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What do you do when your putting feel disappears?

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Most often, putting is a strength of my otherwise mediocre game. Game Golf tells me that my putting is roughly at the level of a single-digit handicapper. And for the past couple of months, my putting has been a very solid part of my game.

And then, within the past week or two, my putting has disappeared. Statistically, I've gone from putting like a 5-capper to a 15. And while I actually am a 15, I need my putting to be a 5 to maintain that.

It started when I missed a few short putts. Then, probably as a consequence of focusing on technique because of those misses, I started losing my feel for distance.

I've got some of my own answers to this question, but I wanted to throw this out: for decent putters, what's your go-to response when your putting touch suddenly abandons you?

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I focus on moving the clubhead through the ball with little to no body movement. For myself when I start losing it, it generally is due to moving some part of my body, whether it is my head, my torso, shoulders or even just my eyes. 

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Personally, when I struggle with distance, I'm using a shorter backswing, and a more abrupt acceleration into the ball.  As I understand it, the best putters generally do NOT accelerate through impact, rather impact occurs as the clubhead speed levels off.  So if I struggle with touch, I use a slightly longer backswing and a smoother acceleration.  

When I struggle with line, its most often due to movement of my head, and most of that is when I start to follow the putter's backswing with my eyes.  To "cure" that, I simply focus on the ball, and specifically ignore the movement of the putterhead.

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Like you, I outputt my handicap. If my flat stick goes cold, it's usually due to over-practicing. Too much practice in non-course situations removes the urgency. 

For me, the fix is usually to take a break from putting and focus on something else. I even go so far as to hit the course without any practice putts at all. 

 

No matter what, I'd focus as far away from technique as possible. Your results may vary, but less is more for me in these instances. 

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I've seen a lot of golfers struggle with the scenario you described.

After missing a few short ones, grip pressure starts to increase - which subsequently begins to affect both path and distance control.

My advice would be to roll a bunch of putts without a target - focus on light grip pressure and try to keep it constant throughout your stroke.

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Being a righty, I switch to a left-hand low grip. I think if putting goes cold, it's lack of focus, not failure in mechanics. This is a small change that makes me refocus on the task at hand. Additionally I feel this helps keep the face square on the shorter putts. 2 or 3 rounds of left hand low, and I'm back.

Take Dead Aim

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2 hours ago, GolfSpy MPR said:

Most often, putting is a strength of my otherwise mediocre game. Game Golf tells me that my putting is roughly at the level of a single-digit handicapper. And for the past couple of months, my putting has been a very solid part of my game.

And then, within the past week or two, my putting has disappeared. Statistically, I've gone from putting like a 5-capper to a 15. And while I actually am a 15, I need my putting to be a 5 to maintain that.

It started when I missed a few short putts. Then, probably as a consequence of focusing on technique because of those misses, I started losing my feel for distance.

I've got some of my own answers to this question, but I wanted to throw this out: for decent putters, what's your go-to response when your putting touch suddenly abandons you?

I had to deal with this just this summer and have finally come back around. For me, it always boils down to what my setup is. How the club sits at address dictates what I must do during the stroke to send the ball on the line I'm aiming at. It seems like it would be such a simple thing to get right every time yet somehow, I completely lost sight of it. It took a couple weeks of experimentation on the course, on the practice green, and in my living room to get it right.

When  you have a good stroke, it's important to always trust that - even when going through a slump. Too often, golfers will look at the stroke itself or try a different putter when it likely is something much more simple than that. IMO, you have to take it step-by-step - starting small and moving out as each detail is ruled out as a possible culprit. If you start making wholesale changes right off the bat, you're simply going to introduce more variables to the equation and get yourself lost in the rabbit hole.

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Some good stuff so far; thanks everyone!

Let me throw out the cycle I've found in my own experience:

  • Grind hard on mechanics in practice, typically finding some specific setup or stroke feature that needs attention
  • Bring that revised mechanical work to the course
  • Putt poorly, because I'm putting too mechanically
  • Eventually get comfortable so that the mechanical thoughts recede (while the mechanical work remains), and putt really well
  • Start allowing the mechanics to drift through lack of attention
  • Start missing putts
  • Repeat

A typical drift for me: I allow my setup (especially my shoulders) to get increasingly open, and my stroke (which often moves slightly out to in) starts becoming a problem. I think this is even a greater tendency on shorter putts: if I stand and imagine looking down my putting line to a hole 20 feet away, and then adjust to a hole 2 feet away, I immediately want to open more to see the nearer target.

