You 3-Putted How Many Times?!

How many times has poor putting cost you from shooting your desired score? How often do you say, “I was striking the ball great, but I 3-putted X-amount of times?” Missing make-able putts is often the reason for inflated scores in what would otherwise feel like a great ball striking round of golf.  Putting is not a simple science. Golf pros have written books and spent careers focused on teaching the technicalities of putting. From a Golf Fitness prospective, when comparing putting to the full swing, it appears obvious that the physical demands of putting are much less than the full swing, which is true. However, there are some simple body fixes that you can use in your fitness routine to improve your consistency  of putting and scoring.

We’ve all been there

First: Test Yourself

Before I continue, I would like you to do a quick Golf Movement test. Put the phone down or get up from the desk and get into your putting posture. This test is best done in front of a full length mirror for visual information, but if you do not have a mirror readily available I want you to keep your eyes on your knees. Begin to swivel your shoulders about 10-20 degrees right and left continuously without allowing your lower body to move AT ALL! I will venture to say that a vast majority of you cannot rotate your upper body AND keep your lower body 100% stable.  All great putters keep their lower bodies rock solid through the putting stroke. The inability to keep the lower body stable as the upper body swings the putter will create poor accuracy on the greens and will cost you strokes.

Tiger demonstrates what it looks like to remain stable in the lower body through the putt.

The Fitness Routine for More Accurate Putting:

The key to effective movement in the putting stroke is lower body stability. Use these four exercises at home or in the gym to train the lower body to remain stable while putting.

1. Open Books

To kick off your new putting improvement routine we are going to start with the open book stretch. I consider this a 2-for-1 exercise because not only are you working on keeping the lower body stable as you rotate the upper body, but you are also working on your upper body mobility and flexibility. Start by lying on your left side and bring both knees up towards your stomach. Place a ball, a pillow, or towels between your knees and squeeze down into the object so your thighs are engaged.  Now, outstretch both arms in front on your chest and place your hands together. This is the “closed book” position.  To open the book, lift your right arm towards the ceiling and rotate your chest as far right as you can until your left arm and shoulder are flat on the floor or until you hit your end range. MAKE SURE YOUR LOWER BODY DOES NOT ROTATE WITH THE UPPER BODY. When you hit your end range, take 3-5 deep breaths. Try to keep your upper body relaxed and your lower body engaged by squeezing whatever object you place between your knees. After you perform 3-5 deep breaths, return to the closed book position. Repeat for 10-15 reps and switch sides.

Closed book and open book positions.

2. Clam Shells

Now that you have loosened up and began to think about lower body stability, let’s move to the clam shell exercise. The clam shell exercise is performed to strengthen the glutes. The glutes play a key role in stabilizing the lower body as you putt.  Clam shells are best done with a “mini-band” or rubber tubing for resistance, but can be effective without a band.  If you have a resistance band, place it around both legs and bring the band up the legs to the point at which it is above your knee caps. Lay on your left side with your legs together and bring your knees up towards your stomach. Keeping your heels together lift your right knee high enough so it is just above your right hip. Squeeze your right glute (butt cheek) hard and hold for 3-5 seconds.  Make sure that as you lift your knee your lower back remains stable and does not rotate. If you begin to feel a burn in the glute, don’t fret! This is your glute getting active. Perform 15-20 reps and repeat on the other side.

Clam Shells without a resistance band

3. Half-Kneeling Rotation

Next, we are moving to the Half-Kneeling Rotation exercise. This is a more advanced exercise than the open book, but the goal is the same: keep your lower body stable as you turn your shoulders.  Start off by getting into the half-kneeling position. Place your left knee down on the floor and your right foot forward. Proper set-up is very important. Make sure that your right knee is at 90 degrees, with the right heel directly under the right knee. Make sure that your left knee is directly under your left hip. Get as tall as possible so your left shoulder, hip, and knee form a straight line. Hold a golf club across the small of your back and place your hands on your rib cage. Now, squeeze your left glute and lower abs (this is very important) and begin to slowly rotate your upper body to the right. Make sure the lower body remains stable and stop the turn when you hit your end range. Hold for a full breath. I must stress that the goal of this exercise is not to rotate as far as possible, but rather to keep the lower body stable as you rotate the upper body. Perform 10-15 reps rotating right then switch the half-kneeling set-up so your right knee is down and then perform 10-15 reps rotating left. Tough, isn’t it?

Proper Half-Kneeling Positioning

4. Shoulder Swivels

For the final exercise in the putting improvement routine you are going to perform Shoulder Swivels. I like to do this exercise with a mini-band or rubbing tubing around my legs above the knees, but again, if you do not have a band you can still do this exercise effectively. Start by getting into putting posture. Dig your toes into the ground and stiffen up the legs. Keep the knees slightly flexed like they would be when you are putting. If you have a resistance band, slightly press your knees out against the band. This will assist you in keep the lower body stable by activating the glutes. Next, cross your arms and slowly turn your chest right and left without moving the lower body. I often find that my clients have a tough time perceiving whether or not their lower body is stable, so I suggest doing this exercise in front of a mirror so you can see if you are remaining stable. Spend 30-60 seconds rotating right and left and repeat 2-3 times. Be very deliberate in keeping the lower body stable. If you were doing this exercise in front of me, I would let you know every single time your knees or hips move even in the slightest bit!

Jordan Speith showing his ability to swivel his shoulders without moving the hips.

Most Importantly, Commit and Practice!

Don’t forget to practice on the putting green to incorporate your new physical ability. This routine should only take you 10-15 minutes to complete. Try to incorporate these exercises into your normal fitness routine to make your fitness more Golf Specific. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask by emailing me at [email protected] or by commenting in the comment section below.

Good luck and happy putting!

Jason Rivkin

Golf Fitness Coach, FitGolf Performance Centers

TPI Certified

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