Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Practice Drills for Speed Control

On Monday, we talked about reading greens and I told you that speed control is a crucial skill if you want to execute well on breaking putts.  Great putters understand the effects of slopes, geography and grain on the roll of the ball.  They use that knowledge to visualize or rehearse the roll of the ball along the path of the putt.  Finally, they start the ball on the line they choose and they control the speed of the putt. 

These are the steps that all putters take, but in my opinion, the difference between good putters and great putters lies in visualizing and controlling speed.  Here are some ways you can improve both skills. 

Speed control - Short Putt Drills
     Speed control is important on short putts
  1. Use 3 balls.  Put a tee in at 4, 6, and 8 feet.  Putt 3 x from each tee.  The first putt should barely creep over the front edge, the second putt should fall into the middle of the cup and the third should hit the back of the cup firmly.  When you can do this successfully from each tee, use one ball, go through your routine and visualize one of the three speeds and drop the putt at the chosen speed.
  2. Put a tee in front of the cup in the middle, blocking the hole.  Put a tee in the green 5 feet away and make 5 putts by getting the edges of the cup to "suck" the ball in.  Your speed control will have to be great to make putts in this manner.  If you find a breaking putt, you can teach yourself how much the high side of the break helps you make putts by giving you a bigger hole vs. the low side which gives you no target whatsoever.  
  3. Put a piece of string on the green.  Throw balls down randomly between 4' and 10'.  Putt each ball so it rolls over the string no more than a putter head.  
Speed Control - Medium Putts
  1. You can always use the string drill above.  You can give yourself more room to roll past the string on longer putts.  
  2. Ladder Drill - Put 4 clubs down at 10 feet, 12 feet, 14 feet, and 16 feet.  This gives you three 2 feet wide rungs in the ladder.  Putt 3 balls and get one to stop in each rung.  If you add more balls to the drill, vary the rung you are aiming for to avoid imitation.  Every putt you face on the golf course requires a unique speed.
  3. Lay a club 2 feet behind a hole.  Your goal is to hit putts from 10-20 feet until you make three.  Every time a ball is left short of the hole or hops over the club behind the hole, you need to make one more putt.  As you improve, you can require yourself to make more putts or penalize yourself more.  
Speed Control - Long Putts
  1. Go to the center of the practice green and putt one ball to the fringe at each compass point.  Your goal is to get the ball to stop within 1 foot of the edge, either past or short is good.  This is a great drill when you travel to a new course.
  2. Putt or throw a colored ball or a range ball out about 30-40 feet.  Now putt to that ball.  Continue to putt to the last ball out.  After you have putted 20 or 30 balls, look closely at where your cluster is going in relationship to the colored ball you started with.  If your speed control is good, you will have a small cluster of balls, but if you need work, the cluster will look scattered.
  3. Find two holes that are at least 30 feet apart from each other.  If you can' t find this set up, put tees in the ground 30-40 feet away from each other.  Put a tee in the ground 5 feet behind the hole.  Putt from one hole to the tee past the hole.  Does changing your focus to the tee make it easer to get the ball to the hole?  Does it make you visualize the break differently than you do to the front edge of the cup?  Now move the tee past the hole around a bit.  If the putt breaks hard to the right, put the tee in the ground hole high and 1 foot left of the hole.  Aim to that point instead of the hole.  Continue to move your aiming tee around until you find what helps you the most in making long lag putts.  Then when you get to the golf course, make sure you pick a spot that relates to what you learned.  
If you go out to practice, you can come up with your own fun ways to practice speed control.  The main point is, practice it!  When you get great at controlling your speed, your green reading will improve immensely.  Good luck!

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