I had always felt pretty confident in my putting, but in recent times that confidence seemed increasingly misplaced as unmissable putts failed to live up to their billing and long distance attempts simply left another long distance attempt to tackle for a par or worse. A number of scorecards over the last few weeks peppered with three putts led me to take drastic action and book a putting lesson with Gary, my teaching professional at Chilworth. So on Thursday we spent half an hour on the 18th, 10th and 13th greens, moving around a bit to avoid becoming cannon fodder for approaching groups of golfers on the course.
We made a number of changes to my putting in that time, both in terms of technique and psychology. Now, I have always known that my natural stance has my shoulders aiming left of target, so in setting up for a shot with any other club I make an appropriate adjustment to bring shoulders in line with hips. Why I didn’t do the same when putting, who knows. But the lesson pinpointed the need to do so – change one. Change two was to remove the index finger of my right hand from its position pointing down the side of the grip and to curl it behind, so reducing the influence of my right hand on the stroke. The third change was to get my eyes more vertically over the ball: I had thought they were, but in fact I had been holding back a bit. Lastly, following on from the shoulder adjustment, I needed to make sure my right elbow was tucked in close.
Those little adaptations in technique made an immediate and noticeable difference, and I found I was much better in finding the right line from a distance. As for the putts close to the hole, that’s where the psychology came in. Instead of thinking I absolutely had to make that six footer because of its proximity to the cup, I was encouraged to put more emphasis on simply being able to tell myself that I had done everything I could to maximise my chances of making the putt. If it didn’t fall, I wasn’t to blame. That’s quite a big shift in perception, but it could prove quite a significant, and a positive, one.
Finally, Gary has been singing the praises of the oversize grip, which he adopted a little while back, along with quite a number of pros on the PGA tour. After some practice with his putter, I succumbed and had a SuperStroke Slim 3.0 fitted to my Scotty Cameron Red X2. Its first outing in this guise came this afternoon when I played a solo front nine at Chilworth. Did I notice a difference? Yes, I have to admit that I did and that the combination of new technique, new thinking and new grip made my putting more accurate and more authoritative. It just remains to be seen whether it stands up to the pressures of competition next Tuesday. To be continued …..