How to be a better putter
**WARNING – LONG READ**
I started playing golf in 1977, when I was just 13. I had loved watching Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson play in the Open at Turnberry and players like Seve Ballesteros were just hitting the tour, and changing it forever.
So, one day in the school summer holidays, my best friend Andy suggested we should grab a couple of clubs from his dads bag, and go try and hit balls on the school field.
That was it, I was hooked!
Within weeks I was playing at the local pitch and putt course, then graduated to my first round on a real course. Downshire Golf Club, in Bracknell. With a mixed bag of clubs gifted by Tim Barter who was one of the assistant pros, along with the late Barry Lane. I was lucky to start my golfing life being mentored by two amazing talents.
My first round I shot 136, I took 13 on the 1st hole (which is now the 10th). I loved every minute of that round and have been having an affair with golf ever since.
I need to know how to be a better putter
Over the course of the autumn my woods and iron play got better, but I was possibly the world’s worst putter. I came to the same conclusion that every other golfer does, it was my putter, not me. So I saved my paper round money and bought a new (to me anyway) putter. Iy was a Bronte Silver Knight (mallet) putter, it cost me £5 – which was about 3 weeks pay back then.
But I was still just as bad. What was I going to do? I couldn’t just buy another, I was after all a 13 year old delivering papers to pay for green fees.
That Christmas I was gifted a book on putting written by Peter Oosterhuis (I think) . I read the introduction. Peter described that whenever he plays a pro-am, the amateurs ask what the line is. He said that he always replies with the same question:
“How hard are you going to hit it?”
Now I understood where I was going wrong.
To be honest, I didn’t read anymore of the book. My overall game continued to improve. Within 18 months I was playing off 13 and being invited to consider life as a trainee club pro. I am forever grateful that both Tim and Barry told me that though I would undoubtedly get down to scratch and beyond, I didn’t have the skills, the game or the mentality to make it as a tour pro – every young golfers dream – dashed in one conversation.
I am forever thankful to their sage advice – I’ve had a great life. An amazing family, 27 years of a happy fulfilling marriage before cancer took my wife Andrea. I’ve worked in corporate marketing for some of the worlds largest tech companies, and I’ve met some amazing entrepreneurs over the last 21 years that I’ve worked as a marketing consultant. And in 2018 I created Babouche! Golf – read more about that journey here >>
But back to the putting
What I did realise during my teenage years, was that every club golfer can putt as well as a tour pro. The physicality of the tour swing is negated when it comes to putting.
Think about it, you can putt as well as Tiger Woods. You don’t need to pump iron like Dechambeau, you don’t need to hit 1000’s of balls every day like Vijay Singh, you don’t even need to drink beer, eat burgers and smoke like a chimney – al la John Daly.
You just need to learn how to hit the ball, the same way, every time. How to read the green. How to aim the ball at the right spot on the green. And how to judge distance.
Sounds easy, right? Well if it was that simple, we can all do it. And we can.
So I set out to become a better putter, and it worked. My handicap dropped to single figures. I play off 6 at the time of writing this – aged 56.
If only I had a short game, I could be dangerous!
At my club, on society outings and corporate golf days, people started asking me for putting tips!
My advice is always the same:
“How hard are you going to hit it?”
I also tell people to stop buying new putters, get one, and stick with it.
- Sorry Scotty Cameron
- Sorry Bettinardi
- Sorry Odyssey
- Sorry to every other putter manufacturer on the planet. But the truth is, you can be a great putter with any flat faced thing on the end of a stick.
Your putter should feel like an extension of your arms. You should know your putter so well that you can tell when it’s dirty, without even looking at it.
And that’s why my ‘love affair’ with my Bronte Silver Knight took me through my first 42 years of golf.
At this point I have to make a confession. During the first lockdown I changed putter to a 2nd hand Scotty Cameron Studio 1.5 that I bought from a guy on Facebook for £70. I changed because I had the opportunity to practice practice practice with my new putter before the courses re-opened. It must have worked because that summer my handicap dropped from 8.7 to 5.9 !!!
But I know that not every golfer is as lucky as me or as patient as me. You may never find the ‘perfect one’ – but you can.
So, how can I help you become the best putter of the ball in your club, society or Saturday morning 4 ball?
Stop practicing the wrong things and practice the right things
Practice. That’s how. And practice the right things. Monitor your progress, make practice fun, make practice meaningful. And for every ball you smack down the range with your latest £450 driver, hit at least 2 putts on the practice green, or on the carpet at home.
If you are thinking of ditching the grass in the garden for some astroturf, why not get a strip of putting green grade artificial grass laid at the bottom of the garden?
I love looking at gadgets that help improve the putting stroke. Putting cups of all shapes and types are good at helping visualise the end result. But when I first saw the Swing Alignment Towel, and how it can be used to improve my putting stance, the putting stroke, putter head alignment and line and length I was hooked. So much so, that when I got to acquire the rights to the design from it’s inventor, PGA pro Craig Tudor, I had to make that deal.
The Swing Alignment Towel works really well for putting.
- Find the right stance that gives you balance, and set it up perfectly on every practice putt
- Position the ball in the same position every time, so that the club face hits it square, every putt
- Fold the towel over so that it fits between your feet and the ball, so that you get the ball positioned the right distance from your body – this makes it much easier to get the putter face back to square at impact
- Use the numbered stripes to help dial in the length of backswing and follow through for your putts – helps you with distance control