Saturday, March 11, 2017

Improve your Putting through Ball Skills

After an extra cup of coffee this morning I had this random thought: "Good putting equals reading the green and good ball skills."

Where did that come from and what the heck does that mean?

I was watching a professional warm up and became frustrated on the amount of attention he was paying to his stroke and it just came to me. Brilliance? Obviously not but I think it holds true. On the green, what the ball does is all that matters.

Green reading, for most, is simply gained by experience. There are systems which are successful but for the masses, it just takes time on the green. Practicing on large greens with a variety of slopes is very beneficial.

Good ball skills is defined as the ability to roll the ball on an intended line a specific distance. These are a tremendous skills and I believe advantageous to your game.

This is a different mentality than "trying to make the putt" or "trying to lag it.". It's a more specific strategy to give every putt the opportunity to go in the hole. Its something you can improve upon and hold yourself accountable for in your game.

Rolling the ball is different than hitting or forcing it towards the hole. Knowing, envisioning and rolling the ball on that line is necessary for the ball to go towards the hole and controlling the distance the ball rolls is required in order for gravity to ultimately pull it in the hole. All are ball skills.

We can all relate to these skills in our daily lives. In fact, most of us developed ball skills as children. Check out the following short article on the importance of ball skills for children, it's relative: How Ball Skills Train Attention

The following excerpt relates well to putting and the approach you take towards putting and improvement.
"....practicing  ball skills is a really good way to train attention, persistence, and willingness to fail and try again. A carefully graded  ball skills training program allows the child to succeed at a valued task and also teaches that repeated practice leads to improvement in task performance.."
Whether you are a child or an adult, would "training attention, persistence, and willingness to fail and try again" help you in your pursuit of more made putts?

Would implementing a "graded balls skills training program that allows you to succeed and also teaches that repeated practice leads to improvement" help your putting?

To both questions, yes, I believe so.

A lot of people hold themselves accountable for making or missing a putt. This is a heavy burden, especially for those lacking the skills or those who do not understand the lower probability of making putts of distance.

So, how would you grade your ball skills?

How do they compare with those of a child throwing a ball? From the article:

Ball throwing skills 

The child of 5-6 years should be able to:
  • Throw a beanbag underhand onto a 16" X 16" mat from a distance of 6'
  • Throw a tennis ball at a 16" diameter target at head height on a wall at a distance of 9'.
  • Throw a soccer sized ball from above the head a distance of 13'.
  • Use a sidearm patterns to throw a soccer sized ball straight ahead a distance of 13'. 
  • Throw a tennis ball up past the face and catch it again.
  • Bounce a tennis ball in front of the body and catch it again with 2 hands. 
  • Repeatedly bounce a soccer-sized ball on the floor 5-10 times with one or two hands.
In putting, are you able to:
  • Roll the ball vs. hit it?
  • Roll it on your intended line?
  • Control where the ball stops with varying distances?
  • Do each of the above skills uphill, downhill, across a slope and from the fringe.
  • Adapt quickly to unfamiliar greens.
These are some specific and basic skills to develop that will improve your putting. Consider them, experiment and test yourself. Hold yourself accountable for these abilities.

Then, with your development, you can also say good putting equals green reading and good ball skills.

All for an easier game,


  1. What value is there in reading a putt if you r skill is not adequately developed to roll a ball on your intended line? Too many players account for a missed putt as a result of a mis-read when in fact they were not able to roll the ball on their intended line. Ball skills first reading second

    1. I'd agree ball skills are dominant but good putting requires both.

  2. Outstanding article, Rodd. It's a different approach to putting -- switches the goal and takes pressure off. Keep this stuff coming.