"Fuzzy Zoeller cuts across the ball on an outside-to-inside path, and Billy Mayfair loops the path of his putter," Suttie notes. "But both of them putt great when they strike the ball in the center of the putter blade with the face square to their target line."
Along with reading and aiming putts with binocular vision, Suttie recommends three basic drills for improving the face angle, the impact point and the overall pace and rhythm of your putting stroke. Try all three drills at home or in the office as well as out on the course. Stick with Suttie's program and you'll soon be making more putts.
DR. JIM SUTTIE jimsuttie.com
Green Garden Country Club, Frankfort, IL; 800-765-3838 (May through September)
The Club at TwinEagles, Naples, FL; 866-817-7729 (October through April)
Individual lesson: $250 per hour
RULER IN THE WATCHBAND
Virtually all the best putters in the world keep their hands slightly ahead of the putter face at the moment of impact with the ball. But countless high handicappers flip their wrists through the impact zone in a misguided effort to apply more hit on the ball and/or to steer the putt on their chosen line. Wrist flipping breeds weak, inconsistent contact because it realigns the putter face and disrupts the path of the stroke. Worse, wrist flipping can infect and weaken your full swing, which, as Suttie points out, is often a mirror of your putting stroke.
You can eliminate the flips by placing a watch around the wrist of your lead hand (the left hand for right-handed putters) and then inserting a ruler through the watchband. If you don't have a ruler handy, a pen or pencil will serve just as well. First, practice making strokes on the putting green or on your carpet without a golf ball. Then repeat the drill with a ball. Eventually the flipping motion should disappear from your stroke.
KNOCK ON WOOD
Dr. Jim Suttie's "knock on the wood block" drill can help diagnose and improve the angle of your putter blade at impact. You won't need a ball for this drill, just a putter. Place a block of wood such as a short section of a two-by-four on the ground or on a carpet.
Make several strokes against the end of the wood block, watching how the block moves when the putter strikes it. If the block slides to the right after impact with the putter, the putter blade is open. If the block slides to the left, the putter face is closed. Keep knocking on wood until it slides straightaway. Then you'll know the putter is square at impact.
PUTT TO THE BUTT
One of the quickest ways to improve the putting stroke, says Suttie, is to ignore the hole when practicing. A good method is to aim for a target that is smaller than the hole.
Place three golf clubs on the ground at various distances: If you are on a putting green, try staggering the clubs at twenty feet, forty feet and sixty feet; indoors, try the drill in a smaller area—just be sure to leave room for distance variation.
Stroke a series of putts to the butt ends of the clubs, alternating between the nearest, middle and farthest away. Because you're not trying to make the balls go into a hole, you'll probably feel less tension in the stroke, which will improve the rhythm and pace. Without the distraction of the hole, you'll also be free to focus on contacting the ball on the putter's sweet spot.
PLAY THE ANGLES WHEN TEEING IT UP.
By Josha Hill
A reminder: Teeing it up means more than just leaning over and placing a ball on a wooden peg. There is strategy involved. While the brain-dead may poke that peg at random, smart golfers choose specific spots in the teeing ground that will affect the shape, trajectory and outcome of their shots.
"I'm a big believer in using the whole rectangle," says Charlie King, director of instruction at the Academy of Golf at PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. "I tell my students to tee up in a spot that suits their natural ball flight." The rectangle King refers to consists of two imaginary lines connecting the outsides of the tee markers and the corresponding spots two club lengths back, as specified in the Rules of Golf. Since most amateurs slice the ball, the best place for most right-handed golfers (lefties, as usual, should reverse all this) is toward the far right of the box. From there, they can aim down the left side of the fairway.
Here's another way to think of it: Imagine a set of football goalposts in the middle of the fairway, 200 to 250 yards out, depending on your length. A golfer's task is to split the uprights with his drive. If you're a straight hitter, set up in the middle of the box and swing away. But right-handed slicers who tee up there will find their left-to-right drives moving wayward before they reach the target. A fade will find the right rough; a slice may never be found.
Start that same shot on the right side of the box, however, and the playing field opens up. A fade can start left of the target and curve back toward perfection. An outright slice might still catch the edge of the fairway or trickle into the right rough.