There’s an innocuous little hole cut into the middle of each of Maderas’ practice putting greens that’s worth your time and attention if you’re looking to hone your putting stroke.
Just barely wider than the diameter of a golf ball, the “small hole” can help you zero in your putting stroke and increase your confidence – if you know how to use it.
I’ve used it by lining up short putts – 2 or 3 feet – to study two things: path and pace. If I’m holing them on the small hole, I’m usually feel pretty good about those two things – and on my last visit to Maderas, I wasn’t. I was pushing my putts right. I quickly realized my back stroke had a gotten a little long and my follow through a bit rushed, thus leaving the putter face slightly open at impact.
After I shortened my stroke and slowed my pace, the putts started dropping again. Coincidentally, I holed a 30-footer to save par on the first hole and had a fairly solid day all around on the greens after.
Maderas Director of Golf Instruction Chris Mayson, however, suggests an entirely different approach to using the small hole.
“Essentially, the small hole is designed to make putting more difficult so when you go back to the regulation cups, they look much bigger and you have more confidence and freedom in your stroke,” he says. “That freedom allows your putter to release properly.”
Rather than short distance, Mayson has his students practice from 8 to 15 feet, largely to achieve better distance control.
“Using the small hole really narrows the focus and obviously makes the putt seem different,” he says. “Before we go to the small hole, my players have usually warmed up on the big hole and worked on fundamentals. Now I want them to work on the process on hitting a good putt.”
When asked for practice objectives, Mayson said making putts isn’t necessarily one of them.
“It’s obviously great if it goes in, but I more want to see proper speed and a pace that would allow the ball to just drop in. You practice this on the small hole without any real goals for making them.”
Putts will drop later on the larger holes if this drill is done diligently and practiced properly, Mayson says. He reiterates that, for him, the small hole is more about psychology than methodology.
“It’s definitely more for the psychological benefit,” he says. “For that, I think it’s terrific, and I love that Maderas puts them in because I don’t see many courses that do.
“Psychologically, they are great for training.”
Chris Mayson is coach to PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players, and is the Head Coach of the USA Junior National Team. You can contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.