I'm not a golf instructor, but from teaching skiing my desire to help is unstoppable. Mainly, these kinds of discussions help me understand the game better for my own improvement. So take the following suggestions with 2 grains of salt.
The main suggestion I have is for team play. Offer to putt first. Have your buddies pick the starting line/initial aim point. Your only job is to set a reference speed. With this system, you can still help a lot even when you miss badly.
The second suggestion I have is to make one more attempt at improving your putting based on the belief that improvement is possible. I'm not talking about fixing your putting or making you a good putter. The idea here is that there are dozens of things that can make putting a little bit better. There has to be some low hanging fruit. I'm going to throw out some ideas. If only one is helpful it could cut out 1-2 strokes per round. I won't feel bad if you say "no, not going to do it" because I applaud your current stress free approach. This is primarily just practice for me.
Left eye dominant players have a huge advantage when they line up their left eye vertically over the ball because your aim is more accurate. Right handed right eye players are going to see the hole slightly to the left of where it's really at and have to make an adjustment. This can be done with practice, but it adds a layer of complexity to the process. My golf buddy is left eye dominant. But his old putting stance was like a common right eye dominant set up (foot stance closed to the intended putting line). He also had so many other things that complicated his putting that there was no way he could consistently sink any putts. Because he had to swing drastically across his stance line, getting the club swing direction to line up with his aim direction was just a guess, He had his ball in the middle of his stance instead of forward so his ball jammed and popped on every putt. He had a short putter and used a screen door putting motion with a wristy stroke. Now there are plenty of successful tour pros who've had "flawed" putting strokes and, like you, once in a blue moon he got hot. These are not things in and of themselves that "have" to be "fixed". But my buddy watched me make way too many impossible 20+ foot putts (e.g. like once every other round) and a lot more 8-10 foot putts (about 40% to his 5%) to write me off as a lucky putter. So he started copying my simple elements (straight alignment, left eye over the ball, belly putter/split grip, pendulum swing) and now he's making putts. When I got my belly putter it was amazing how moving the ball forward in my stance and a simple fit adjustment changed me from making 50% of ten footers on the sales floor to 90%, The idea here is that the simpler you can make the putting, the more reliable you can make your putting. Review your technique with an eye toward making it simpler. Then get fit for a putter that matches your improved technique and your physique.
I don't know any magic for how to read greens better, but I do agree with Pelz that most people miss low. If you're not keeping track, you should start at least for a little while. If you're like most people, there's an easy fix. Make your read of the break and then aim higher. Yes, it's bitch leaving putts on the high side, but think of this as an investment. Eventually, you will be getting your putts closer to the hole and that means that more will go in. One other tip that has been helpful for me is to read more break when greens are faster and less when they are slower. The last tip is that Camilo is on to something when he does the "spiderman" thing. Getting lower to the green makes it easier to read break. Getting down on one knee is good enough for me. If you can read either the break or the speed, you can get it close to the whole. Speed is a lot easier to read in my book. One easy part of reading the speed of a green is simply avoiding the steep pitches/design traps. Consider missing your first putt on purpose to put it an easier spot for the second one.
I've seen 2 ways to control speed: length of back swing or swing speed. Pelz is right when he says length of back swing is the statistically more reliable method, but for the life of me swing speed (aka feel) works better for me. The important point here is to make a choice on the method you're going to use because changing is brutal. Focus your practice on making putts to a consistant distance. Then in your warm ups simply find the length/feel to make 5, 10 and 20 foot putts on a level surface. That's all you need to do for putting warm up is determine how fast the greens are (there are other things that other players should do). When you have to adjust for uphill or downhill putts, move the hole (i.e. the spot you're putting to forward or back). In the south, you may also need to adjust for the grain of the grass (you do know how to read grain?). Add that into your putt to calculations just like playing iron shots in the wind. The most common killer for speed control is decelerating through impact. Have someone watch you. If you do this, you can learn to not do it.
Last fall I got into bad stretch where I started missing too many 2-4 footers. I often play late in the day when a full days worth of players stepping up to the hole to pull their ball out has crowned the area around the hole. When you've got your mechanics down good enough and a putting routine that can take the jitters out, you can just bang the ball into the hole and take all of the break out of short putts. Every now and then I'll blow it 8 feet past doing this, but I'm saving strokes over trying to make every putt at a speed that leaves it 12-18 inches past the hole if I miss.
