Putting in the Winter Time
By Snyper on 12/13/10
Matt is an opinionated* golf enthusiast from Pennsylvania. He coaches at the high school level, molding the minds and swings of our next generation. His column will appear each Monday on ClubSG. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions of Matt in the comments. Don't hold back- because Matt won't.

For those of us who live too far to the north to enjoy golf all year long, the winter can be a sad time of the year. We have a tendency to put the clubs in the basement sometime in November and forget about them until things warm up again in April. While there may not be a whole lot of things that can be done to improve your game while it’s 20 degrees and there’s snow on the ground, there is one club that you should stay familiar with during the winter months.
Rarely do you see carpet in a house that is consistent or firm enough to get realistic feedback on your stroke.

Putting is often said to be the most important part of the game of golf. Thankfully, we don’t need to be on a golf course, on a putting green, or even outside to work on our putting stroke. Just about every household has somewhere that can be transformed into a practice area for putting. Whether it is your basement, garage, or your kitchen, any room with a hard floor will work. Rarely do you see carpet in a house that is consistent or firm enough to get realistic feedback on your stroke. So, the best adaptation is to lay down a piece of carpet on a hard floor. This process isn’t exactly rocket science, but choosing your carpet is important. Most carpet stores have remnants laying around that you can buy for next to nothing and they are way better than most of the indoor/outdoor carpets that come with most putting aides.

A lot of guys have a strip of carpet that is maybe eight feet long and they putt back and forth on that strip. I’m sure some of you even have the electric return that sends the ball back and saves you a trip to the other end of the strip of turf. While those setups are better than nothing, I prefer a square of carpet so that I can change my angles and breaks. I have two different eight by six remnants that I lay down on the concrete floor of my garage. One is the thinnest and fastest piece that I could find at the carpet store and the other is significantly slower. When I want to work on my longer putts, I use the slower carpet. For the shorter strokes, I go to the faster rug. Sure, it’s not as productive as practicing on the putting green at my home course, but practice putting on anything over the winter can pay huge dividends come springtime.
A good stroke results in the line being completely visible for the entire length of the putt. A bad stroke results in a skidding motion that distorts the line completely.

There are a couple simple drills that I like to go through while working on my stroke in the winter. The main thing that I am trying to do is to just maintain the feel and consistency in my stroke. I focus a lot on the basics, like keeping my back swing short and my follow through long. To do this, I will use coins placed both behind and in front of the ball. The goal is to complete each stroke without going past the first coin and holding my follow through beyond the second coin. To ensure that I do this while keeping a consistent tempo, I lay down two thin pieces of kite string with the goal of stopping the ball between the two strings. Repeating this drill over and over really helps me to groove the basic structure of my putting stroke. The other drill that is part of my winter routine is designed to work on getting the ball rolling instead of skidding off the putter face. To do this, I use practice balls with solid lines all the way around each ball. I line up six or seven balls at one end and hit each putt to a designated length marked at the other end of the carpet while concentrating on how each ball rolls. A good stroke results in the line being completely visible for the entire length of the putt. A bad stroke results in a skidding motion that distorts the line completely. This drill gives me instant feedback on how good and consistent my stroke is and whether that varies at different lengths.

Whether you choose to establish drills like this or you just throw down a couple balls and putt them back and forth, don’t let your putter sit in your bag and collect dust all winter. Take advantage of the one area of your game that can be productively developed during this season. Putting is all about feel and can take forever to re-develop in the spring if you haven’t touched a putter for several months. Don’t put yourself through that frustration and spend some time with your putter while the rest of your clubs wait for warmer temperatures. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did when summer finally does arrive again.

* Matt's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.

photo source

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