball relative to the ground is much more precise. They have spent years and hours of practice under tournament pressure to hit shots well; unless you have a lot of time to spend (along with the proper instruction), or have an impossible shot to chip, your odds are better off running (chipping) the ball. If you are in 2” rough near the green you may want to consider putting the ball with a club that has a little loft like a hybrid club. Normally these will come out with a lot of overspin (the grass below catches the bottom of the ball) and roll out faster than anticipated. A smooth stroke (no popping) is vital. So allow for that extra roll.
If you must pitch it: Pitching takes a more accurate meeting of the club with the ball and then going down into the ground either brushing the grass or taking a divot. The ball must be “pinched” between the club face and the ground at pretty much the exact speed and angle if the shot is hit correctly. In short, it’s a much tougher shot and takes many hours of practice to pull it off. It’s more appropriate when the flagstick is behind (over) a bunker that you have to negotiate a higher shot and land it softly.
Some thoughts: Chips are normally a higher percentage shot to bring off since a shorter backswing involves less wrists action which is more like a putt. With the ball played well back off the right foot or toe. The shaft is leaning toward the target (hands/grip ahead of the club head) and a simple back and through arm and shoulder action is all that’s required… a rather simple shot to hit. A great teacher, Harvey Penick used to say “Take the lowest-lofted club to get the ball closer.” That even means if you are off the green on low cut grass near the green, and have no obstacles, Putt it! Further out a 7, 8 or 9 iron gives you the best chance of hitting the green and getting closer to the hole (your objective, right?)
When pitching (or even chipping) the ball I have found if the hands stay “soft but firm” as explained in putting above, and you depend on the arms and shoulders for the correct distance, you will hit the ball straighter and more solid. Visualize where you want the ball to land. Since most of the weight starts, stays and finishes on the LEFT side (foot), the best pitchers like to turn shoulders and arms around that left leg & foot which results in finishing with the club left of your body (not at the target) ….another un-intuitive principle of golf. Good pitchers don’t guide the club head, but allow the club to “swing” down and around the body. This takes lots of practice from different distances. A common mistake is to turn the club back too far and then decelerate hitting behind the ball. Instead turn the arms and shoulders back only as far as needed to aggressively turn though the shot with the appropriate amount of speed. These are principles you can practice.
MY “SECRETS” WHEN IN TOURNAMENTS OR UNDER COMPETITION
These are lessons I’ve learned in many years of playing & competing. Hopefully they can help you:
Most of us are “keyed up” and anxious the day of an event. When you get on the course and on the first tee, do 2 things: Breathe and Slow everything down. Ben Hogan used to brush his teeth slower on tournament days! Organize and plan your morning carefully so that you don’t wind up rushing to the first tee by having forgotten things you need or want to do before playing. Walk slower!
On the first hole when you are on the green, lag your first putt to wind up closer to the hole so you can 2 putt (unless you are within a couple of feet). This is some of the best advice I ever got. You’d prefer not to have a longer putt for your second! If you do, keep the head absolutely still and make it!
This (#2) will work on the rest of the holes especially if you are not very confident in your putting. In the groups you play with use conservative shots. You will beat most peoples by playing smart with shots you can make. Avoid tough shots that you are not totally confident in; it’s tougher to make them under pressure!
Understand that everyone (in the whole field) is going to make mistakes or poor shots. Good experienced competitors understand mistakes are part of the game. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t judge yourself by other (possibly better) players. You can only control your own play. Play smart; by slowing down and focussing on your next shot. The shot you just hit is just as “over” as the Viet Nam War and will do you about as much good to worry about it. The best players play in the future! Watch the pros who make birdies after making a poor score!
Even if you play poorly in an event, you will become a better player the next day with your friends. Good competition playing your own ball for the entire event (not necessarily Scramble events) give you the experience to play better next time.
Unless you finish in first place, nobody cares what you shot. A fine college coach gave me some great advice: “NCWH” Nobody Cares: Work Harder!
Have Fun; Play well!
Slow down; enjoy the game!
There’s too much I wanted to say versus putting this on note cards. So you can make your own cards with some of the advice I’ve noted in boldface type or take these sheets with you!
If you have questions, call or email me - Coach Bill Holmes