Improve your putting with this ladder drill

Gary Nicol and Karl Morris are co-authors of the best-selling book The Lost Art Of Putting, so who better to give us some putting tips? This time, they show us a drill that involves just a few tees…

The ladder drill involves a handful of tees and will help you to improve your putting. The first thing you do is make a semicircle of tees around the back of the hole, a grip length away from the hole.

You then place a tee a few feet away, then another tee a few feet past and so on depending on how far you want to go back. The aim of the game is to hole the putt but make sure you don’t go outside of the tees behind the hole.

If you come up short or go past the tees you need to start again. If you hole the putt or finish in between the tees and the hole, you can move onto the next station.

You don’t need to move to the next station on the ladder. If you want you can go from the first to the third or simply whatever range of putting you want to work on the most. The only rule is that to move onto a new station you must either hole the putt, or make sure the ball does not travel past the tees.

Watch the video at the top of the page for more advice from Gary and Karl.

Keep calm and carry on – it will improve your golf and life

I have always felt very lucky to do what I do for a living. To coach a sport I love and get the chance to work with players to see what is possible with their game, both with individuals and in groups.

I really enjoy presenting my Mind Factor workshops up and down the country where I get chance to share some of the ideas with club members that I have worked on with PGA Tour and European Tour players over the past 25 years or so.

However, increasingly one of the major downsides is the travel aspect. In particular the amount of time in my life that has ebbed slowly away as I have been stuck in stationary traffic surrounded by cones in endless miles of roadworks. At times it seems like the entire motorway network in this country is one long stretch of cones as we aim to embrace the concept of ‘smart motorways’.

I often travel back home from workshops late at night and the sense of rage that often wells up in me after a long journey gets towards the finish line and then I see the dreaded ‘M6 closed’ sign and know what should have been a 30 minute conclusion to my driving adventure may well now become another hour plus. There is something unique about sitting on motorway gone midnight going nowhere. A mixture of tiredness and anger late at night can be a very potent cocktail resulting in corresponding spike in my cortisol levels.

First world problems, I know, but these situations often remind me of how easily we can be ‘triggered’ and how that relates to our golf.

How does the game ‘trigger’ you?

Can you be sailing along blissfully with your medal round, everything well in your world and then suddenly the fourball in front starts to lose golf balls and you spend your time on the tee placing your hands on your hips in classic ‘teapot’ pose fuming at your lost momentum?

Or the time you hit a great drive and then an even better 4-iron right into the middle of the green, only to three-putt? You just cannot believe how unfair the game is, especially as your playing partner has just hacked his way down the hole before sliding in a 20-footer for par!

Our emotional rip chord is yanked and we descend into a sea of lament as yet again a round that looked so promising at the start gets away from us.

How many rounds can we look back on that have been ruined not by circumstances but our reaction to those circumstances?

Tips to stay calm on the golf course

Tips to stay calm on the golf course

For the good of my health, and in particular my blood pressure, I have come to realise that in those M6 moments I have a really clear choice to make. I can either let an external situation that I have no control over make me feel very bad or I can choose to respond differently and respond in a way that may not make me happy but does at the very least keep me neutral and away from the downward spiral of self-induced misery.

The concept is very simple but incredibly important for our game and our life. We can either react or we can respond. We can react to slow play like a spoilt child who has been taken out of the sandpit, or we can respond by choosing to put our attention in a more useful place for the presumed goal of playing the very best golf we can.

It is key to ask yourself the question before you play: Am I going to react or respond today? Because one thing is for certain, as certain as there will be more traffic cones to come on my M6 journeythat the golf course will provide you with numerous situations and that anger and frustration can and will take over if you continue to react. Anger at golf makes us very stupid and the tension created in our bodies as a result very rarely helps to swing the club in any other way than badly.

So much of what we do on a daily basis is a result of auto pilot responses as we allow circumstance to dictate how we feel.

As crazy as it may sound, the next bout of slow play or the next period of being held up on the course can be an opportunity to change your habitual responses and to take the opportunity to respond to a situation in the best possible way, a way that allows you to play the kind of golf you are actually capable of.

So if you see me stuck in traffic at some point and you can observe the steam coming out of my ears, please sound your horn at me an remind me that I am letting a bunch of cones make me feel bad for no real reason at all.

About Karl Morris

Karl Morris is a European Tour coach and founder of The Mind Factor.

He co-wrote The Lost Art of Putting with Gary Nicol, available on Amazon.

Train to be a golfer: Why the range isn’t always the answer

I have often said that I believe I would never have had the role in golf I am fortunate to have if golfers trained better.

There can be no other sport where so much effort in practice goes so unrewarded in the game itself.

Hour after hour hitting ball after ball on the range, often with very good results. Yet how much of this ‘work’ actually transfers to the golf course in competition?

Many golfers spend their entire life working hard at their game with little or no actual progress in terms of lower scoring.

