September 9, 2007

Watch your hands

Adjusting your focus can help you make more short putts

Making more 3-footers: Focus on your hands, not the ball, as you make your stroke.

Making more 3-footers: Focus on your hands, not the ball, as you make your stroke.

When my short putting went sour a few years ago (it still bothers me at times), my caddie, Bruce Edwards, gave me a tip that's different. Try it if you're not making enough of those testy three-footers. Bruce suggested I look at my hands as I take the putter back instead of looking at the ball.

By doing that, you focus more on making a smooth stroke, and you don't get ball-bound and try to steer it into the hole. Practice this before you take it onto the course.

When I was a kid, my dad gave me another fun drill for short putting. I call it "putting around the clock." Ring a dozen balls around a hole three feet away. Make sure the area has some slope so you face every possible putt: downhill, uphill, right to left, left to right. On the course, the green should be relatively flat around the hole, but it often isn't.

With this drill, you must move to address each putt, so you take your setup seriously every time. See if you can get around the circle without missing one.


I use a range finder to determine how far I carry the ball in the air with each club. That yardage is critical to judging distance. Ideally you should find a mark where the ball hits.

And check yardages when the wind is blowing as well as when it's calm. Range finders are not allowed in tour events, but they are allowed in everyday golf for handicap purposes. A bonus: They speed up play.

Tom Watson is the golf professional emeritus at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.