Golf column: Successful putting comes in many forms

We just had the 2014 Men’s Club Putting Qualifier at Green Haven this past Thursday and it was a great reminder of how personal putting can be.

For every player that has perfect mechanics and struggles there are many players that don’t have any mechanics and still find a way to put the ball in the hole far more often than most.

Larry Norland, Director of Golf at Green Haven Golf Course, Anoka
Larry Norland, Director of Golf at Green Haven Golf Course, Anoka

Putting practice can be almost as individual as the styles, but in this article we will try and give some ideas that will help you improve. I favor results-oriented putting practice. I basically work with two drills, one for feel and one for stroke.

The first drill is called the ladder drill. Take five or six balls out to the putting green, hit the first one out about 30 feet then hit the next one on approximately the same line to about 27 feet. Then continue hitting each successive ball a few feet shorter until you run out of balls. If done correctly the balls should look like a ladder. At first they will be a little scattered, but as you work at it you will quickly improve and while doing so teach yourself feel. If the drill gets too easy you can narrow the space between the balls, which will make it more difficult.

The second drill is to take three or four balls and hit straight uphill putts into the hole. Make sure the putt is short enough that you will make 70-80 percent of the putts. When a certain distance becomes too easy you can move back a foot and work at it again.

When practicing your putting I recommend only putting at a hole when you know you will make more putts than you will miss. If you only putt long putts during practice you will train yourself and convince yourself that you are really good at missing putts. One of the best putters in the world was asked why he was such a good putter and he replied that he thought he was good because he didn’t care whether the ball went in or not. Now he didn’t really mean that he didn’t care about the score, but that he didn’t allow himself to consider whether it was a good putt or not because of the end result.

Control what you can control, your stroke. There are so many things that can happen after the ball leaves the putter that you can’t control so you simply cannot get wrapped up and give yourself hives thinking about missing the putt. If you hit it where you wanted to and the speed you wanted to hit it, then it was a great putt whether it goes in or not.

Here’s to good practice and good putting!

Larry Norland is the Director of Golf at Green Haven Golf Course in Anoka.