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Winter Putting Practice

January 5, 2015

Tools to Improve Your Putting During the Offseason

Eric Chiles is the 2013 Minnesota Section PGA Teacher of the Year. Eric is the Director of Instruction at Chaska Town Course in summer and Minnesota Golf Academy in the winter months. Eric chipped in with this guest post on ways to improve your putting – with some inexpensive and creative training tools – during the long Minnesota winter.

The Line and The Speed

There are only two variables in putting that you need to be good at:

  • The direction you send the ball off the putter face.
    Golf professionals call this THE LINE.Winter Putting Practice
  • The power you use to hit the ball.
    Golf professionals call this THE SPEED.

Working on your LINE indoors is easy. Working on your SPEED is much harder, because it depends on the flooring. Shag carpet is a bit too slow, and hardwood floors are too fast.

Here are the ways I work on perfecting my LINE during the winter months. And because all of them rely on brainwashing yourself to trust the line, I mix them up to confuse my mind and keep it agile and fresh.

Four Putting Aids

From top to bottom all of these options have their benefits. All help with brainwashing us to start the ball on the proper line.

  1. A Simple Yardstick – Under $1.00

For 99 cents, you can buy a 36-inch yardstick at a hardware store near you. Place a ball on one end, and attempt to roll the ball down the entire surface of the ruler without having the ball slide off the side before it rolls off the other end. When at home, I try to hit ten in a row in my living room. I make it a competition with myself, and ten in a row makes me feel like I have control of the face at impact.

  1. A Metal 48-Inch Golf Shaft Measuring Device – Around $40

For a little more money, you can use the same thing I watched Vijay Singh practice with on the greens at the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine. Many Tour Players use small metal strips just like this to make sure they are starting the ball off on the proper line. Again, the goal is to hit the ball directly down the entire ruler without having the ball slide off the side.

  • If four-foot knee knockers are your problem I would suggest this $40 item. If you can do ten in a row on one of these 48-inch metal rulers you have nothing to worry about come springtime!
  1. The Putting Stick – $80 (Made in Minnesota)

Last winter at The Minnesota Golf Academy, a gentleman approached me to have a look at his new putting device. At first, I hated it, because it was so hard to be successful at using. I mentioned to him that he may want to make it wider and easier for players with less skill, but he said, “Why? Why practice anything but being perfect?” He had a point. There is no major physical skill needed in putting. It’s 90 percent mental/concentration, so why teach yourself to be anything but perfect? I had to agree. But in order to not frustrate people, I think he should warn you – if you are a perfectionist and dislike failing, this can be a bit of a test.

  • In testing a few players on it this summer, the only players who did well on it were the people with solid, repeatable strokes – many of them around age 10. As many of us know, kids just do things without thinking, and find a lot of difficult things quite easy until it is explained to them how difficult it should be. With a built in mirror to get your eyes over the ball, and the track so slender that if your putter face is off by more than ¼ degree you will not get the desired result, you have to be perfect!
  • Interesing note: I found while using the Putting Stick that peeking up to see where the ball goes never helps!
  1. A Putting Track with Felt Green and Cup – $49.99

If you enjoy the feeling of making the ball into the cup you may need just this device. Since college, I bet I have worn out about 8 of these. It has painted on LINES to help your eyes get used to seeing the line from 3 feet, 5 feet, and 7 feet. The only negative with these devices is that a person can wear down the soft felt in the center. This creates a little gutter that makes the ball stay on line even if it was hit a bit offline.

I use all of these at different times of the year and change them up to keep me from getting bored. Or as I mentioned earlier – I may just have invented a new term – putter confusion!

The Minnesota Section PGA consists of PGA Professionals who are experts in the game and business of golf. Our mission is to promote the enjoyment and involvement of the game of golf and to contribute to its growth by providing services to golf professionals, the golf industry, people who play golf or would like to start playing golf. PGA Section Offices oversee the 41 geographic regions throughout the United States and provide the grass-roots network for the nation’s 25 million amateur golfers and with the PGA’s 27,000 members.

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