Learn To Play Golf - Thou Shall Not Peak
The Importance Of Staying Steady While Putting
Remaining steady during the putting stroke is one of the most crucial aspects to successful putting. During the Accenture World Match Play Championships this year we saw just how critical this fundamental of successful putting is.
During the semi final matches, Paul Casey and Camillo Villegas, were matched against each other. It was an exciting and close match throughout the day, so much so, the match was extended beyond the 18th hole. Camillo took an early lead in the match and was 2 up after 3 holes. Paul fought back on the back nine and went 1 up on the 15th hole only, to lose, the 18th to Camillo and head to the 19th hole All Square.
If you've played golf in Arizona you know how quickly it gets dark as the sun sets behind the mountains. The match was extending and as they played each hole they were running out of sun light.
What Does It Mean To Stay Steady
There are several key fundamentals to successful putting including positioning your eyes over the ball and square to the line during your setup, hitting the center of the putter head at contact, accelerating the putter head through impact, and remaining steady throughout the putting stroke.
Remaining steady throughout the putting stroke helps to carry out two major things. First, it helps maximize your potential to hit the center of the putter head on a consistent basis. Many golfers do not realize that missing the center of the club face by even a fraction of an inch can mean making or missing the putt.
Remaining steady also helps to keep your spine angle consistent which helps the consistency of the path the putter takes through impact. If you have a putting stroke that repeats time after time but you change the position of the spine and the path the putter is moving through impact, you are probably going to miss the putt.
The Impact Of Conditions On Putting
Putting is one of the most precise parts of golf; the other would be the pre-shot routine. When conditions deteriorate due to wind, cold, or rain it can make remaining steady more difficult.
The conditions on Saturday of the Championship were difficult. The day gave the players a dose of rain, wind, and cold. As the day wore on it became a challenge to stay composed. The conditions coupled with the length of a 24 hole match set the stage for a dramatic conclusion to the days events.
Thou Shall Not Peak
After the match was squared on the 18th hole the players continued play on the front side. Both players made par on the 19th, 20th, 21st holes. Both players made birdie on the 22nd hole and you could tell that fatigue was setting in.
Because the match was more than 6 hours in length, the conditions were getting tougher. It was decided by tournament officials the 24th hole would be the last hole of the day and that play would be suspended due to darkness and resumed the following morning if there was not a winner on the 24th hole.
Camillo hit the long and difficult 5th hole in regulation and was 40 feet from the hole. Paul was struggling and could only make a bogie 5. Camillo's first putt was a long and winding putt with about 15 feet of break. Camillo studied the putt closely and determined that he should take a line 15 feet right of the flag and then let the putt roll down the fall line of the green towards the flag.
He hit the putt and judged the speed correctly which left him 2 1/2 feet from the cup. If he makes the short putt he makes 4 and wins the match. Camillo set up over the putt. Camillo missed the putt which extended the match to the next morning. Paul won the 25th hole and moved on to the finals.
The replays of the short putt showed that Camillo "peaked "at impact which caused the ball to miss the cup on the right edge. The conditions and loss of sun light helped to cause this mishap and is a something we can all learn from.
One of the most difficult impulses in golf that we want to avoid is trying to see the ball go into the cup on a short putt. Short putts are difficult for many golfers because of the importance that golfers place on them. We expect to make short putts. We want to make short putts. Missing short putts carry negative energy and can carry over to the next hole and set the stage for poor play.
Poor light conditions can even make this harder because it is more difficult to see. The subconscious mind understands the importance that you place on short putts and wants to help overcome your anxiety by forcing you to see the anticipated result. Of note, when light conditions deteriorate due to lack of light, for most of us it is easier to hit full shots because we know that we can't follow the ball after it is half way to the hole so why even try to see it anyway. We pick our intended line of play, setup to the ball, and then rely on our muscle memory to give us the intended swing result. So it should be with putts.
In Camillo's case, it was 2 1/2 feet from the final's match and potential victory. The light conditions made the instinct to peak even more forceful. Camillo putted great all day and faced several critical short putts earlier in the match which he made successfully. Even great players can find the impulse to peak difficult to overcome.
Listen To The Cup
The best lesson for short putts and remaining steady is "Listen to the Cup" for confirmation that you made the putt. The idea is that you stay rock solid while making the stroke and then keep your eyes focused on the ground where the ball was after it is on the way to the cup. Because of your proximity to the cup, you can listen for the sound of the ball falling into the bottom of the cup to confirm that the ball went in.
You should use this same technique on all putts. On longer putts you can look up after the ball is well on the way to the cup.
To make this easier, try to find a blade of grass that will be your focus after the ball is gone. As you place your ball on the green in preparation for your putt, imagine that blade of grass under the ball. After the ball leaves and is on the way to the hole, find the blade of grass and keep up your focus on the grass until you hear the ball in the cup.
The best place to learn and practice this skill is on the putting green. Make sure you dedicate time in all of your practice sessions to this technique. Make sure that you practice this technique before heading to the first tee. If you do not get a chance to practice your putts before playing, make sure to include this in your pre-shot preparation on the first several short putts.
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