Ben Crenshaw shares his tips to improving your putting game

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Ben Crenshaw shares his tips to improving your putting game

Equipment

Ben Crenshaw shares his tips to improving your putting game

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Two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw is widely regarded as one of the game’s greatest putters. He recently spoke to Golfweek about the state of putting and what he’s seeing in today’s players.

GWK: When you watch tournament golf now and you look at the way players approach putting, what are your impressions? What do you see?

Crenshaw: It takes them a while to put the ball down. But it’s part and parcel of what they see and what they’ve learned to experiment and practice with. I’m fascinated by the equipment. There’s just such a variety of shapes and sizes, grips, substances. I’ve always believed that any good putter had great pace and always thought that pace dictated line. But all players have experimented with putting. Basically, they have a stroke that’s kind of born in them. But the most dangerous thing you can do is try to add two or three inches on your stroke.

Why is that?

Crenshaw: (Famed teaching coach) Harvey Penick always said, “It has to be yours.” He made a fascinating observation. He said, “I can’t tell anyone how to get into the ball comfortably, it has to be yours.” He also said, “Never try to putt like anybody else.” I always thought that was interesting because people see somebody putt really well and you say, “Wow. I need to try some of that. That looks pretty good.” He always thought that you kind of look for danger that way because it won’t be yours.

Ben Crenshaw got his Masters green jacket from Jose Maria Olazabal in 1995. (File)

So what do you think when you see a player pull out a green-reading book?

Crenshaw: You’re talking to a prehistoric player.

Is it a negative in the game to have players using them?

Crenshaw: I’ve never looked at a green-reading book. It might be confusing. I don’t know that, but you’re talking to somebody who’s really non-complex. I’m not saying it’s wrong. It’s the way things are done these days. One of the best putters I ever saw, Brad Faxon, doesn’t even take a practice stroke. He’s very adept at what he sees. He’s very visual. Really good putters are very visual. They have a good notion of what’s going to happen.

Do many young players ask your advice on putting?

Crenshaw: Some younger player might ask me a question and I say, “Look, just do really small experiments.” Meaning the ball’s down there, either move it one ball towards you or one ball in back. Make little adjustments. That way you’re not changing your stroke. You’re changing your optics a little bit if things aren’t working.

What do you think of the current putters?

Crenshaw: I would pay attention to the shaft of the putter. Not only the head. Optics plays a big part, but the shaft in the putter has to fit the person. Some people like a very firm feel. I always liked a shaft that gave a little bit. I wanted a little help. In other words, that promotes swinging the putter, which helps a longer stroke.

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I know you had one spell where you really struggled with your putting. Did it ever get to where you would call it “yips”?

Crenshaw: No, it never got to yips, but you get so frustrated and then you start trying stuff. You get frustrated and you’ll try anything to hit the ball better or putt better. When I putted the best, I had a blank mind. I wasn’t thinking about anything. Nothing but that path and how hard to hit it.

What was the craziest thing you ever tried when you were struggling with putting?

Ben Crenshaw, shown at the 2015 Masters. (File)

Crenshaw: I’ve tried different types of putters. I putted Bulls Eyes and Pings at different intervals. I always kind of went back to my old gooseneck look. An Arnold Palmer type, the Wilson type, because it had a little offset and I thought it swung like a golf club. But it’d be amazing for people to know what gyrations that professionals go through in the putting department, because it means so much.

I’m sure you’ve had parents ask, what would help someone develop a great putter?

Crenshaw: Putting contests, I always thought, were great. Harvey encouraged that. Having to putt against someone and go around the clock. There’s no better practice, because you’re putting something on the line, you’re competing. When you’re putting at different holes, that’s what golf is. When I was a kid, I found about eight balls out on the golf course. I went up to the putting green by myself, and I hit this one putt about an hour. Same putt, over and over. Harvey said, “Ben, I see what you’re doing. Your stroke looks pretty good, but you’ll never have that putt again the rest of your life. Putt to different holes.” You see young people do that in practice. They get the chalk out with straight lines and all that stuff.

Jordan Spieth went through a putting struggle. It looks like it’s better this year. Did you ever feel a desire to reach out to him? Did you see anything watching him?

Crenshaw: I hadn’t talked to him about his putting. I hadn’t wanted to. I’ll say this, that he at times has looked fidgety. To me, he’s thinking about doing different things with it. If you’re not putting as well, obviously if you’ve had success with a putter like he has and you don’t see it happen at meaningful times, you’re going to try some different things. It’s only natural. He’s learning how to be a tournament golfer. I’m not worried about him.
He’s going to be fine. Gwk

(Note: This story appears in the April 2019 issue of Golfweek.)

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