What would you do if you had to play Tiger Woods in his prime? I know what I would do. I’d go to the best golf instructor I could find for help? Well, that’s sort of what Phil Mickelson did in 2009 when he had to face Tiger on the PGA Tour.
Mickelson sought out Dave Stockton, Sr., for help with his putting at the suggestion of his caddy, Jim McKay. The move paid off. By the end of 2009, Mickelson was holing everything in sight and challenging Woods at every tournament.
Stockton is a legendary golf instructor. He is also an accomplished golfer in his own right and a great putter—maybe one of the greatest. Winner of five majors on both the PGA and the Champions Tour, Stockton has been helping golfers for well over three generations.
A Pedigree that Goes Back Generations
Stockton’s pedigree goes back 80 years. Gail Stockton, his father was a successful professional at a private country in southern California. Gail honed his expertise under the guidance of Alex Morrison, who worked with some of golf’s greatest players—Henry Picard, Ben Hogan, and Sam Sneed.
The elder Stockton passed his knowledge down to his son, Dave, Sr., who has refined it and added expanded it, adding concepts and principles of his own. Some of his ideas on putting are different. We’ll admit that. But they are proven to work.
Below are nine golf tips from Stockton to boost your putting. If you’re serious about breaking 80, you’ll review his golf tips, try them, and ingrain those that work for you:
Click here for all 9
1. Get a good read first — If you have trouble reading greens, go back to the ultimate basic—where would water drain off the green. Check for drains around the greens as well as lakes and ponds. These are natural run-off areas.
2. Focus on a putt’s last few feet — After deciding on the putt’s break, check the last third of the putt closely. Why? It’s the last third of the putt, that really counts. That’s where the putt slows down and turns the most. The first third of the break you usually putt through.
3. Treat putts like drives — In other words, use a pre-shot routine. You wouldn’t hit a drive without using one, would you? You shouldn’t do it when putting. That routine stars from the minute you crouch behind the ball. It ends when you finish your stroke.
4. Keep your eyes off the line — Once you pick out the line with your eyes, never take your eyes off it. So, forget practices strokes. They force you to take your eyes off the line. Instead, make your read, step in, and putt.
5. “Highway” your putts — Once you crouch down, trace an imaginary line four-inches wide over what you think will be the shot’s path. Draw it from start to finish. Focus on a spot one inch from the ball but on your putting track. Then roll the ball over that spot.
6. Keep the ball on the face — You want the ball to stay on your putter as long as it possibly can. So, don’t “hit” the shot. Instead, use a paintbrush-like stroke. That keeps the ball on the face longer. It’s also easier to get the ball rolling smoothly toward the hole.
7. Imitate a natural motion — Repeating a move that comes naturally to you or you’re good at—like fly fishing or bowling—makes for a better putting stroke. You’re comfortable with that motion. Plus, you have confidence in it. That’s everything in putting.
8. Use a putter with a soft face — If you want to make a smooth stroke, try using a putter with a soft putting face. Some putters, for example, have soft polymer face inserts. That’s an excellent material for an insert. If you’ve used a putter with a hard face insert, it will take a while for you to get used to one with a soft face.
9. Put your mind on autopilot — You do things best when you put your mind on autopilot. So, stop trying to MAKE putts. Just putt and see what happens. It’s not about HOPPING to make the putt. Nor is it about TRYING to make the putt. Just do it. You’ll drain more putts that way.
We told you some of Stockton’s golf tips were a bit unusual. But they’ve worked for him and his pupils. Try them on the practice green. Ingrain those that work for you.
After all, putting is all a matter of getting comfortable and confident in what you’re doing. Get to that point and your putting will be the talk of your foursome.