So I start pulling short putts. The self-conscious correct stage (where I am now) normally costs me touch and distance control.

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Is there a way to force yourself to become less mechanics-minded? 

Its easy for me, I just don't think about mechanics when putting.  I don't practice putting a lot, but when I do I almost always force myself to make 6 or 8 5-footers in a row.  At that distance, all I worry about is line, and if I can make a few in a row, I know I can hit my line.  I don't care about HOW I'm hitting the line, as long as I do.  This is when I'm thinking "still head, don't watch the putter, stupid".  The other part of my practice is longer putts (25 or 30 feet) for distance control.  Again, I don't think mechanics, I just want to roll the ball the right distance.  The "still head" stuff is still in my subconscious, so my line is usually decent.  A few more short ones, and I'm done with putting practice.  And I've never really had much thought of mechanics.

 

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31 minutes ago, GolfSpy MPR said:

Some good stuff so far; thanks everyone!

Let me throw out the cycle I've found in my own experience:

  • Grind hard on mechanics in practice, typically finding some specific setup or stroke feature that needs attention
  • Bring that revised mechanical work to the course
  • Putt poorly, because I'm putting too mechanically
  • Eventually get comfortable so that the mechanical thoughts recede (while the mechanical work remains), and putt really well
  • Start allowing the mechanics to drift through lack of attention
  • Start missing putts
  • Repeat

A typical drift for me: I allow my setup (especially my shoulders) to get increasingly open, and my stroke (which often moves slightly out to in) starts becoming a problem. I think this is even a greater tendency on shorter putts: if I stand and imagine looking down my putting line to a hole 20 feet away, and then adjust to a hole 2 feet away, I immediately want to open more to see the nearer target.

So I start pulling short putts. The self-conscious correct stage (where I am now) normally costs me touch and distance control.

I wouldn't say stop focusing on the mechanical but I would say find a setup that you can get to comfortably and work the stroke from there. You can continue to get the setup where you think is right by continuing the practice. But I have found that with putting my natural setup works best. I am 6'3" and putt with a 33" putter, my arms hang completely straight. It looks a little funny but it is natural to me and have gotten my stroke to work with it. Putting is the most artful part of the game IMO. 

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Just now, DaveP043 said:

Is there a way to force yourself to become less mechanics-minded? 

Become an entirely different person? 🙂

In all seriousness, there is a bit of a personality issue here. I was put on this earth (in part) to over-analyze things. And I honestly find it one of the parts of the game that I enjoy: the puzzle-solving element is a big part of my love for golf.

I think my goal here is to shorten the period of awkwardness from finding (or re-finding) the proper setup and stroke for me and letting the mechanical fix recede into the background.

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5 hours ago, GolfSpy MPR said:

I've got some of my own answers to this question, but I wanted to throw this out: for decent putters, what's your go-to response when your putting touch suddenly abandons you?

If you're struggling with touch and distance control, try removing the make/miss from the equation completely. I believe I nabbed this from Rotella's Putting Out of Your Mind, but go to the putting green, throw down some balls and putt to the fringe. The goal being to stop the ball right on the transition from green to fringe. 

This should help you focus more on your pacing while removing the need to hole the putt. I've been warming up before rounds this way - I hit some 8-20 footers to the fringe until I'm happy with my pace control, and then hit a few straight 1 footers into the cup right before I head to the first tee. For me, this couples effective pace control/practice along with the mental stimulation and imagery of holing a lot of putts.

Additionally, when you are putting, are you thinking that every putt is going to go in (i.e. you are trying to hole every putt, no matter the location)? Or are you thinking about leaving yourself a good second putt? I found changing my mindset completely changed my putting. I went from trying to get anything over 10 feet "close," to trying to hole everything. My total putts per round has not changed much (and GAME Golf still says I'm an awful putter - and maybe I am!), but when I two-putt now the second putt is from 0-2 feet more often than the 4-7 feet it was in the past.

