Just how important is it to make more short putts?
Golf stats guru Mark Brodie (inventor of the PGA Tour's Strokes-Gained analysis) has worked that practising putts within 5 feet is the most effective putting practice all golfers can do.
This is the place where we can make the most significant improvement - these putts are makeable, but so often handicap players miss them, and they all count for one shot!
Holing putts within 5 feet is ABSOLUTELY crucial for your confidence too.
Once you've got a reasonable grip that takes your hands out of the stroke (read here to achieve that) and you understand how to make the ball roll pretty well (tip here), the reason we miss short putts is not what most people think.
It's speed, not line.
Because nobody's stroke is so accurate that they can start their short putts precisely on the line they choose every single time.
Equally, nobody can read putts with pinpoint accuracy. You'd need a machine to do that and even that couldn't account for the inconsistencies of the green surface which sometimes deflect your ball off line.
Nothing is for certain.... Even the tour pros are approaching short putts from the point of view of making their best guess at the line and putting their best-possible stroke on it.
To make more short putts, you need a strategy that will allow your ball to drop even if your read is fractionally off and your putts are a fraction off line.
Getting the right speed on your putts is the secret here.
You need to use the whole hole to maximise the number of putts from short range that you make.
To put it another way and to quote legendary South African putter Bobby Locke (75 worldwide pro wins, 3 British Opens and 11 wins on the PGA tour from just 59 starts):
"There are 5 lines on which a ball can go into the hole. I always try to find the pace which will allow my putts from inside 8 feet to use all 5 lines".
Here's a quick image to illustrate the point.... These are Bobby Locke's 5 lines:
That's why speed is an absolute key to short putting.
Too hard and you will only be able to hole out if your ball is right in the "center of the center" of the cup. A slight miss either side and it will or lip out.
That's not great odds.
Too soft on the other hand and it will either fall short altogether or have too little forward momentum to hold its line on a green with a lot of slope.
Good players hit the ideal speed much more often than average players. The result: they make more short putts than high-handicap players.
So here's the drill to get you zoned into the best possible speed:
It's exceedingly simple... On a putting green or a practice putting mat, find a short putt that you can make time after time.
For most people this will be about a foot long, but if you can only reliably make an 8-inch putt every time, that's fine.
What you're looking for is to see the putts dropping.
Now take four coins and put them on the ground to mark this distance as well as twice, three times and four times your "gimmie" distance.
The object of the game is to hole three balls from each of the distances, and to keep going until you make all of the putts consecutively without missing a single putt.
If you miss, you start all over again from the shortest distance.
For obvious reasons, I call the game "Make 'em all", and it's amazing the difference it makes to your sensitivity for speed.
As you work your way through the distances, you'll inevitably miss some putts and in doing so you'll start to figure out the speed at which the hole accepts balls most reliably.
Plus, can you imagine the confidence you get from holing all those putts in a row?
After spending 20 years trying to become a better putter and finally managing to go from a disaster to a tour-quality putter, I can promise that this is absolutely 100% the most valuable way to practice your putting.
Try it, you won't be disappointed!
Here's to seeing you make more short putts.