By Dr. Tom Dorsel, Ph.D.

Putting should be fun, rather than agonizing.  It’s the scoring shots of golf that everyone should want to take.  Similar to basketball, we take the ball out and charge down the fairway with our drive.  Then we move the ball into position with our approaches, pitches and chips.  Then, at last, we’re near enough to the hole to have a very real chance of putting the ball away, putting it into the hole for a score.

Putts should be the shots we can’t wait to take.  I mean, “Give me the ball!”  It’s the opportunity to score, the fun and excitement of the game.

In this regard, on June 18, Jason and I talked about his recent tournament play.  Jason is an amateur golfer in his mid-40s, still gallantly competing with the college kids in the state tournaments, and doing quite well at it.  Nonetheless, he felt that his putting was holding him back, so I suggested the following fun “scoring” drill that can apply to golfers at any age and skill level:

The Drill

  • Start at 3 ft., then 5 ft., then 7 ft, on back to 15 ft. in two foot increments, and see how many in the series you can make before missing and having to start over.  Each time, go for the record of how far out from the hole you can go and keep making the putt.  Of course, do this from various angles around the hole.
  • Another similar drill would be to start at 15 ft, then 20 ft., then 25 ft, on back to 60 ft. or more in 5 ft. increments, and see how many in the series you can two putt in a row before having to start over.  Try to break the record each time.

The Result

On July 13, a little over three weeks later, I get the following email from Jason:

“I thought I would give you a little follow up on the progress I have been making towards the ‘scoring shots.’  I have been using your putting drill over the last few weeks, and boy what a difference. Over the last few weeks I have had some very good rounds in state qualifying tournaments and also have shot my personal best round of 61. The ease that I now feel on the greens is a feeling I have not had in a very long time, and putting is not the chore I used to see it as, I now see more opportunities. Big thanks to you, Tom, and I can’t leave out my son, Atley, who has also been very helpful getting me down the right path again.  Happy Putting!”  Jason.

How Did He Do It?

By now you are probably wondering, as I was, how Jason shot 61?  Well, I asked, and here is what he said:

“I hit 16 greens and had a 26-putt round with a chip in eagle and a holed wedge shot for eagle. Only one lengthy putt of 30 feet for birdie, but several 8-10 footers for birdies. There were also a couple of par putts of 3-4 feet that were important to keep the confidence and momentum going.

“I believe the comfort level I had with the putter was the ultimate contributor to the well-played round. I didn’t feel pressure on approach shots or chip shots, so middle of the green became perfectly acceptable. I will definitely be continuing these putting drills and encourage anyone else searching for improvement to do the same.”

An Added Dimension

Jason added an alternative dimension to the drill:  He putted for the record at each level of the series in the drill.  That is, “How many 3 footers can I make before I move to 5 footers?  Then how many 5 footers before I move to 7 footers?”  At each level his goal was to break his previous record at that level.  He actually didn’t go beyond 7 feet, and that was still good enough to shoot his best-ever 61!

Either successfully extending the series of putts as many feet back from the hole as you can (my original suggestion), or going for the record at each level of feet (Jason’s alternative) seems fine, because both ways you are practicing your putting technique, while, at the same time, applying pressure on yourself by “going for the record.”

Most importantly, you are practicing with a purpose and having fun while doing it, thereby making it more likely you will return for more practice as often as you can.

Jason is Jason Gabriel of the “Golfing Gabriels”, as I call them, because of not only Jason, but also his son, Atley, an accomplished junior golfer, and his wife, Suzanne, who played college golf at Western Carolina University.
Dr. Tom Dorsel is Professor Emeritus of Psychology and a clinical/sport psychologist who practices out of Hilton Head Island, SC, with satellite operations in Pinehurst and Hendersonville, NC, as well as in Orlando, FL, with John Hughes Golf.  His bestselling book is “GOLF: The Mental Game.”  Dr. Tom can be reached through his website,, or on Facebook at “Sport Psychology of Hilton Head.”