Dear Dr. Putt: I am having problems with short putts.
I miss them to the left
a lot and when I try to be sure and keep my head down till the ball reaches
the hole then I miss them to the right. I am not sure what is going on. Am I
just a choker or is there a mechanical problem? Let me know asap or I am
taking up bowling.
Desperate in Myrtle Beach
My Dear Desperate:
Dr. Putt must make certain assumptions to address your inquiry. First, Dr. Putt will assume that you are putting as a right handed player. Second, Dr. Putt is assuming that you have already read the letter on "short putts" and have not found that advice to provide relief. If the second assumption does not apply, Dr. Putt would gently admonish you to follow the advice set out in that letter: follow your set routine, make sure that your follow-through is longer than your back swing so that you are accelerating through the ball, swing with your shoulders keeping your hands very firm and passive, and try to roll the ball to the back of the cup rather than just have it die over the lip.
Having said that, Dr. Putt will assume that you are faithfully doing all of these things with little relief from your desperate state. The characteristics you describe suggest that when you do look up, you are rotating your head in such a manner so that your shoulders open ever so slightly thereby pulling the ball to the left. Trying to correct this, you keep your head down and unconsciously push the ball to the right--indeed, a slight movement of the head may correct this misalignment on occasion.
Rather than worry about all these body motions, Dr. Putt would suggest that you concentrate on accurately aiming at your target and then hitting where you aim. Here is where the EOB device and putting system would greatly help, but Dr. Putt will resist the temptation to slip in a plug. Short of that, stand behind the ball, set the putter so that it is square with the intended line, then carefully take your stance placing your toes on a parallel line. Finally execute the stroke along a path that is parallel to your toe line. Starting the process from behind the ball is critical--that is the best place to see the line of the putt.
If this does not work, then another technique that encourages greater target orientation is to look at the hole rather than the ball as one putts. As you may know, Johnny Miller won a tournament late in his career looking at the hole on all relatively short putts. This encourages a short back swing and a good follow-through. Furthermore, since you seem to want to look up in the first place, go with what your head is telling you to do. As a practice routine, you might try putting with your eyes closed and use your ears to hear the result--stroke, hold the finish, listen, and feel. Many visually handicapped players are fine putters, because once their caddy has lined them up and told them the distance, they rely on the feel they have developed.
If all of this fails, bowling is always an option, albeit a poor one.
back to Dear Dr. Putt index