The <5 foot putt

Putting-the-ballPhoto Credit

Putting is of the most difficult aspects of golf. It may not seem like it to the layman, but simply rolling the ball in a straight line for a couple feet is incredibly difficult. It is also the part of the game that most average/recreational golfers put the least amount of practice into. I know I have put way more of an emphasis on hitting my driver and irons than on my short game, but never really thought about why. While a 180 yard iron shot onto the green is an awesome sight, it really doesn’t matter if you 3 (or even 4) putt. If you had shanked that 180 yard shot, chipped onto the green, and made the putt, it might not be as pretty, but you actually shot a better score. The short game is what separates the good from the bad golfers, and putting is a huge part of that.

Now, unless you are very accurate with the irons/wedges, you won’t always be inside 5 feet for your first putt. But lag putts aren’t as technical as the close putts, and are much more about distance control than anything else. Even if you miss the line, as long as your distance control is alright, you should still have a short second putt. Professional golfers expect to make around 14% of putts from 20 feet, the average golfer is generally just trying to get putts from 20 feet close, and if it happens to go in, all the better. For this blog, I want to focus on that short putt. The short ones make all the difference in your score. In order to master the 5 foot and closer putt, follow these three steps. Only by mastering each of these three steps you can decrease your misses from close range.

1 – Find your feel

This step is not necessarily just for short putts, but putting in general. Before we can focus on the short putts, you gotta find a putt that you feel comfortable with, and that you can replicate. Whether you putt normally, split handed, or switch handed, it really doesn’t matter. Hell, I’ve played with one guy who putted between his legs. It doesn’t matter what style you use to putt, as long as you can consistently putt on your line, control your distance, and replicate this putting motion, it’ll do just fine.

2 – Read the green

This step may seem obvious for golfers, but I don’t mean what you might think by this. Most golfers generally pick a spot on the green to aim for, based on the slope of the green, and then putt at that spot, letting the slope bring the ball back to the hole. While this strategy is great for longer putts, I feel that it complicates short putts. My recommendation for almost all short putts is to pick one edge of the cup and putt at that. If you read that the green breaks a little bit to the left, aim at the left edge of the cup. If you think the green breaks a little right, aim at the right edge. And if you read no break? Aim right down the middle. Granted, there are some greens with HUGE slopes where you may need to aim outside the hole, generally, you want to keep the ball inside the hole. This leads to step 3;

3 – Putt HARD

Now obviously you don’t want to putt the ball so fast it just runs through the hole. But, I want you to putt the ball harder than you normally would for a 5 foot putt. This step may seem risky, because if you miss, you will still have a five footer coming back. This is why you absolutely must follow steps one and two. If you do not have a consistent putt that you trust will go straight, putting hard will lead you to miss a lot of putts way long. And if you aim outside the hole and hit a straight putt, you will also miss. But by combining step one and two with this step, you should never miss these short putts. And here’s why; assuming you follow step one (consistently hit putts on line) and step two (keep the ball inside the edges of the hole), hitting the ball firm will eliminate most of the break.

If you do not follow these steps, you could definitely still be a good putter. However, your success on short putts could vary course by course. Some courses have fast, sloping greens, while others are much slower. And if you are trying to barely roll the ball into the cup, letting the break do the work, you will have consistency issues. But if you establish a consistent putt, eliminate most of the break by hitting the putt hard, and keep the ball inside the cup, you should be able to make your short putts, regardless of green conditions.

As always, follow me on twitter at @zacharypwalsh and subscribe to my blog (click the pull down menu on the upper right corner of the page, then click subscribe) to stay up to date with my latest posts on how the little things add up to make something great. And if you have anything to say, please comment below!

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