Par and Birdie Drill

May 14, 2012 Jon Roy


Today’s post is the first entry for a collection of drills and training ideas which I will be sharing over the coming months.  This first drill is the staple drill for competitive players that I work with, and it’s called the “Pars and Birdies” drill.  The reason I love this exercise is that it works on a critical aspect of competitive golf and also helps to create true confidence.  True confidence is that which has come through objective measurement of skill, and by measuring our proficiency from these putting drills we actually work on building confidence each time we do it.  True confidence comes through measurement – we feel like we will be successful (confidence) when we have proven in the past (measurement) that we are accomplished at a given skill.  Therefore: (Confidence = Measurement + Repetition)

Fact: Statistics analyzers have been suggesting for years that the key skills around the greens is the ability to A) be proficient from inside 12 feet, and B) avoid errors from outside 20 feet.

Drill 1:  PAR PUTTS – 3,4,5 foot putts

Set-Up:  You will need 10 coins and 1 hole on a practice green.   You can set up your coins according to the diagram below – but ultimately you can determine your own “shape” of the course.  The key is that you have 3 three foot putts, 4 four foot putts, and 3 five foot putts.  These 10 putts will make up your “Par Putt” Course for the day.  We call these par putts because we imagine scenarios where you have chipped up to inside 5 feet and you need to make this length of putt for par.

The drill entails that you attempt one putt from each coin and that you keep track of how you do.  We have players toss a ball that goes in to the high side of the hole, while any putt they miss they toss the other way.  At the end of ten putts, count up your makes and misses and now you have an idea of your skill level for this critical distance of putt.

The magic of the exercise emerges over time.  If you run through this drill once every day for a few weeks, slowly you will begin to see a pattern – i.e I am %85 from inside 5 feet.  Now when you face these putts in competition a few things happen:

  1. You accept that you will miss these putts every once in a while (everyone misses these putts, occasionally, even a PGA Tour pro will be just over %90 – meaning they miss about 1 in 10)
  2. You have confidence that you do make these putts more often than not.
  3. You will have identified the “type” of short putt you like best and therefore you can aim to set these types of putts up for yourself in competition (i.e I really like uphill left to right putts)

Drill 2:  BIRDIE PUTTS – 6, 9, 12 foot putts

Set up a 10coin course again, but this time make the distances 3 from six feet, 4 from nine feet, and 3 from twelve feet.  This drill is meant to measure your ability to convert excellent approach shots into “birdies” and the occasional tough hole into a saved par.  We call it the “birdie” drill to aim for the optimistic side.

*Remember that PGA professionals start missing more than they make at around 7.8 feet, so striving for about %50 in the birdie drill is a good benchmark.

I encourage players to run through each exercise once per day over the entire spring and summer.  Just one set of each drill on each day, no take-overs, and ideally players will mark down their stats for each day and slowly develop their percentage from each of the two skills.  You can input the results into an excel sheet and tabulate your percentages really easily.

This is a great drill for 1) Having purpose as you train, 2) Recreating the psychological space of golf as you practice (“I must make this putt”), and 3) Using measurement of your skills to build and enhance your confidence.Enjoy the drill,

Digression from Left Field:

A place for my “Albert Pujols theory of statistics” which suggests (in a complete logical fallacy) that when we know that we are %90 from inside 5 feet, and we miss a putt inside 5 feet early in the round, then we know that we will make the rest of our short putts for the day.  Now that’s confidence!

*Pujols is a lifelong “300 hitter” (3 for 10) in baseball and my suggestions would be that when he grounds out in his first 2 at bats he “knows” that he is due for some magic in his later at bats.  Of course is he gets a few hits early the logic of this gets more disturbing…

I guess according to this we should all do a better job of celebrating our misses with the knowledge that we ae now due for great things.  But then I guess we should be throwing clubs and feeling dejected once we hit great shots – for fear that we’ve hit our quota…

Perhaps more thought is required with this theory…

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