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Thursday, 6 July 2017

Looking at the Hole

Should you putt looking at the hole? The young star, Jordan Spieth, has drawn some attention to himself by his putting. Not only is he often uncannily good from fifteen to twenty five feet; but he often looks at the hole instead of the ball when putting the short ones. Then again, sometimes he doesn't.

As someone who putts virtually everything looking at the hole--I've been doing this for a couple of years now--I'd like to give my view, for what it's worth about whether this might help your game. When you play snooker, a good player doesn't look at the cue ball when he strokes it, he looks at the ball he is attempting to hit with the cue ball. When we roll a ball towards an object, we look at the object, not the ball. Looking at the hole while putting is, in my opinion, much the same thing. It's a natural thing to do.

The possible downside of looking at the hole while you are putting is that you might, and probably will, have the odd mishit. And great putters from Bobby Jones to Dave Stockton will tell you how important a good strike is to putting. In fact, like in the rest of the game, the strike is the most important thing. That's possibly why you don't see Spieth looking at the hole on the longer putts. On longer putts, speed control is vital and you can't have good speed control without a consistent strike. As for me, I always look at the hole, except for in situations where striking the putt is particularly difficult; such as the ball being close to the collar of the green.

The other issue to consider when putting is choosing a line on which to start your putt. If you are hitting a putt that breaks ten inches, and you stroke the putt looking at the hole, will you not start it on the wrong line? Actually, the answer is a definite "No," for me at least. When I used to putt in the traditional way, looking at the ball and picking a target outside the hole--like two balls outside left--I would more often than not hit a putt that reached the hole two balls outside left of the hole. Picking a line just doesn't seem to work for me. I suspect there must be others out there who've experienced the same thing.

While I'm putting looking at the hole I am definitely not always hitting the ball directly at the hole. I am obviously sub-consciously adjusting for the break in the green. It's perhaps a bit like voodoo putting--just kidding--but I honestly often hit putts with no earthly idea of how much break I'm playing. I'm just looking at where I want to roll the ball to, not the line I want to roll it on. As far as I'm concerned, the ball can take whatever line it likes. And, believe me, my putting has improved significantly since I started putting this way; especially my short-putting.

Putting looking at the hole, in my view, could really help golfers with the yips. If you are swinging the putter looking at the hole, it's much harder to flinch, or yip, at impact which seems to be one of the things that yippers do. In fact, when you're stroking the putt looking at the hole, the ball is actually just being swept along by the stroke, something Bobby Jones favoured in a putting method.  You don't even think about the strike. For the yippers, flinchers, and stabbers, looking at the hole could make a world of difference.

Yesterday, my partner had about a four foot breaking putt to give us a half in a two ball match on eighteen. It was a devilish little putt. Levi stood up, looked at the hole and, still looking at the hole, banged the putt right in the middle of the cup. Levi generally putts looking at the ball. But, for that nervy one, he looked at the hole and let it go. 

There are so many ways to putt. And, ultimately the best way for you to putt is the way you putt best. But there may just be some method to Jordan Spieth's madness when it comes to putting--especially those short ones--looking at the hole. If you haven't tried it, and you struggle over those four to six footers, why not hit a few this way on the practice green. I know it's been a terrific help to me.

One of my biggest putting faults was the tendency to watch the putter head go back. My eyes moved and the putts kept missing. Looking at the hole is a definite cure for this problem. So, I guess the answer as to whether you should putt looking at the hole depends upon how well you are already putting. It obviously isn't the best way for everyone to putt, or all the best players would be doing it. But it may be a big help for you if you are a nervy putter, a yipper, a flincher, or a stabber of putts. For me, at least, putting looking at the hole feels like the most natural thing in the world. I even catch myself doing it on chips sometimes.