This cannot be because we don’t have the ability to move our body in a certain way, and it certainly isn’t the equipment which is so very superior these days. For me it is to a large degree because golfers have no real idea of how to train effectively.

I say ‘train’ because this is a major distinction that needs addressing.

Instead of thinking you are going to go practising golf as you have always done, when you think in terms of training for the game you open up a whole new dimension.

A surgeon will train to become a surgeon and then he will practise surgery. A lawyer will train to be a lawyer and then he will practise law.

I want you to shift your mindset completely so you train to play golf and then go and practice being a golfer on a golf course.

You become a golfer by creating golf shots in the only place that really matters the golf course.

On YouTube you will find hundreds, if not thousands, of experts telling you how you should move your body, what positions the club should be in, all of the fancy terms for angles and planes, yet I promise you very little video space will be informing you of how to train in a way that will maximise your return on investment both of time and money.

The research is very clear but if we want to take our golf game onto the course itself we need to understand how we learn, we need to understand how to transfer skills, but above all we need to learn how to train effectively.

The most exciting part of this adventure is just what could be possible for you in the future. I firmly believe that no matter what your age is you could, in the next 12 months, transform your game and release the golfer in you that has been hiding away all of this time.

When you fully grasp the concept of training for golf you will get the opportunity to write a completely different story.

You will become the director of your future golfing performance. Instead of always going to the range to practice, begin to see the golf course as a place to train for the season ahead.

I know this is weather dependent at this time of year, but if you have an hour spare aim to play six holes. You could go out for those six holes with just three clubs and a putter and have some fun creating golf shots.

Experimenting with what you need to do to bend the ball left to right and right to left.

At some point this year during a round you will miss a bunch of greens in regulation. Why not train for that? Play six holes and deliberately miss every green in the best possible location and see what kind of score you can still get the ball around the course in.

Train yourself for the inevitable setbacks the game will throw at you. If you can’t get to the course and the range is the only option then make sure a part of your session is as realistic as possible.

That means one unique shot to one unique location. You can engage your imagination by recreating particular holes on your home course. Get the creative muscles working. The very creative muscles you will need to engage when you do actually get back on the course.

The more you closely replicate the ‘golf course’ environment the more you are actually training for golf as opposed to mindlessly beating balls. You could take this route to get better or you could just stick with what you already know and hope this season is going to be somewhat different than your previous efforts.

But as a wise chap called Einstein once said: “The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.”

Try playing ‘no pin golf’ to improve your game

Over the past few years I have become increasingly fascinated by the concept of the ‘breakthrough’.

I have seen time and time again with the players I work with that if we can create a significant breakthrough in a certain part of their game then what follows can only be described as the ‘force of momentum’.

When one part of the system moves significantly, it creates a force – often dragging the rest of the game with it.

The mistake I see happening most often with golfers looking to improve is the opposite of this. They are far too general in their approach to improving.

This very rarely results in momentum of any kind – and certainly not into lower scores and handicap reduction.

“I want to improve my swing” or “I want to stop slicing” is far too general and almost always results in little more than a frustrating lack of progress.

But if you really drill down and get specific about your game, amazing things can happen in a relatively short time.

A decent metaphor is to think of your game as a business and ask yourself which part of the business is costing you rather than making you money?

If you had a great product and a good manufacturer but your delivery system was so poor that it was clearly losing you customers then if you had any sense you would take the appropriate action and do something about it.

Which part of your game, very specifically, is ‘costing you money’? At times it is hard to see this objectively on your own so the value of a trusted mentor or coach can be enormous.

Try ‘no pin golf’

So let’s say we really look closely at your game and we find you only hit four greens in regulation per round. What this statistic tells us is that your ability to score is being compromised every time you play by your lack of success in finding the green with your approach play.

No matter how good your short game and putting are if you only hit four greens you are on the back foot from the start.

To nudge your GIR towards six or seven per round can have a big impact on your overall score.

I would be convinced you could do this without even improving your actual swing. So many greens are missed as a result of going ‘flag hunting’.

The flag is mesmerising and will often result in shots coming up short or missing the green in the worst possible spot.

So how do you fix it? Try playing a round where you promise yourself to play ‘no pin’ golf. Your only target, no matter what club you have in your hand, is the middle of the green.

Just focus on the dead centre, widest part of the green.

Now if you pull or push your approach, or hit it a little heavy, you still have a chance to hit that green and your chance of making par or better is hugely increased.

Now get it in the hole

You haven’t finished the job, of course, but you have nudged your game in a direction that statistically matters if you want to score lower.

Another area might be your putting from between six and 20 feet.

If you are consistently three-putting two or three times a round then chances are your pace putting is poor. We found that in writing the ‘Lost Art of Putting’ that most golfers are a lot better at line than they think but a lot worse at judging pace.

To spend just a little bit more time improving your pace control on the greens may not mean you will hole a ton of those medium range putts but you will place yourself closer to the hole more often, and you help eradicate those three-putts.

