Creepers! Ugh!

As a coach, one thing I can’t stand is seeing shots come up short. But it is the norm for most golfers on most shots—irons, pitches, chips and putts. It drives me batty! In this lesson we’ll deal with the putts that come up short. I call them Creepers.

How many times have you played a round where hole after hole you hit putts that were right in the jaws but came up just short? I see it all the time. You had a chance to shoot your best score and you couldn’t get the ball to the hole! Frustrating, isn’t it? I know why it happens and I know how to fix it.

Next time you go to the course, watch the people warming up on the practice green. Most have either three balls or a single ball, and each person is putting to a specific hole. As each golfer putts, the ball rolls up short of the hole by about a foot or so. The golfer rolls putt after putt and the same thing happens. If a ball does drop it goes in by a dimple. If that doesn’t describe the scenario on your practice green, I’ll eat a bug.

I believe that the first 20 swings of the day with any club are the most important. Each time you warm up you are teaching your body what you want it to do each day. So, by coming up short time after time on the practice green, you are programming your eyes, brain and hands to come up short on the course. That’s why, when you come up short on putts hole after hole during a round, it seems no matter how hard you try, you keep coming up short.

Creepers! Ugh! I hate them! CREEPERS!!!

What I have my players do when they first get on the practice green is hit the first 10 putts or so well past the hole, by 3 to 5 feet. It may look silly, but it serves a great purpose. This practice drill will help you hole more putts for many reasons:

1. Your eyes see the ball getting to and going past the hole. You have to teach your eyes that this is a good thing. It’ll then tell the brain and hands that it’s o.k. It’s what you want to happen.

2. It helps ensure a nice long follow-through. If you tend to come up short, many times its because you stop your follow-through a little short. Mostly this happens because of fear of hitting a putt too hard. It’s interesting, isn’t it? A golfer can hit 9 putts out of ten short. Yet he fears the one that went long instead of the nine that came up short. Weird. Especially since the one that went by the hole was the only one that had a chance to go in!

3. You’ll make some of them! You’ll hear that awesome sound of the ball hitting the bottom of the cup. Even if your playing partners aren’t watching, they’ll hear it, too.

I believe that once your body gets used to hitting the ball past the hole, it is easy to throttle back a little. Then your pace on the green will be perfect all day. Conversely, it’s very tough once you’ve taught your self to come up short to make the adjustment to judge pace consistently. But one thing’s for sure: if you teach your ball to come up short during your warm-up, it’s gonna’ come up short all day long.

The lesson is this: “No Creepers!” My team hears me say this every day on the practice green. “Don’t teach yourself to come up short!”

Hit the first few putts of the day on the practice green well by past the hole. You’ll make more putts on the course.

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22 thoughts on “Creepers! Ugh!

  1. This is very true because, every time the ball comes up short during your round your brain and body believes it not achieving what u want and you start to doubt what you are doing. So in the beginning make sure you give your self opportunities to make the putt, which means hit it past the hole no matter what! Give it a chance!!!!

  2. Rob King says:

    The problem I have is doing a “Mickelson”. That’s where I either make it or it’s 6 feet past. How do I find the middle ground?

  3. Rasa says:

    This is a great putting lesson; hitting it past the hole gives you greater chance of holing then leaving it short. Insuring a nice follow through and finishing low with the putter will allow you to get the ball past the hole and get a consistent roll.
    Thanks Coach

  4. billy nisbet says:

    My best putting days occur when I have confidence that the putts will fall. On these days, as coach says, I’m not hitting “creepers” I’m making confident strokes. I’m not being overly aggressive, the ball ideally will end up in the cup or 2 feet past. Hitting putts at a pace like this also makes green reading easier. When a ball is trickling up to the cup it breaks more, this is more difficult to account for than a ball tracking on a confident line.

  5. Matthew says:

    Definitely good to do before a round of golf. Gets the blood flowing and allows your eyes and body to remember how to feel to make the putt roll a certain distance. Obviously, there are times when you want to creep it towards the hole, but you definitely don’t want that mindset for the rest of the putts otherwise you’ll give yourself those painful long footers for par, or worse. Practicing on the practice green by putting past the hole will give you a good sense of speed and sort of put your mind in cruise control. You’ll be able to see the putt going in or it doing what it should by controlling it, whereas, if you try to creep it to the hole, you never know what you’ll get; you’ll be allowing gravity to take over. Always maintain control when you have the chance. :)

  6. Andres Escobar says:

    I believe that in order to hole a putt you must be sure in that you are going to do so. If you stand in front of the ball thinking that you are going to miss, your probabilities of making that putt decreases enormously. With this you can tell that the people that leave the putt short of the hole are not entirely committed with the shot and don’t believe that they are going to hole the putt. You have to give yourself a chance!
    Great lesson.

