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May 6 2013

6:14 PM

On the Mark: Strike Putts Crisply

Derek Ernst's steady putting helped him to his first PGA TOUR win. (Ehrmann/Getty Images)

By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM

The Wells Fargo Championship Strike Those Putts Crisply Quail Hollow Country Club is one of the true gems of golf in North America. Quail (as the membership affectionately dubs it) boasts a nice mix of left-to-right and right-to-left doglegs, a good blend of difficult and easy holes and some strategic undulations from tee to green. It rewards good play, but it will quickly penalize errant play, making Quail Hollow an excellent tournament venue and the Wells Fargo Championship a highly respected event on the PGA TOUR.

The classic layout – which will host the 2016 PGA Championship -- is scenic, undulating and always in immaculate shape. Sadly, due to a recent turf management wrangle, the course “lost” a number of greens. Those that survived were undoubtedly worse for the wear.

Thankfully many of the top players in attendance came out in support of the club and the greens. A good majority of them managed to make their fair share of putts on the uneven surfaces.

Week in and week out on the PGA TOUR, the final result is very much a function of the players’ performances on the greens. This week was much of the same, but due to the inconsistency of the surfaces, those players that were not striking putts cleanly and solidly were found wanting so much more. Therein lies our lesson that we can learn from the pros:

Strike your putts crisply: By definition, the interaction between the putter and the ball is no different to that of an iron or a metal-wood and the ball. Just as you need to strike an iron shot flush to go the given distance, you need to strike the putter flush to ensure that the ball performs correctly. Often times on super-fast greens, however, a player can slightly miss-hit (thin) a putt and it can still go in. That error can be disguised on perfect surfaces, but it will certainly not happen on slower, inconsistent greens.

Without fail I will address the quality of any golfer’s putter-on-ball contact before I consider any other putting stroke issues. All too often I encounter putting strokes that are structurally sound, but do not make consistently clean contact with the ball because the player has never considered where the base of the swing arc is and how that relates to the ball position.

A quick and very easy drill to help you figure out that very conundrum is to practice the “Quarter Drill.” Place a quarter on the ground and address it as if it was your golf ball. Go ahead and make your stroke striving to make contact with the quarter (enough to move it a few inches). If you miss the quarter then obviously your stroke has not “bottomed-out” correctly or the ball position is incorrectly located for your style of stroke. Either of those errors will largely result in poor quality of contact -- a sure-fire way to poor distance control (especially from long distance) or inconsistent putting on grainy or slow greens.

Adjust your putting posture and the release of your putting stroke until you can strike the quarter consistently. If you have done so and you still struggle to make consistent contact with the coin then vary its position (either forward or back) slightly. Then when you can consistently hit the coin, replace it with a golf ball, make the same stroke and watch how the ball reacts more positively to your putter. That is proof of sweet-spot contact -- the first port of call to good putting.

Just for the record, if your struggle with excess body or head movement during the putting stroke, then the “Quarter Drill” is also for you.

Practice this simple exercise whenever you are on the practice green. I guarantee you will see your putting improve.

Good luck.

/mi

Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution” available on iTunes/iBooks.

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