Why you shouldn’t re-adjust your grip after a practice stroke.

Putting feel is a mysterious and elusive thing. You can have great touch on the first green and lose it by the second, unexplainably. You can also have it on the practice stroke but lose it by the time you strike the ball. But in that case, I have an explanation.

Most players – even most tour pros – loosen their grip on the club after their practice stroke, then regrip as they settle in for the actual stroke. I think that’s a bad idea. I prefer to do what Ray Floyd, Tom Watson and a few others did – hold the hold. 

From the time I take my practice stroke to the time I hit the ball, my hands do not budge on the club. This is contrary to my routine on every other golf shot, where a certain amount of grip adjusting and ‘pumping’ take place as I settle in over the shot.

The key is to make your practice stroke more than a wave of the putter. It should be a dress rehearsal for the swing, using exactly the same length and force of swing that you want to apply to the actual stroke. Then, maintain that hold on the putter and step into the real thing. The swing feel will still be in your hands.

Why I’m an apex putter

One of the biggest putts of my life was the one I sank at Winged Foot on the 72nd hole of the 1984 US Open. Although I lost that championship in an 18-hole playoff with Fuzzy Zoeller, I will never forget the exhilaration of that putt. It was a downhill, twisting 15 metres, and to this day I’m convinced I made it because I tried to hit the ball not to the hole, but to a point along the path to the hole. There was a slight discolouration in the green about a third of the way to the hole, and when my ball rolled over it, I knew I’d hit the perfect putt.

That’s the way I play all my putts. I pick out a point at the very apex of the break and align myself to that spot. I putt this way for a couple of reasons. The first is that there’s no point in thinking past that apex; once I get the ball to that point and with the proper speed, it’s on its own. I can’t direct the ball past this spot, so I don’t see any point in thinking beyond it. Secondly, when one does concentrate on the hole on a breaking putt, there can be a tendency to direct your swing that way as well, resulting in pulls on right-to-left putts and pushes on left-to-righters. When you concentrate on the apex spot, you’re immune to this.