Most likely, you’ll have already noticed, that there are subtle differences between putting technique and skill improvement practice.
You should do your best to have both these practice types in your putting routine but, in this article, we are going to focus on golf skills improvement and we need to ensure the following points are in place:
- Our focus is on optimising shot outcome, not technique.
- Practice sessions challenge a particular attribute or a set of attributes.
- Practice performance is measurable.
- Practice can continually be made more difficult as we improve.
So what does this skill improvement practice look like? Actually, pretty simple…..
“Round the Clock” Practice
Getting setup for this practice is simple as it only involves placing 6 ball markers or tees at a distance of one putter length from the hole, spaced in a rough circle around the hole…at approx. 12 o’clock, 12.10, 12.20, 12.30, 12.40 and 12.50, thus the name “round the clock”.
You then place a ball at each marker in preparation for the first skill practice. This skill improvement practice game, continues to receive great feedback from coaches and players alike. While round the clock is simple to set up, it is acknowledged as a great putting practice game.
Where To Start
You’re not going to like this and regardless of whether you’re a beginner or a low handicapper, start this game from one putter length away (3ft) from the hole. Your aim is then to work around the hole and putt all six balls successfully, if you miss, you must start over again.
In my heart, I know many of you won’t be able to do this on the 1st, 2nd or even on a 3rd attempt. So, take your time on each putt.
Stand behind, figure out the line, take a practice swing and then execute the putt. It is less about how many putts you hit and much more about the effort you invest into planning and attempting to execute each putt. Your golfing skill is much more complex than just a putting stroke or golf swing.
How To Think
Keep in mind, your focus should not be on you golf putting mechanics, it should be on holing each putt right in the centre of the hole. If it doesn’t roll perfectly into the centre, then reflect and learn:
- Did the ball start too far right or left?
- Was this because of a poor stroke or your aim?
- Did you pick an incorrect line or
- Was the pace not ideal for the line you chose?
These are the questions you should ask yourself when you sink each putt, let alone when you miss one. It is this granular level of self-reflection that is so productive in learning. This is the learning that most golfers leave on the table during their practice sessions.
Developing you putting skill does not occur by accident. Your body makes specific adaptations when it is continually stressed in a particular way. As such, your golf practice must become incrementally more difficult as you progress. Otherwise, you will stop learning – this concept is simple to grasp and yet many golfers neglect this fundamental rule of learning.
Once you can complete 3ft of “round the clock” with no misses, move all your markers back one grip length. Then, when you can complete this, move them back another grip length. Professionals, who consistently play this game, can get back to 9 feet…..guess how good they are at holing out from inside 10 feet…
Other Ways To Progress
If you do these:
a) Play this putting skills game “round the clock”
b) Continually adjust the difficulty and
c) Self-reflect on your performance on every putt.
You will rapidly improve your putting skill level.
But what if you want more?
If you keep moving the ball markers back, you will find it more difficult, but this is just the start.
Many other adaptations can be made to develop your golfing skill based on your weaknesses. Another adaptation is to complete three rounds at each distance as follows:
- 1st ball – putt at your normal pace
- 2nd ball – putt firmer than your normal pace
- 3rd ball – putt softer than your normal pace
When you miss any putt, you start from the beginning…..be warned, this is tough.
Playing “round the clock” in this way really dials in your ability to understand the different pace and lines for holing putts. Studies suggest, this variation in practice will help your skill transfer to the course and thereby improve your performance under pressure.
There is also another great benefit to playing the game this way. You realise there is actually an infinite range of options for holing any putt, not just the one perfect line. There is no doubt that this mind-set is a powerful way to approach putting.
If this is your first time reading about improving you putting skill with practice, then I hope it has made you think about how you currently practice.
Golf technique is still important but, by playing these skills games, you actually make the micro, subconscious changes in your technique that take you from being a good putter to being a great putter. These skills games also make your technique more adaptable and help your transfer your practice performance to the golf course.
Once you’ve finished playing this golf putting skills game, your learning isn’t quite finished. To squeeze the last bit of progression out of your practice time, here is something else you can do.
Correcting Your Putting Chinks
Firstly, think about where you struggled with your putts, did you mainly miss left to right putts? Did you hit putts too soft so they broke off early? Take this data and feed it back into your technical practice so you can now look for technical improvements you can make to improve or remove those chinks in your putting performance.
Secondly, note this data down and feed it into your play. This should aid your decision making on the course. I know a guy who accumulated hundreds of hours of practice with this one putting game. While he never pushed his putts, about 1 in 20 were a very slight pull. So when he had a putt on the golf course from 8 feet that was dead straight, he would often aim an inch right of centre and, more often than not, those putts went in the hole just left of centre.
Again, great golf practice is about much more than perfecting your technique.
Each week invest time into technical practice, skills improvement games and playing golf. There should be a clear link between all these areas.
You can contact me anytime or leave a comment below.
Cheers for now,