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Senior Golfer - On The Green

Putting tips from a putting guru

The Putting Green

One of the cool things about golf is that you'll never know who you'll meet on the course. I recently had the opportunity meet a person who has been enjoying the game as long as I have and actually loves talking about it much more than I do. His name is Mick Finegan.

The best description that I can give to Mick Finegan is "golf junkie"-a person who lives, breathes and is consumed with golf. Moreover, he is knowledgeable about the game, having been taught by world-renowned golf teachers. Most of all, he has learned the game from reading books and articles, watching videos and webcasts, practicing many hours a day, and learning from personal trial and error.

Finegan's thoughts and explanation of the putting stroke sound simple, but they are not. More importantly, they work; and I stand as personal testimony to this fact, having gone from 34 putts per round down to 31 in a matter of weeks. Here's why.

Finegan took me to a practice putting green and asked me, "What causes a three-putt?" When I told him it's caused by missing the first two putts, he laughed and replied, "It's actually a bad first putt." Specifically, a bad first putt that is either short or long. If the putt is one foot right or left of the hole, but the proper distance, then you have only one or two feet for your next putt. Hence, the importance of correct distance through proper feel and tempo.

To illustrate the concept of feel, Finegan asked me to stand about 15 feet from the hole and try to throw the golf ball underhanded into the hole. He then told me to try it again, and before I threw the ball, he said the second one would be closer than the first. They results were just as he predicted, but why?

Finegan told me that when I threw the second ball, I had a light grip, my follow-through was longer than my backswing, and I threw it the right distance because of feel.

Finegan then told me that I had just exemplified the three components of good putting-i.e., a light grip pressure, a long flowing stroke where the follow-through is longer than the backswing, and feeling the putterhead throughout the stroke.

To illustrate grip pressure, Finegan asked me to get my putter and lean with most of my weight on it. He told me that my grip just got very tight. He then told me to lift the putter just off the ground and keep it hovering there. "How's that grip pressure now?" he asked. It was light, and Finegan said this is the "soft" grip pressure you should have when putting.

Finegan then asked me to address the ball, keeping the light grip pressure, and feel the weight of the putterhead. He then asked me to take a long stroke using my shoulders, and I told him that I felt "totally out of control." He said, "That's good!" and a quizzical look spread over my face.

Finegan explained that "feel" when putting means moving the putter back slower and longer than normal with the light grip. When I attempted to follow Mick's instructions, two things struck me. First, I didn't have any idea how long my backswing was, and all Finegan kept repeating was, "That's too fast," "Take it back slower" or "Take it back six inches longer!"

The second thing was that I felt no control over the putting stroke. To gain control, Finegan suggested that I take the little finger on the target side hand, and squeeze it slightly more than the rest of the fingers. Voila, it worked the first time; I felt in control of a long, slow putting stroke.

Next month, we'll learn more about Finegan's thoughts on the putting stroke and how it can help you become a better golfer.

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