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Rules & Lessons

by Tim X. Wilkins - bio
Putting.. The game of golf is a discipline, as are all of the components or fundamentals of each swing. So I'm going to begin at the beginning, not only where I start the process with a beginner but THE part of the game that requires our undivided attention every time we play.......that is PUTTING. Now before you nod off or go to some other place on the internet think about your putting. How many short putts do you miss?.....How many times do you three putt?..... How many times do you stand over a putt and know as God as your witness that YOU WILL MISS THIS PUTT. Well if you play the game of golf all of these events will happen to you sooner or later. Why.. You ask? Because we are human, and as human beings we err. And like all sports, golf prompts errors. You will make mistakes weather you like it or not. ..............Sooooo what can you do about minimizing the number of errors in your putting game? The answers are simpler than some of you might think. Putting is like finger painting. You don't have to keep the paint between any lines. Heck you don't even have to keep it on the paper. You can get it all over yourself. I'd suggest not to eat it but other than that do your own thing! This is not to say that there aren't some guidelines or parameters to the art and science of putting; there are. What I'm saying is to freely express yourself on the putting green with your putting style HOWEVER you choose, as long as you're doing so by the rules. How you hold the putter is up to you. How you stand to the ball is up to you. How you go about swinging the putter is up to you. What's important is being CONSISTENT with how you do… what you do… every time you putt. To give some examples of dramatically different styles ….Isao Aoki addresses the ball with the toe of his putter way up in the air and the butt end of the putter very low. Ben Crenshaw stands very erect to the ball with the handle of the putter very upright. Nicklaus was slumped over the ball , Palmer was knock kneed, and Slammin' Sammy Snead went out on his tangent in the 50's by putting croquet style until the USGA made him modify that style to a "side saddle" approach so as not to be straddling the ball on the line of the putt. Bobby Locke hooked his putts. Billy Mayfair slices his putts. Gary Player and Billy Casper tended to hit or "pop" the ball, as opposed to the majority of pros who tend to stroke or roll the ball in a smoother fashion. When I was a youngster growing up, working at Cincinnati Country Club under the professional guidance of Freeman Haywood Jr., if you saw someone putting cross handed or left hand low as it's also referred to today, you would play them for all they were worth because the perception back then was cross handed putting was the only band aid cure for the "YIPS". And if you've ever had the yips you would know you were susceptible to missing a short putt at any time, and more likely than not, often. So where am I going with this rambling stream of consciences? There are things to which we all must adhere when putting. These are principles that have and continue to prove themselves to be critical to the success of being a good, consistent putter. The cup is 4 ¼ inches in diameter. The ball is roughly 1 ½ inches in diameter. If you line three golf balls across the diameter of the cup there is enough room for gravity to allow each ball to fall into the hole. Every putter has a percussion center or sweet spot. By design a putters' center of gravity is below the equator of the ball. All well designed putters have loft. Usually 3 or 4 degrees. The shaft of a putter may not be less than 10 degrees from perpendicular to the lie of the sole of the putter, by design. The great putters in the history of the game consistently positioned the ball in their stance at the same place every time. They stood over the ball the same way every time. They all accelerated the putter through the ball. They all made solid contact with the ball on the sweet spot of the putter face consistently. And one of the things that separates the good from the greats of putting is that the great ones, a la Jack Nicklaus never hit a putt until they were ready to MAKE the putt. Some pretty powerful concentrative skills to say the least. All great putters learned how to control their speed. There are two parts to any putt; distance and direction. And of the two, distance is more important than direction. Granted you can't make a putt very well if your direction is off. But the speed of a putt will always take precedent over line, every time. So however you are going about your putting game I would suggest the following, to improve upon what can more than likely help you lower your scores. Practice making putts from a controlled environment of a three foot, straight, uphill putt. Don't leave the putting green until you have made ten consecutive putts from this same position. While improving the mechanics of your stroke you are also solidifying your concentrative skills, which are every bit as important as anything else in putting. Secondly, practice reading greens and your speed control by practicing rolling long putts for some time. Practicing uphill, downhill, and side hill putts allows you to develop a data base of information to your computer, your brain, that allows you to make more educated guesses as to how to play every putt. The more you practice the greater the data base of information, the better the likelihood of a good guess. Very few golfers practice their putting anywhere near enough to be a good putter. And please remember this. A three foot putt counts the same as a 300 yard drive…..all of us can consistently make a three footer. Less than 1/10 of 1% of the golf population can hit a 300 yard drive. If I may be of any help to you with your golf game please feel free to e-mail me at Tim X. Wilkins, PGA of America

Tim X. Wilkins, PGA of America

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