By Keely Levins
Amongst your group, you’ve probably determined an acceptable distance at which putts are gimmes at least most of the time—you don’t even wait for someone to say, That’s good. Even when you’re playing alone, you probably give yourself any putts within four feet of the cup. That’s great—many of us do. It’s helpful for the pace of play, and nobody wants to lose a little match over an even smaller putt.
Where it becomes an issue is when you’re suddenly in a position where you have to putt everything out.
Maybe it’s a club championship or a qualifier, but all of a sudden those unmissable short putts you haven’t attempted all season start to become missable. The scariest part: once you see one miss, there’s a tendency to start missing more of them. To help you avoid this disastrous fate, we talked to one of our Best Young Teachers, Tasha Browner of El Caballero Country Club in Tarzania, Calif.
“When finishing out those crucial putts, we want to address a common problem that begins as a mental mistake and leads to a physical one,” says Browner. “When we have those short putts, the desire to make the putt outweighs the process of making a good stroke. Golfers tend to stop rocking their shoulders, and they steer the ball in the hole with just hands. This directly leads to problems with clubface direction and speed.”
To remedy these issues, Browner has three drills and tips that will help.
1. The Push Drill
This drill is exactly what it sounds like. Set up to the ball with your putter, and your thought should be to just push the ball toward the hole. Don’t take any backswing. “This drill forces the golfer to move their body as a unit to finish the stroke and not just with your hands,” says Browner.
2. Tip: Use Visual Aids
Set up in front of a mirror (you can do this in your house). Or set up on the putting green in a spot where you can see your shadow, and start making strokes. Browner says to focus on making sure they’re complete strokes. “Watch how your shoulders and arms move together into the finish,” says Browner. “Sense what body parts are engaged, and tap into that when you play. This rehearsal can help eradicate that handsy stroke.”
3. Tip: Practice Pressure
Aimlessly putting around the practice green isn’t going to help you when you’re in a match, grinding over a four-footer for bogey to halve the hole. Instead, Browner says to simulate pressure-filled scenarios when you practice. “For example, don’t let yourself leave the green until you’ve made five consecutive four-footers in a row,” says Browner. “Any form of pressure that you can add will help you feel more at ease in those situations on the course.”