My 18″ Putting Drill

    December 14, 2009 Stan Utley 679 30 Comments
    Ball pushes tee into side of hole

    As best I can remember, way back when I worked hard on my own game, I had a number of practice drills I used to improve my scoring performance. While practice may not sound as much fun as playing a round of golf, what I’ve found is that practice actually makes your next round of golf much more fun because you can see if all that hard work on the practice range pays off.

    One exercise I used a lot in my practice routine was making very short putts. Now, I know that in friendly games of golf, those 1’-2’ putts are often conceded by your golf buddies. But, what happens if you get into a local tournament and you actually have to make those putts? Yep, you guessed it…the knees might shake a little, and you might have negative thoughts in your head as you stand over the putt. It’s pretty clear that you need to build confidence in your stroke so that you can sink 100% of those short putts. Missing them can cost you the hole, or even the match.

    To build confidence, you need repetition. You need to see and feel the ball going in the hole every time. I would make hundreds of these putts from one to two feet. I would roll some in the left edge and some in the right edge. I would also often put a tee in the back middle of the cup and tap the tee with the golf ball to narrow my focus on the center of the cup. This drill is not primarily about technique, but rather experiencing the benefits of holing putts without missing.

    However, please stay aware of what your stroke feels like and what you are thinking when you are doing this exercise. The drill may test your commitment and patience, but I am certain your confidence will grow. Also, realize that when you go to play on the course, you really don’t hit a 3′ putt much different than an 18″ putt.

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    30 Comments Leave New
    Nick Swan January 10, 2010

    Great tip – this is something I have been using indoors on a putting mat right now as there is too much snow to go out and play. Come the summer I’ll have sunk hundreds of 2 and 3 feet putts!

    Reply
    James Winston Phillips, MD April 7, 2010

    I think everyone would be well served by doing away with the give me putt and completing every stoke on the golf course. You get a better sense of what you are really scoring and if you are actually improving your game with your practice sessions. My suggestions, “play the course as you find it, the ball as it lays and you are not finished until the ball is in the hole.”

    Reply
      Stan Utley April 25, 2010

      James…I don’t disagree, which is why I use the 18″ putting drill, and encourage my students to do the same. However, in friendly games, putting and marking and then putting “in turn” again can slow things down on the green. In local tournament play, gimmes are usually not allowed, so you really need to get used to finishing off those knee-knockers.

      Stan

      Reply
      Stan Utley July 5, 2010

      Yips are usually the result of not believing that you can make the shot. Lack of self-confidence, negative thoughts, what have you. It leads to indecision as you stand over the ball, and those feelings carry right through as you perhaps “chop” at the ball, hit behind the ball, or skull the shot. Anyone can make heroic shots, or easy ones, by SFT: See it, Feel it and Trust it. Think of a metronome’s tick-tick rhythm…every beat is precise and always the same unless you change the speed of the device. If you set it for 100 beats per minute, then that’s what you’ll get. Back and forth, back and forth. See the shot you want to make…whether pitch-and-roll, flop or whatever. Feel the rhythm and speed needed for the shot, and trust you abilities built by hours of practice. If you have faith in your ability to hit the shot just as you envisioned the shot, you’ll build the kind of confidence every good golfer knows they need to play well.

      Best,

      Stan

      Reply
    Rocco May 13, 2010

    How can I eliminate fear of missing from the crucial moment of impact. I have suffered from the yips for years!

    Reply
      Stan Utley July 5, 2010

      Yips are usually the result of not believing that you can make the shot. Lack of self-confidence, negative thoughts, what have you. It leads to indecision as you stand over the ball, and those feelings carry right through as you perhaps “chop” at the ball, hit behind the ball, or skull the shot. Anyone can make heroic shots, or easy ones, by SFT: See it, Feel it and Trust it. Think of a metronome’s tick-tick rhythm…every beat is precise and always the same unless you change the speed of the device. If you set it for 100 beats per minute, then that’s what you’ll get. Back and forth, back and forth. See the shot you want to make…whether pitch-and-roll, flop or whatever. Feel the rhythm and speed needed for the shot, and trust you abilities built by hours of practice. If you have faith in your ability to hit the shot just as you envisioned the shot, you’ll build the kind of confidence every good golfer knows they need to play well.

      Best,

      Stan

      Reply
    Noel Hartough May 26, 2010

    Hi Stan. I have all three books, and the Learning Curve and Video.
    Besides your teaching, which is wonderful, I love the faith aspect you present- in a non-cheesy way!

    I am a big fan of Harvey Penick’s and I get the sense that maybe Mr. Lanning was a bit like Harvey.
    I know this may sound strange, but how much do you think your approach to pitching, chipping, and especially putting, agree with what Penick taught? I think there are some similarities, for example, in chipping he preferred a square stance- and he called a putt “a little drive”.

