How to putt better and lower your golf score
Why is putting so hard?
Putting is one of the simplest motions in the world of sports. So why is it so hard? Some of the best golfers, guys who can hit the ball 350 yards down the middle of the fairway, have seen their chances of winning a tournament implode thanks to an inability to push a ball into a hole on a flat stretch of grass.
We're going to look at some of the reasons why putting can be so challenging and then some techniques that you can use to improve your putting and lower your golf scores.
What are yips?
The yips can happen in any sport, but they tend to be most prevalent on the greens of a golf course. It's not as simple as just choking. Anyone can "choke" when attempting to perform a physical task. A yip is when a person has trouble making a simple and repeatable physical motion that utilizes a minimal number of muscle groups. Putting is a good example of this. Another example is throwing a baseball a short distance, such as from the second baseman to the first baseman (remember when Chuck Knoblauch started having his "spells", as my grandma called them?).
So why don't the yips come into play when driving a golf ball down the fairway? Well, because momentum takes over. You build up the energy in your backswing, then drive the club through. At the moment of impact with the ball, are you precisely positioning the club to get it in the right position? Of course not. Most of the speed is the result of momentum transferred from your rotating body to the end of the driver. You don't have that when you're putting. You're supposed to be allowing the putting to swing like a pendulum, but at such a low speed it can be hard to avoid pushing the club and not allowing momentum to take over. You might even have a reflex as you anticipate impact with the ball, with disastrous results.
One way I've found to combat the yips is to practice putting with your eyes closed. You can build up muscle memory in your arms and at the same time eliminate the impact reflex because you aren't looking at the ball. That's often the biggest problem. You are staring at the impact target instead of just letting your body move the putter through it. This advice also works if you're having the yips while playing darts (just make sure no one is near the board when you shoot).
The putting stance
Hold your putter straight out. Put your elbows into your rib cage. Lower your putter to the ground. Tilt your upper body forward so your putter head is parallel with the ground. Bend your knees slightly. Not too much, but they should not be locked. Your toe should be about 2 to 3 putter head lengths away from the ball.
The putting motion
Making sure that your putter head remains perpendicular to your putting motion, swing the putter back and then forward through the ball. How far back you bring the putter is something you'll learn with practice. For longer putts you will obviously bring it back more.