Part of the reason this technique works for me is that I added a trigger to my putting routine. After I've read the speed and the line (visualizing the path to the hole), I step into position, look at the aim point, look down at the ball, tap my left thumb on the club, look back at my aim point, move my focus back to the ball in my putting rhythm, swing the club back and then through. Sometimes I get a strong sense of not being ready to swing. But once I've determined what needs to be done, there's nothing more to do. It's killed me emotionally to commit to this. But I'm making more putts. I'm making the putts because I know that whether the ball goes in the hole or not, it is going to go where I'm aiming it. Before the trigger I would hover over tough putts long enough for "thoughts" to creep in. Inevitably that will mess up your mechanics.
This year, I'm only down to 32-33 putts per round on average. I still make 2-3 three putts per round. Some are just bonehead decisions and some are just diabolical greens. That's ok. The trick is to get enough offsetting one putts. If you're hitting 14 out of 18 GIR, you're just not going to get a lot of opportunities to chip it close to the hole and get one putts like the pros do. At that level you get more bang for your buck by tactics for getting it closer to the pin (e.g. shaping shots to miss the center towards the pin location, adjusting the height of shots to match front vs back pins, shaping your misses to avoid being short sided). Lately I've been averaging 6 GIR. That gives me 12 chances to let my short game give me a one putt. Yesterday I shot a 78 with 5 one putts and 2 three putts. Two of the one putts were for birdies, three were for "saves" for par or bogie. Having made 9 GIR, that's a pathetic 30% conversion rate for converting off the green shots into one putts. One of my one putt birdies was a lucky 4 iron onto a par 3 ending up close to the pin. The other came from pin hunting with a wedge. One of my 3 putts came from being too aggressive trying for a birdie and the other from a diabolical pin position. I know this stuff because I track fairways, GIR and putts for every hole. The message here is that you can add a lot of 1 putts to your card (and take away 3 putts) by improving your short game, changing your tactics on approach shots or even lengthening your drives to put a shorter club in your hand for the approach shot (i.e. without changing a thing about how you putt). If you're not tracking your stats, you won't know if these things can help you..
I'm a golf slut. I play around. I've learned that when I play a new course to expect higher scores because I'm not yet experienced enough to recognize the design gotchas in advance. Subtle things like aligning tee boxes up to make you miss the fairway, tilting fairways to screw up your approach, or placing bunkers to change your shot/distance selection can all result in a greater number of 3 putts. There's a concept of mistakes off the tee adding partial shots to your score. If you make too many mistakes you end getting a full stroke added by finally needing one more stroke to get to the green or by making that 3 putt because you got onto the green in a tough spot.
Three of the best putting practice devices I've used are the track, the ball putter and Pelz's clips. They can help get you to the point where the tips I've listed above can be effective. But they are just painful to use (discipline wise).
Steve - when I look at your story my reaction is that I'd kill for your troubles. My inner voice is screaming that you've probably just either got some simple undiagnosed issue that's holding you back or just a couple of little tricks away from scraping a couple more strokes off. Hopefully, I've given you one idea that is tantalizing enough to try. But I recognize that sometime you just play better golf when you don't care about your troubles. Good luck and thanks for sharing!
Hey MikeWil - how did I do?
Originally Posted by steveturner
I've worked at developing a routine but over my 40+ years of golf the routine changes from time to time. While I do not have a problem with YIPS, usually the "miss it quick" routine works best for me. selecting an intermediate target is also important.
I usually spend a little time on the practice green before each round but I notice no difference in performance based on warm ups.
YES, in addition to the warm ups that are a type of practice I probably spend an hour a month during the season practicing outdoors plus frequent sessions on the bedroom carpet with a full length mirror. I have numerous putting practice devices for alignment etc.
Don't know GIR, 3 putts to GIR or initial distance.
I read break and speed poorly. I can learn (remember) the breaks on a familiar course but at a resort (new) course I can't shoot within 5 strokes of my handicap. I have a big problem seeing a break that is away from the front of a green or away from the water or counter to the natural lay of the surrounding terrain.
At golf outings with team competitions I can carry my weight tee to green but offer little help on the green.
A few times a year I get in a "groove" and shoot some scores in the high 70s to low 80s that take my USGA handicap down to a 9 or 10 and then the remaining part of the season my handicap lives off the good rounds I shot during the two or three stretches when I had enough touch to score decently.
A typical 18 hole round will include one or two long puts that are so poorly judged that a 3 putt is almost inevitable. Typically 6-8 feet short or long plus one or two missed 3 foot putts and seldom a one putt.
Not a pretty picture and a Pelz school and every book currently print have not helped.