Dynamic new technique for becoming a great putter

By Dr. Ron Cruickshank, Golf Mind Coach & GGA Director, Canada

When thinking about using slow motion training techniques what comes to mind for most folks is the big movement, the full power swing. However, we’ve been working on developing a slowmo process for putting this winter, and the results are promising. Just like the big muscles, the fine motor skills used in putting are in need of stored repetitive skill circuits, building myelin superhighways in the brain through repetition of high quality movement.  We KNOW this is the path to excellence. At this stage of our understanding, I believe the slow motion practice to be the most effective method of building skills circuits known.

If you need any motivation to spend more time getting better at putting, let the following statistic tell the story. On the PGA Tour for the years 2008 and 2009, 40% of all strokes were putts, and these are the best players in the world. Over time, your ability to putt effectively will determine your score more than any other part of your game.

The two most important variables in putting are your distance control (governed by speed) and direction control. They are often referred to as the “Two D’s” of putting. The best putters always favor superior distance control, because they know that even the pros miss over 50% of putts from 6 feet. If you’re a mid to high handicap, your percentage of misses from 6 feet is probably higher.

If you aren’t close to the hole after your first putt, your two-putt percentage will suffer dramatically. This is very important, but not the subject of this blog. In our slow motion training, we are going to focus on the second most important element in great putting – DIRECTION control – that is primarily controlled by alignment and path. These are variables you can control as well as the experts.

One reason slowmo training aids your putting dramatically is because putting well requires the highest degree of precision within your repertoire of shots. The slow motion putter training allows you to get highly accurate feedback relevant to the critical DIRECTIONAL components of face angle at address, the moment of impact and path.

Research has shown that a 3-degree error at impact with your driver will STILL hit a fairway of 36-yard width with a drive of up to 340 yards in length. The same 3-degree face angle error at impact with your putter will not make a putt of longer than 2.58 feet from the hole. So remember, when on the green precision rules.

In putting there are Four Determinants that will control your outcome (putts drained). Those four determinants are:

1.    Face angle at address

2.    The path of the club during the mini-swing

3.    The speed of your swing through the impact zone

4.    The face angle at impact

Working with students this winter we have determined they get noticeably better at all four determinants when using the slow motion training techniques outlined below. I am not sure why this training helps in speed control or rhythm, but it does. My opinion at this point is that when your confidence is high that you are doing the other three determinants correctly, it allows you to focus more attention on the speed and rhythm. Ideally, I believe, once you have aligned the putter correctly, all your attention should be focused on speed/distance/rhythm.  However, this can be highly individualistic, as you might like to focus on path or a spot in front of the putter.

Technique for Practicing Slow Motion Putting

Training Tools Suggested:

  • A ball marked with a T-line
  • An Eye-Line putting alignment aid
  • Your putter
  • A coin – preferably a dime or a penny

I like using the Eye-Line aid because it has a built in mirror that insures you have your eyes directly over the target line as you practice and it has visual perpendicular lines to insure your face alignment is correct at address and impact. If you don’t have one and are practicing indoors, you can lay down a 1 foot bright piece of yarn on the carpet with a 6 inch piece intersecting it at the impact point. This will give you the alignment for your face angle.

Being obsessive about this, one of my favorite places to do a couple of quick slowmo drills is in the kitchen, using the large floor tiles as a T, sans a ball.  When in the kitchen I just grab my putter and do some drills when the coffee is percolating or waiting for the kettle to steam.  My wife calls me the best linoleum putter she has every seen.  Hmmm!

The Slow Motion Putting Drill

  • Place the ball down and put the coin about 2 inches (5 centimeters) in front of the ball directly on your target line
  • Set up with putter face alignment exactly perpendicular to target line.
  • Align the putter sweet spot with the T marked on your ball.
  • Hover the club in your hands, just above the line. Do not ground it. This helps keep your grip pressure light, reduces tension in your hands and forearms and reduces the tendency for start-up friction to fractionally move the face off line.
  • Look at the spot on the ball that you intend to strike with the centerline of your putter (the sweet spot).
  • Take the putter back very slowly. I would start with 7-10 seconds to take it back 10 inches (25 centimeters).
  • Pause at the completion of the backswing and hold for 5 seconds. Track the putter with your peripheral vision. Do not watch the putter going back; maintain your focus on the ball impact spot.
  • Return the putter face to the ball impact point in EXACTLY half the time it took you to go back. If your backswing is 10 seconds, return to the ball in 5 seconds. Maintain this ratio of 2 to 1 always, as this is the ratio we see in the best putters whether they swing fast or slow. (By the way, I believe this might be the source of great rhythm in putting)
  • Hold for another 5 seconds at impact spot. Insure your face alignment is exactly the same as at set up.
  • Complete the putter movement by pushing the ball directly over the coin. Hold for 5 seconds more.
  • Repeat this drill AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN. Build skill circuits through repetition.

Remember, simplicity is crunched complexity. Pay close attention to the physical feedback you are getting from this drill. A little practice will noticeably improve your face alignment, your impact alignment, your eye line stability and your balance.  Some specifics to observe and practice:

  • Be aware of your balance at set up and how it changes during the putt. Where is your weight and how is it distributed. Doe your stance allow for optimum stability?
  • Feel and specifically identify the muscles you use to initiate putter movement. Are you using small muscles in your hands and forearms or large muscles like your lats in your back and shoulders? Which muscles allow you to be more consistent and smooth?  Once you identify the muscle(s), trigger every putt with the same stimulus to the same muscle(s).
  • Observe how your eyes track the putter head. Are you following the putter head back with your eyes and moving your head slightly? Your head (and body) will go where you eyes look – always.
  • Watch for your eyes to move off the target line (inside or outside). What is your tendency?
  • Practice how to eliminate the excess movement. We find that the most common cause of excess movement is balance being off due to grounding the club at address, stance not stable or following the club back with your eyes. These will typically cause movement best eliminated.

Try this slow motion technique if you want to noticeably improve your PUTTING. Students tell me it has particularly improved their stats from inside 10 feet. Stay tuned and let me know how these techniques work for you.

About the Author:  Dr. Ron Cruickshank lives outside Toronto in a 110-year old farmhouse with linoleum kitchen floors that are perfect for practicing slomo putting. He recently opened the Moe Norman Golf School as part of our expansion program into Canada. Headquartered at The Royal Ashburn Golf Club in Whitby, a top 50 Canadian course, Ron is ready to help fellow Canadians looking for a winter tune-up. He can be reached at 647-892-4653.