Check your distance, plus other putting pointers

Some golfers have a rule of thumb: an inch of backswing to a foot of putt. But I prefer to try it out on the practice green before the round starts. Days differ. Greens differ. We differ. The feel differs. So I test my distances before I play.

Practice for distance before you start. You will find this tip invaluable. Don't putt for the hole. Just see how far a six-inch back-swing, say, sends the ball that day in those conditions.

Here are some other putting pointers I'd like to share:

* When you stand behind the ball to judge the line of the putt, note a mark on the turf on that line behind the ball. Not in front; behind.

* Get into the habit of listening for the ball to drop instead of looking up to see it fall.

* Have the putter blade square to your line when the ball leaves, not necessarily when it hits the ball.

* Finally, on a short putt aim to go OVER the hole and six inches beyond. You won't do so, because the hole is in the way. But you won't baby the ball and so allow the local ridges round the hole to push it away.

If you also make it a habit to note down the total number of putts taken in each round you play, you will be able to tell whether or not you are improving and what your usual average is.

This should help you to take the putts you miss more philosophically. You miss some. You sink some. At the end of the round, though, it is the total putts taken that counts.

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