South Africa has a long history of producing world-class golfers and in this series of tips, GRANT HEPBURN looks at what we can learn from some of our best players. This month he discusses how copying Brandon Stone’s putting drills can help make you better on the greens.
Brandon Stone is one of the most exciting young talents South Africa has produced in a while. At 24, he already has two European Tour wins to his name and I am not alone in expecting plenty more over the course of his career.
Stone is tremendously talented, but he is also a very hard worker – something we saw when he worked his way through the gruelling Challenge Tour to break through to the European Tour. Now that he’s there, he looks very much at home, but it’s a tough route to your Tour card.
Like most players, Stone spends a lot of time on the practice green, working on his putting stroke. As the great Bobby Locke said, ‘You drive for show but putt for dough.’
While time on the green is important for both professionals and amateurs, it is vital that you practise correctly, as this will help you get the most out of your time.
The drills Stone uses are simple, and focusing on the different aspects of putting would be of great benefit to amateur golfers too.
For the first drill, pick a spot about six feet from the hole, with a bit of break on the putt. Stone likes to do this drill from eight feet away, but for regular ammies, six feet is more than enough. Now see how many consecutive putts you can sink. For Stone, 20 in a row is a prerequisite, but he also likes to put a bit of pressure on himself by trying to beat his personal best each week. At the moment that’s a whopping 47 in a row.
The beauty of this simple drill is that it helps you develop a great putting technique. You know the line and the speed, so it’s a matter of making a good stroke. It’s also a great confidence builder.
What’s important in the putting stroke is to make sure the length of the backswing is always less than the throughswing, as this encourages an acceleration through the strike zone. I try to limit my backswing to half the length of the throughswing and if I hit it too far or short, I adjust my backswing accordingly, ensuring the throughswing remains much longer.
Notice how my head hasn’t moved until the ball has fallen into the hole – many amateurs come up and out of the stroke way too early.
For this drill, Stone places balls at four positions around the hole, similar to the points on a compass. The good part about this drill is that each putt will have a different break, so the key is to read the line of each putt before you hit it. If you select the right spot, you will have excellent diversity with a left-to-right, a right-to-left, and an uphill and a downhill putt.
Speed control drill
For his last drill, Stone works on hitting putts from the same line, but different distances, so he places balls in a line, one foot apart. This is a great drill for practising pace control, as the line changes very little when you putt from different lengths. The key is to focus on the rhythm of your putting stroke. Maintain a good rhythm as your putting stroke increases in length the further you get from the hole. Like Stone, it is a good idea to set and attempt to break records as you go, as this helps to keep you focused on each putt.
*Grant Hepburn has been a regular face in Compleat Golfer for more than a decade. His CV includes time coaching
on the European and PGA Tours, and an impressive list of top amateurs and pros. He is the CEO of Golf RSA and the South African Golf Development Board.
Follow him on Twitter @granthepburn