Practice your pace by stroking lots of putts from random distances around the hole and aim to get the ball within a ‘horseshoe’ of a foot around the hole. If you only ever focus on the line of your putts you will probably get good at starting the ball on line but your pace will never get better unless you work at it.

Really have a good think about your game and look for the very specific areas you can drill down into and improve.

Momentum could well be then just around the corner.

The Lost Art of Putting Podcast – Episode 6

Episode 6

The Lost Art of Putting

The Lost Art of Putting, by Karl Morris and Gary Nicol and featuring a foreword from 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie, is available in hardback and for Kindle from Amazon in the UK and US.

The Lost Art of Putting Podcast – Epsiode 5

Episode 5

Try this two-ball drill to improve your putting

Gary Nicol and Karl Morris are co-authors of the best-selling book The Lost Art Of Putting, so who better to give us some insight into how to improve our game on the greens?

The first of a series of eight instruction videos from Archerfield is about line and pace…

Bradshaw’s Balls

This is a drill used by the late Harry Bradshaw, one of Ireland’s greatest golfers and three-time Ryder Cup star.

Before heading to the 1st tee, almost every golfer will head to the putting green and take three balls out of their bag. Next time, take two out and putt your first ball to somewhere on the green – but not to the hole.

Pay close attention to how your ball reacts.

With your second ball, try to imagine a spot under the first ball and dislodge that ball with enough pace so the second ball comes to rest on that very spot.

If the second ball dislodges the first ball you will have hit your second putt on the right line with exactly the right pace.

Watch the video above and give it a try next time you’re working on your putting.

The Lost Art of Putting Podcast – Episode 4

Episode 4

Stop wasting your time – you never know how much you have left

It has been wonderful in the last couple of years on my podcast, The Brain Booster, to get the opportunity to have conversations with some of the world’s leading experts in coaching, psychology, physical training and skill acquisition.

Many of my guests have been incredibly generous with their time and the desire to share knowledge on this quest we all have to become better golfers or, indeed, better coaches. Ed Coughlan from Cork was a recent guest who has some wonderful ideas around the field of skill acquisition and having a mind-set of possibility when it comes to learning.

One of the tremendous ideas Ed talked about which really resonated with me was what he called ‘Project 168’. A very simple but brilliant concept.

But what is the relevance of 168?

Well, in any given week we have only a maximum of 168 hours. This is the same for everyone – nobody gets more, nobody gets less. The critical key, as Ed pointed out, is how we actually use those 168 hours.

If we are truly honest with ourselves, do we really make the most of the time we have? How many hours do you let slip just looking at your mobile phone screen? How much time do you waste on the internet?

There is nothing wrong with some downtime if you are busy, but how fulfilling is it when we waste our precious free time?

It is so easy, especially at this time of year, to let another 24 hours slip by without really making any progress to what is truly important to us. The weather turns and the nights draw in and it often feels the hardest thing in the world to even create the energy to get out of the house.

A starting point is to grab a pen and paper – along with a dose of honesty pills – and sit yourself down and be really truthful with yourself about the time you waste on a regular basis.

What do you do consistently that really does not add any value to your life but has just become a habit?

We are all guilty of this. We all fall into the comfort and the familiarity trap. For many professional athletes, how they use their time is all planned out for them as they will have a coach who they can sit down with and really map out effective training strategy.

For the vast majority of us who are not professional athletes we have a tougher job because we have to self organise our own schedules and how we use our time.

You may have a very limited amount of time to spend working on your golf game, but let’s say you have two of those 168 hours in a week when you could go and do some practice. What would be the absolute best use of an hour to really push your game in the right direction?

Could it be that up to now your practice sessions have been less than productive? How much of your practice does actually transfer into effective play on the golf course? Does the practice you do really stretch you or are you just pretty good at smashing fifty balls into the blue yonder?

A great game I have found to be effective and a wonderful use of time is called ‘Functional Three’. You get 30 balls and you line up 10 of your clubs. You then have to hit three functional shots in a row with a particular club to a target. If you do, you move on to the next club.

A perfect score would be all 10 clubs with 30 shots. You will not do it, I promise you! However you can see how many ‘clubs’ you can get through in 30 balls.

It is a tough game and it can be very frustrating, but it is a tremendous use of your time and the game gives you a pretty good idea as to the state of your game.

Depending on your level of play you may want to start with short irons first and the move up the set. If you are a lower handicap you can go with the different clubs completely at random.

Nick Faldo once said: “Golf is not about how good your good is but how bad your bad is!” This game will show you exactly that.

Above all else though have ponder about the 168 hours you will be gifted this week and what you are going to do with them. They are absolutely precious and we waste them all too readily.

We all need to be reminded that all of us have a finite number of these hours left. We just don’t know how many.

The Lost Art of Putting Podcast – Episode 3

Episode 3