By Doug Hammer, Golf Contributor - Archive - Email
Gain More Putts on your Regular Foursome
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Some of you may have noticed a new stat come into the public eye on the PGA Tour in recent years. It is the Putts Gained statistic. Basically, using ShotLink data the PGA Tour has tracked every putt on tour over the recent years and has discovered the percentage at which PGA Tour players make putts at every distance. I think some of the data from Shot Link will shock you.

For example, PGA Tour players make 50% of their putts from 7 feet, 10 inches. Outside of that, they are less than 50%. Inside of 7 feet 10 inches, they gradually improve:

  • 56% at 7 feet
  • 65% at 6 feet
  • 75% at 5 feet
  • 86% at 4 feet
  • 95% at 3 feet
  • 99% at 2 feet
  • 100% at 1 foot

So, what does this information tell you? That someone at some point missed a two foot putt on the PGA Tour! That means everybody is human! It also tells us that, from four feet and in, you can pretty much count on a PGA Tour player to make it and that they really DON'T make every 10 footer in sight.

But, here is what I feel it should also tell you: if you want to beat your friends in your weekly game, you can easily gain strokes on them by increasing your make percentages from 7 feet, 10 inches and closer to the hole. If the best players in the world make less than half their putts from 8 feet, imagine what the average amateur makes. By working on this distance of putts as opposed to trying to make those 20 footers, you can instantly gain half a stroke to a stroke on your opponents every time you make one. By the way, in case you are still convinced you need to make more 20 footers, the PGA Tour average at 20 feet is a measly 14%.

Now, how do you go about increasing your "makes" from eight feet and in? Of course, good putting fundamentals are required so double check the following setup check points (see photos):

     1. Grip in the palms of your hands with palms opposing each other
     2. Thumb prints on flat top of putter grip
     3. Bend from hips keeping legs fairly straight (not locked)
     4. Eyes directly over ball and target line
     5. Arms hanging from shoulders with little to no tension

Once you have double-checked your set-up fundamentals, the stroke should be a pendulum motion with arms being the pendulum swinging from your shoulders. The stroke should be very close to balanced on both sides of the ball. Distance control is done with length of swing, not speed of hit.

Now that you are all putting stroke experts, time to practice! I have consistently stuck with this drill since high school golf. I suggest a simple Ladder Drill to really gain proficiency from eight feet and in. The Ladder Drill works like this:

  • You will need 4 tees and 1 or 2 golf balls
  • Try to start with a level putt (you can try different slopes as you improve to add difficulty)
  • Place a tee at 2 feet, 4 feet, 6 feet and 8 feet from the hole (see photo)
  • Start with 1 golf ball at 2 feet
  • Goal is to hit 1 putt from 2, 4, 6, and 8 feet going "Up" the ladder without missing. If you miss, you must start again from the 2-foot mark.
  • Once you accomplish this, you must go back "Down" the ladder without missing from 8, 6, 4, and 2 feet. If you miss, you must start again from the 2-foot mark and go "Up" again first!!
  • Try one ball first until you are able to complete the drill. The next step is to make 2 balls from each tee going "up AND down" the ladder, then 3, and so on.

You will find this drill will test not only your stroke, but also your ability to deal with pressure over short putts. Once you get all the way up the ladder, you will feel some pressure coming back down as you don't want to start over again after a miss. Additionally, you may not be able to complete this drill for quite some time, maybe you are getting stuck on the 6-footer, or the 8, but what you will notice is that the 2-foot and 4-foot putts start to become routine even if you are not completing the drill. This is when you are making progress!!

As I mentioned, I have stuck with this drill since high school and regard myself as one of the best short putters around. I have had others compliment me in this department too! Just don't ask me to make a 20-footer, since I am pretty sure I am way less than 14%!!! But, I never 3-putt and, therefore, do not allow any opponent to gain strokes on me on the green; they have to beat me from the tee or fairway if they are to win. Make that your goal, too, and you will be collecting much more than you are donating!!

Doug Hammer * Director of Instruction * Troon North Golf Club
p 480-585-5300 ext. 251 * f 480-585-5161
10320 E Dynamite Blvd. * Scottsdale, AZ 85262 Managed by Troon Golf
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