 

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When I struggle from over thinking the mechanics I do my best to stop thinking of the mechanics.

If your putting tends to be as good as the data suggests, I'll wager you're not mis-reading the putts too much. When i start to lose the feel from over-focus on mechanics, once I have my read and line , I try to let my only mechanical thought be; Set the putter square to the line, then set up my body square to the club. From setup looking at the ball, I track my eyes along the line of the putt to the hole imagining the speed of the ball rolling. From there, I track my eyes back to the putter doing the same in reverse (getting slightly faster as I track back to the putter head.) I let my eyes getting back to the putter trigger my takeaway. It seems to help establish a rhythm for the stroke and get my focus back on feel over mechanics.

Another practice drill I like for feel is what I call my 4-ball drill. Putting to a hole 20-30 feet away, with some break, stair-step the four putts by 1/2's with ball 4 going for the hole itself. ( ball 1 half way to the hole; ball 2 to half way between ball 1 and hole....) The next target is always 1/2 the distance from the previous ball to the hole. I make it a game giving points for ball 4; 1 for short of the hole inside ball 3, 2 points for past the hole inside ball 3, 3 for a made putt. (It's a -1 if you come up short of the previous ball on any putt)

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5 hours ago, GolfSpy MPR said:

Most often, putting is a strength of my otherwise mediocre game. Game Golf tells me that my putting is roughly at the level of a single-digit handicapper. And for the past couple of months, my putting has been a very solid part of my game.

And then, within the past week or two, my putting has disappeared. Statistically, I've gone from putting like a 5-capper to a 15. And while I actually am a 15, I need my putting to be a 5 to maintain that.

It started when I missed a few short putts. Then, probably as a consequence of focusing on technique because of those misses, I started losing my feel for distance.

I've got some of my own answers to this question, but I wanted to throw this out: for decent putters, what's your go-to response when your putting touch suddenly abandons you?

I'm a 12 handicap down this summer from 15. I'm just like you with a 3 putting handicap. When I lose distance control I simply look at the hole while I putt ( ala Jordan Spieth) works every time for me especially on longer putts. 

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I usually revert to a simple drill which helps me mentally and that's usually where I need the most help on the green.

Set up tees at 3', 5' and 7' from the cup and then make 3 putts in a row from each distance without missing. If you miss any of the putts, start over from 3'. Sounds easy but it's hard enough that it will help boost your confidence when you complete it and translate to less putts on the course.

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1 hour ago, edingc said:

Additionally, when you are putting, are you thinking that every putt is going to go in (i.e. you are trying to hole every putt, no matter the location)? Or are you thinking about leaving yourself a good second putt? I found changing my mindset completely changed my putting. I went from trying to get anything over 10 feet "close," to trying to hole everything. My total putts per round has not changed much (and GAME Golf still says I'm an awful putter - and maybe I am!), but when I two-putt now the second putt is from 0-2 feet more often than the 4-7 feet it was in the past.

This is interesting, and I take the opposite approach.  Out to maybe 15 feet, I believe I have a reasonable chance to make it, so my thought is to get the ball a a foot or two past the hole.  Beyond that, I want the ball to stop pin high.  We all make mistakes with speed.  If I'm trying to hit it 2 feet past the hole, trying to make it, and I miss my speed by 2 feet, I have a 4-footer coming back.  Everyone misses a few of those over time.  I'd rather my "2-feet too long" putt be just 2 feet past the hole.

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7 minutes ago, DaveP043 said:

This is interesting, and I take the opposite approach.  Out to maybe 15 feet, I believe I have a reasonable chance to make it, so my thought is to get the ball a a foot or two past the hole.  Beyond that, I want the ball to stop pin high.  We all make mistakes with speed.  If I'm trying to hit it 2 feet past the hole, trying to make it, and I miss my speed by 2 feet, I have a 4-footer coming back.  Everyone misses a few of those over time.  I'd rather my "2-feet too long" putt be just 2 feet past the hole.