    My dilemma is that even though allowing the putter to move more on an arc absolutely causes me to hit the sweet spot more often and I am hitting putts really solidly; I struggle with feeling like I am divorcing myself a little bit from the target line in putting. Especially on short to medium breaking putts, my inner golfer sees the first bit of the putt as straight, and then sees the ball break off.
    I want to be able to see short and medium breaking putts line wise, and have it make sense in terms of the arcing stroke. I now look forward to lag putting, because it doesn’t feel like work. but I have wondered how to gauge how hard to hit putts and how to “see the line” in the short and medium putts.

    The second portion is that Penick taught a hands and arms stroke, asking you to keep the putter low to the ground if possible, but he liked the eyes over the ball. Do you think having your eyes over the ball automatically eliminates a natural arc or is incompatible with what you teach.

    Sorry for the long post.
    Noel

    Reply
      Stan Utley May 27, 2010

      Noel,

      First, the difference of eyes over the ball and where my eyes are is only about 2-4 inches, and this has minimal effect on the stroke itself. It can effect how one sees the line though and that is different for each individual.

      As for the path of the stroke on shorter putts, I can understand you explanation of needing to see a straight stroke. I simply call a straight stoke one the travels on the plane of the putter shaft. Once that concept settles into your thought process, I believe you will feel more confident.

      Also on short putts, if you do a good job of swinging the putter head end versus the grip end of the club, the stroke becomes so small that it arcs very little.

      I hope this helps.

      Best regards,

      Stan

      Reply
    Brian Cass May 27, 2010

    Noel,

    I think a center shafted putter would help you on those short to medium putts you are talking about. I went to a heel shafted but used to use a See More center shafted and an old Rossa mallet center shafted.

    There is no mistaking the line on medium or short putts with a center shafted blade or mallet because everything is in harmony…the line on your ball, the mark on your putter and the shaft of your putter. Then it’s up to you to be the pendulum. My guess is you are currently using heel shafted putter?

    Good luck and thanks for a great forum Stan,

    Brina

    Reply
    Brian Cass May 27, 2010

    Noel,

    I think a center shafted putter would help you on those short to medium putts you are talking about. I went to a heel shafted but used to use a See More center shafted and an old Rossa mallet center shafted.

    There is no mistaking the line on medium or short putts with a center shafted blade or mallet because everything is in harmony…the line on your ball, the mark on your putter and the shaft of your putter. Then it’s up to you to be the pendulum. My guess is you are currently using heel shafted putter?

    Good luck and thanks for a great forum Stan,

    Brina

    Reply
    Steve May 28, 2010

    I think everyone would be well served by doing away with the give me putt and completing every stoke on the golf course. You get a better sense of what you are really scoring and if you are actually improving your game with your practice sessions. My suggestions, “play the course as you find it, the ball as it lays and you are not finished until the ball is in the hole.”

    Reply
    Steve May 28, 2010

    I think everyone would be well served by doing away with the give me putt and completing every stoke on the golf course. You get a better sense of what you are really scoring and if you are actually improving your game with your practice sessions. My suggestions, “play the course as you find it, the ball as it lays and you are not finished until the ball is in the hole.”

    Reply
    Noel Hartough June 7, 2010

    Well Stan,
    I thought about what you said and I can report back that you are a wizard.
    I think it’s easy to take the whole bottle of aspirin with the arc, because you want to hit the ball even “more” solidly.
    Once I went back to just swinging the putter on the shaft plane (thinking of holding a club shaft along the target line halfway up the putter shaft, as in the book) I started to see what you meant about the line being there. It is a straight line on the shaft plane, which makes the target line not feel like a stranger.
    I realized by having this reference, that I had been overdoing the arc.
    You can see with the shaft plane as a reference, it really is a tiny arc on short putts.The cool thing is that your arms start to give a little (pistons) and it feels so solid and so effortless!

    Thanks

    Noel

    Reply
      Stan Utley June 7, 2010

      Noel…glad the advice is working out for you. Practice with confidence…that’s the ticket!

      Best,

      Stan

      Reply
    Noel Hartough June 7, 2010

    Well Stan,
    I thought about what you said and I can report back that you are a wizard.
    I think it’s easy to take the whole bottle of aspirin with the arc, because you want to hit the ball even “more” solidly.
    Once I went back to just swinging the putter on the shaft plane (thinking of holding a club shaft along the target line halfway up the putter shaft, as in the book) I started to see what you meant about the line being there. It is a straight line on the shaft plane, which makes the target line not feel like a stranger.
    I realized by having this reference, that I had been overdoing the arc.
    You can see with the shaft plane as a reference, it really is a tiny arc on short putts.The cool thing is that your arms start to give a little (pistons) and it feels so solid and so effortless!

    Thanks

    Noel

    Reply
      Stan Utley June 7, 2010

      Noel…glad the advice is working out for you. Practice with confidence…that’s the ticket!

      Best,

      Stan

      Reply
    John Kennedy June 18, 2010

    Stan

    Thanks for taking the time to write 3 incredibly helpful books. Since reading them I feel my shot game has improved significantly and I have completely changed my putting style to yours again with very good results.

