I’m going to encourage players to stop putting at a hole during warmup. Most people just toss a couple of balls down 15 feet from the hole and try to make them. The odds of making those putts are quite low, which destroys confidence. Rather, I’d rather see players start by getting a feel for the speed, specifically from longer distances and inside 6 feet. We’ll use three warmup drills to dial it in.
Start by finding a flat spot on the green and putting 2 or 3 balls, swinging the putter only from toe-to-toe. See how far the ball rolls. Next, repeat the process but this time swing the putterhead from outside of the foot to outside of the other foot. Finally, repeat the process, swinging from thigh to thigh. The idea here is to see how far the ball rolls with each type of stroke. This will help us with speed. If the ball rolls 10 feet when you swing toe-to-toe, then you’ll remember that on the green.
Find a spot on the green that’s at least 30 feet from the edge of the green. Putt 5 balls, trying to stop the ball where the green meets the fringe. Ideally, we want the ball to ball roll just into the fringe, but not have it roll through the fringe. Again, we’re working on speed here, this time for long putts.
Finally, we’re going to work on short putts — this time, we’re going to use a hole. Putt 3 balls from 3 feet, trying to make all of them. Then work back in 1-foot increments (3 balls from 4 feet, 3 balls from 5 feet, etc.) out to 6 feet. Finally, finish with 3 balls from 3 feet. The idea here is to gain confidence by watching and hearing the ball go into the hole. We move back in to 3 feet at the end so that we can finish on a positive note. Once you’ve done that, head to the first tee.
Remember, as much as 40% of the game of golf is played on the greens. During the time when Tiger Woods was dominant, it was discovered that if he didn’t 3-putt in a tournament, he had an 85% chance of winning that tournament. That’s amazing! And it’s something you can take to the bank. If you’re a golfer who 3-putts 3 or 4 times per round, imagine what would happen if you could eliminate 3-putting. Think of what that would mean to your score! Most of the trouble we have on the greens comes from improper speed, not improper line. So why not take those precious few minutes you have before a round and get a feel for the speed of the greens? Forget trying to make 20-footers when you warm up. Concentrate on speed, and watch your scores improve.