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NCGA, Northern California Golf Association, is the website to go for your handicap
index, or for any of your fellow golfers index.  Try it.  The website has  rules of golf,
scheduled NCGA-sponsored tournaments, tournament results and acts as a
supplement to the Blue Book.

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NCNGA, Northern California Nisei Golf Association, is the website to go to for
information on its activities that are both current and historic.  Southbay Nikkei Golf
Club is one of 5 Nisei golf clubs that have kept up the tradition of golfing at least
once a year in an annual association 2-day tournament.   

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USGA, United States Golf Association, is the website to go to for the latest in golf
rules, USGA golf activities, golf equipment and numerous other topics.

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PGA, Professional Golf Association, is the website to go to for all topics affecting the
professional golfer.  This is the site to go to for the latest in what the professional
golfers are using, how to improve your game, and specific news about the golf world.

LPGA     Click here to enter LPGA website:   

LPGA, Ladies Professional Golf Association is the website to go to for all topics
affecting the ladies professional golfer.  This is the site to go to for the latest in what
the ladies professional golfers are using, how to improve your game, and specific
news about the golf world
Our next golf outing: Friday at 10:00 am
Southbay Nikkei Golf Club
Southbay Nikkei Golf Club

Holing Out    -----------    Every 3-footer a “Gimme”

It sounds contradictory, but one reason golfers miss short putts from 2 to 5 feet is because they
think they’re supposed to make them every time. As a result, they combine a fear of failing with
not enough attention to technique and miss them 40 to 50 percent of the time. I believe putts of
this length should be made 80 percent of the time, which leaves a margin for error but gives
you the psychological space to hit that bigger number and go even higher. Ironically, the less
demanding you are of yourself, the better you will perform.

That’s the psychological approach to short putts. But sound technique must be the starting
point. There are some differences between the way you may putt from a distance and from up
close, and similar techniques that apply to both.

Stroke Path
While I believe in the arc stroke for longer putts (the path of the putterhead going slightly to the
inside in the backstroke to slightly inside at the completion of the forward stroke), the stroke
must be on a straight-back-and-straight-through path for putts from short range. This is the
most assured way to keep the blade square to the target from beginning to end. It is the only
aspect of golf in which the old square-to-square swing theory is valid.

There should be absolutely no cocking or hinging of the wrists. There is a slight cupping of the
left wrist at address, but that angle is retained throughout the stroke. The elbows and arms
move the club. I like to feel the right elbow working as a kind of piston. The handle of the club
never tilts during the stroke. The hands and the handle of the club go back together and
complete the stroke together.

If the shoulders get involved, it becomes too big of a movement for a putt of this length. I like a
little bit of feel with the hands, because they do hold the club, but their activity is very, very

It is vital to good short putting that the ball is struck solidly on the sweet spot, which is usually
designated by a dot or line on top of the putterhead. Swinging straight back and straight
through with no shoulder action or wrist hinging is the key to reaching this goal.

Stroke Length
As a rule of thumb, for every foot of putt, the putter should go back 1 inch. It should also go the
same distance past impact. That equation is for relatively fast greens. For slower ones, give it
another 1/2 inch per foot.

Either way, the length of the backstroke and forward stroke are equidistant. If you abbreviate
the forward stroke, you are more or less slapping at the ball or “hitting” it. You want to “stroke”
the ball, which involves the blade going smoothly past the point of impact.

Stroke Pace
Many golfers miss short putts because they decelerate or slow the clubhead as it gets to
impact. Part of this touches on the psychology issue. Out of a fear of failure and worry over
hitting the ball too hard for a putt so close to the cup, players back off on their stroke. I even
see many golfers recoiling the putterhead on these putts.

Of course, the way to get over this is to be more confident of making the putt. But technically
the way to achieve this is by taking the putter back slowly and returning it to impact at the same
pace with a follow-through. You don’t need to hit short putts very hard, but you do need to
make a complete stroke.

I don’t believe in dying the ball into the cup from this length (or any other). You want to stroke
the ball firm enough so that if it does miss, it will go a foot and a half past the hole. This is
especially important on breaking putts.

Ordinarily, there isn’t much break in a short putt, and the advice is usually to not give the hole
away. In other words, do not start the putt outside the hole. When you hit the putt firmly, it will
not break as much, and you effectively take much of the break out of the putt this way.

However, if there is a lot of slope in the putt, don’t be afraid to allow enough for it and give it a
nice, firm tap. Remember that when playing a break, you are hitting the ball up the hill a bit
before it begins its turn downward to the hole. So make sure to allow for that.

Head Down, Body Still
Body movement can be disastrous to good short putting. It alters the stroke path and the pace
of the stroke. The movement can be so subtle that you can’t easily tell if you are moving. Only
when you make a point of standing still will you know if you have been. I like to feel I’m like a
redwood tree deeply rooted in the ground. Another image is wearing foot-long spikes.

Older golfers will remember how Arnold Palmer always putted with his knees cocked inward.
That was his way of creating a stable platform off which to make the stroke.

You can also obtain this stability by exhaling deeply, clearing the head and slowing down the
entire process. Another traditional way is to keep your head still and your eyes on the ball
when you hit it and even afterward.

For putts of this length, there is absolutely no need to look to see how the putt is doing.
Peripheral vision will handle that. So simply stand still and keep your eyes (and head) in
position until the ball is well away. Using only your elbows and arms to move the club is also a
key to this.

Grip And Ball Position
I recommend the reverse-overlap grip for putting, with a variation on the theme. In other words,
the forefinger of the left hand rides over the fingers of the right hand. This helps reduce the
chances of the left hand or wrist breaking or hinging in the forward stroke.

I am not at all opposed to the cross-handed grip in putting, in which the left hand is positioned
lower than the right with the little finger set between the first two fingers of the right hand. If this
doesn’t feel comfortable as a regular way to putt, you might use it as a practice drill to get the
feel for not allowing the left hand/wrist to break down.

In summary, to be a better short putter, hold the club lightly and so that it just barely touches
the ground. Stand dead still throughout the stroke, moving only your arms and elbows. Keep
your eyes on the ball at impact and swing the club straight back and straight through.

The Lightness In Short Putting
Grip pressure is very important to good golf, but it’s especially critical in short putting. You don’t
want any physical tension that might create a jerky, uneven stroke. Some golfers like a bit more
pressure with the left hand than the right, but I like it evenly distributed and by all means light.
The lighter you hold the putter, the more you sense the weight and the feel of the clubhead.   
More feel equals better rhythm in the stroke itself.

Of course, what is light for some people may be a little tight for others, so you have to find your
own feel.

A way to find the right pressure is to “milk” the handle. Squeeze it tightly, release it, squeeze it
a little less tightly, release it and go through that routine until you come to a pressure you feel
is light and easy.

Another way to get a good feel of the clubhead and make a smoother stroke is to hold the
putterhead just above the ground (or barely touching) when it’s behind the ball at address. You
don’t want to lay the clubhead heavily on the ground, because you then have to raise it a hair
to get the clubhead going back. When it’s more or less hanging in the air behind the ball, it
moves back very easily and smoothly. It’s almost as though a sweet song is playing, and you
are conducting it.

[This was copied from Golf Illustrated October, 2007]