    If you are even in FL love to have a chance to attend a clinic.

    John

    Reply
      Stan Utley July 5, 2010

      John,

      Thanks for the great comments…really appreciate it. I’ll keep you in mind if I get to Florida soon.

      Best,

      Stan

      Reply
    John Kennedy June 18, 2010

    Stan

    Thanks for taking the time to write 3 incredibly helpful books. Since reading them I feel my shot game has improved significantly and I have completely changed my putting style to yours again with very good results.

    If you are even in FL love to have a chance to attend a clinic.

    John

    Reply
      Stan Utley July 5, 2010

      John,

      Thanks for the great comments…really appreciate it. I’ll keep you in mind if I get to Florida soon.

      Best,

      Stan

      Reply
    Monty July 5, 2010

    Noel – in which book and on what page does Stan discuss “swinging the putter on the shaft plane (thinking of holding a club shaft along the target line halfway up the putter shaft, as in the book)”. I think I am overdoing the arc as you describe and I’d like to stop doing so- thanks – MOnty

    Reply
    Monty July 5, 2010

    Noel – in which book and on what page does Stan discuss “swinging the putter on the shaft plane (thinking of holding a club shaft along the target line halfway up the putter shaft, as in the book)”. I think I am overdoing the arc as you describe and I’d like to stop doing so- thanks – MOnty

    Reply
    David Nelsen July 28, 2010

    Stan, I have bought and read all 3 books. I have been focusing on putting lately as we have a practice putting green at work. The thing I have had trouble getting the feel for is loading the putter on the back swing. When I don’t move the hands much, it feels like it is very easy to pop the putt and lose my feel for the distance on the way through the ball. This is especially true if try to hit putts right handed. I like the feel this drill gives, but have trouble with distance control. Any suggestions on how to develop the proper feel?

    Reply
    David Nelsen July 28, 2010

    Stan, I have bought and read all 3 books. I have been focusing on putting lately as we have a practice putting green at work. The thing I have had trouble getting the feel for is loading the putter on the back swing. When I don’t move the hands much, it feels like it is very easy to pop the putt and lose my feel for the distance on the way through the ball. This is especially true if try to hit putts right handed. I like the feel this drill gives, but have trouble with distance control. Any suggestions on how to develop the proper feel?

    Reply
    Jimmy October 7, 2010

    Hey Stan,

    I recently finished reading your Art of Putting, in fact I read it three times, and I just wanted to say it has helped me unbelievably I can’t thank you enough. It really helps people understand how simple putting should be having everything work in harmony and to not force any movements that work against what is “natural.” One thing I wanted to ask was why didn’t you place more emphasis on making the turn around your spine to create a true arc. I have worked with “the putting arc” and others like it, but until you really feel that rotation working around your spine and not up and down, putting on an arc is simply a forced motion that won’t be repeated consistently. It may just be me, but I felt although all the proper fundamentals and knowledge is important, discovering that feeling of turning the shoulders creating a natural arc in the stroke above all allowed me to put the best roll on the ball I ever have. I currently play division1 golf and that simple concept has done more for my game than anything else I’ve come across… Thanks again!

    Reply
    Jimmy October 7, 2010

    Hey Stan,

    I recently finished reading your Art of Putting, in fact I read it three times, and I just wanted to say it has helped me unbelievably I can’t thank you enough. It really helps people understand how simple putting should be having everything work in harmony and to not force any movements that work against what is “natural.” One thing I wanted to ask was why didn’t you place more emphasis on making the turn around your spine to create a true arc. I have worked with “the putting arc” and others like it, but until you really feel that rotation working around your spine and not up and down, putting on an arc is simply a forced motion that won’t be repeated consistently. It may just be me, but I felt although all the proper fundamentals and knowledge is important, discovering that feeling of turning the shoulders creating a natural arc in the stroke above all allowed me to put the best roll on the ball I ever have. I currently play division1 golf and that simple concept has done more for my game than anything else I’ve come across… Thanks again!

    Reply
    Darren Alexander May 7, 2011

    Hi Stan,

    I have your putting and short game books and they have helped my short game tremendously, however I’m still having problems with my short putts/chips.

    When I’m faced with a short putt or chip requiring precision I have a tendency to snatch at the shot, starting the backswing too quickly which causes the clubhead to travel too far and the net result is a decelerating stroke and a mishit.

    Are there any drills I could do to help control my backswing?

    Thanks

    Reply
    Darren Alexander May 7, 2011

    Hi Stan,

    I have your putting and short game books and they have helped my short game tremendously, however I’m still having problems with my short putts/chips.

    When I’m faced with a short putt or chip requiring precision I have a tendency to snatch at the shot, starting the backswing too quickly which causes the clubhead to travel too far and the net result is a decelerating stroke and a mishit.

    Are there any drills I could do to help control my backswing?

    Thanks

    Reply