Good strategy. Again, I think it was in Rotella's book that I got the idea to just try to hole everything. He basically teaches that you're going to do better just trying to make each putt, regardless of distance, than just trying to be a great lag putter from a ways away.

I will say, I had 37 putts on Sunday and shot an 83. I chipped in for eagle on one hole, so had I needed to putt it out I would have had close to 40 putts. I know if I would get my total putts down closer to 30, I could shoot lower scores more consistently. Sunday, I read several greens way wrong but my pace was good. Lead to a quite a few three putts because of the misreads.

Unfortunately, my course was built in the 1960s and mismanaged over the years. What used to be mostly flat municipal-style greens now are filled with all sorts or random undulations, humps and dips. The new owners have the greens in great shape cosmetically, but short of a complete rip-and-replace they will never be able to get rid of those things. Makes reading lines difficult at times because the ball just will veer left or right at weird places.


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Putter: :taylormade-small: TaylorMade Spider X, 33", Golf Pride Tour Only Red Star
Ball: :Snell:Snell MTB-X Optic Yellow / :srixon-small: Srixon Z-Star XV Tour Yellow
Tracked By: :Arccos: Cobra Connect powered by Arccos
Bag: :1590477705_SunMountain: Personalized 2020 Sun Mountain Sync
Riding On: :CaddyTek: CaddyTek Caddylite EZ V8

2020 Participant #CobraConnect Challenge | 2019 Reviewer Callaway Epic Flash Driver

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1 hour ago, edingc said:

Additionally, when you are putting, are you thinking that every putt is going to go in (i.e. you are trying to hole every putt, no matter the location)? Or are you thinking about leaving yourself a good second putt? I found changing my mindset completely changed my putting. I went from trying to get anything over 10 feet "close," to trying to hole everything. My total putts per round has not changed much (and GAME Golf still says I'm an awful putter - and maybe I am!), but when I two-putt now the second putt is from 0-2 feet more often than the 4-7 feet it was in the past.

 

I don't hit a putt unless I think I can make. If I think I can't make it I have no chance. IRC Rotella is the one that gave me this mindset. Crenshaw & Faxon both putted this way I think. I have never been scared of the 3 foot comebacker. I play with our pseudo pro often and he was leaving a lot of putts short because he fears the one coming back. I told him you just watched what that putt did going by the hole, it is now much easier. He is starting to make some putts and most are now to or past the hole.  

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:callaway-small:                      Epic Flash Sub Zero 9.5* (Ventus Black 6X) 45"

:taylormade-small:             M5 15* (Ventus Black 7x) 43"

:callaway-small:                      Epic Flash Sub Zero 18* (Tensei AV Blue 70 X)

:srixon-small:                     Z585 4-5 (KBS C Taper S)

:srixon-small:                     Z785 6-AW (KBS C Taper S)

:titelist-small:                      Vokey SM8 55 08 M (KBS 610)

:titelist-small:                      Vokey SM8 59 04 L   (KBS 610)

:bettinardi-1:                Studio Stock 28 Slotback 33.5"

:bridgestone-small:       Tour BX

:Arccos:

Twitter         @THEZIPR23

 

"One thing Golf has taught me, is that my muscles have no memory."

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I setup about six feet from a practice green cup and put down 5-6 balls in a circle, hitting putts while staring at the cup rather than my normal focus on the ball. Usually it allows me to "feel" the error I am making and adjust until I "feel" the proper stroke. Then I will set up 3 balls on the same line at 3, 5, & 7 feet from the hole and make all three in a row before moving on to other lineups of putts (either a different breaking put or a longer distance progression of 3',6',9' or 4',8',12'). And always end on a make!

If my lag distances are way off I really like the fringe drill mentioned above by @edingc

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Driver:  :callaway-small: Epic Flash SZ 9* w/ Ventus Blue 6X 

Fairway:   :callaway-small: Epic Flash SZ 15* w/ Atmos Black 7X 

Hybrid: :titelist-small: 818H2 19* w/ Tensei White 90  

Irons: :cobra-small: King Forged CB w/ KBS $ Taper 130

Wedges:  :vokey-small: SM7 54 S, 58 M w/ Modus 125

Putter:  :cameron-small:  California Hollywood 34" Circle H

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