  7. thomas mather says:

    I believe the concept behind this is universal for any golfer, from professional to amateur levels. If you hit your first 10 putts 3 – 5 feet past the hole you are practically teaching your body to hit it firmer than usual, just like when teaching your body a new golf swing, it has to feel different for it to work. And even if in your round, you’re hitting it past the hole 5 feet, you’re giving the putt a chance to be successful. If you’re scared and creep it up to the hole, it will never be successful. Alongside this, the right hand is evil for sure, a factor of inconsistency in distance falls down to how hard you grip the putter. I have found this for myself, your natural ability of judging distance comes from your left hand, after all you never see tiger woods holding his putter in his right hand after a putt!

  8. Brett says:

    Coach,

    I definitely think that when you get to the practice green you should hit a few well past the hole. Training your body is definitely key and this little trick is something that I have put into my routine every time I am about to tee it up. Creepers are so frustrating during competitive rounds and its definitely worth doing whatever you can do avoid them.

  9. Spinder says:

    Creepers can be a nightmare. This year at practice I have tried to make sure I get the ball past the hole. Brett is right in saying that you have to train your body every day. Also, like you mention in the article if you get it there, they might go in.

  10. Zach Grossman says:

    My longer putts have really improved in the past season because of this idea. You always hear the saying, “if you don’t get the ball to the hole, then it has a 0% chance of going.” Well, a lot of my 15-30 footers have had no chance of going in the past. However, after doing this drill with 5 and 10 foot putts, it set the precedent of the pace I had for the rest of the day on putts of all lengths. You want your opponent to be afraid you’re going to make every putt. If you prepare this way, they will be shaking in their boots when every putt has an aggressive speed to it.

  11. Tim says:

    Coach,

    You have basically drilled the concept of “creepers” into my head since I have been at Skidmore. Everyday at practice, I focus on putting with the correct speed and getting my putts past the hole. Speed has always been an issue for me on the greens, especially on lag putts, but I think this part of my game continues to improve. You have to get the putts to the hole to make them!

  12. Garrett Colgan says:

    You have really helped my putting this year coach. The easiest way for me to eliminate creepers is by getting very comfortable on 3-4 footers. That way I am never afraid of going after a putt and blowing it by. The 30-3 putting drill has helped my putting tremendously. Hitting 30 three footers in a row before a round definitely helps me feel the stroke and allows me to get into a round and roll the rock confidently from start to finish.

  13. John McCarthy says:

    I love this concept. Sometimes I look back on a round of golf and wonder what I would have shot if I hadnt left so many putts short and in the heart. So I now look at my putts from a side angle and read the speed just as closely as I read the break.

  14. Will Caro says:

    There is truly nothing worse than leaving a key putt short in competition. The removal of short putts from a players game yields nothing but strong results and can allow for a much easier 2nd putt. Being able to see the ball roll past the hole is extremely beneficial and as you said, you’ll even make some of them! Whether it is from 8 feet or 40, the ability to get the ball to the hole and really give it a chance can make all the difference in tournaments and qualifying.

  15. Chris says:

    Once again, this is something I had never really thought about until I had heard it from you at practice. When nerves are involved, it really helps being comfortable on the green and being able to hit a confident stroke. It’s really smart to look at it in a way where if you never get the ball to the hole, that it can never go in.

  16. Mak says:

    Leaving a long distance putt short is one of the worst feelings in golf. You get so excited thinking that you dropped a bomb only to find out that it never had a chance. I think that looking a foot past the cup is a great aiming point for my putts because I get very tentative at times and find myself leaving it short. Never up, never in!

  17. Anthony says:

    Hitting my first putts on the practice green past the hole has increased the number of birdies I make during the round at least 2x.

  18. Mackenzie N says:

    This is definitely something that I struggle with when it comes to putting. Speed is my weakness in putting, usually resulting in the majority of my putts being left short. It is something I am constantly working on but struggle to master. I think that training my body to get used to hitting the ball past the whole on a regular basis will help me make a lot more putts.

  19. Teddy says:

    Creepers are definitely frustrating, especially when they hang on the lip. Your advise to practice getting it passed the hole on your first few putts of the day is very good. If all my putts are coming up short I tend to get frustrated and start hitting them harder. However because I am frustrated my stroke tends to get yippy. I am going to start trying your drill to hit the first few puts well past the hole.

  20. Mitchell Campbell says:

    I was able to put this pre round putting routine into effect during my final tournament of the summer and saw a noticeable difference on the course. It showed especially showed in my putting straight out of the gate and we all know how important it is to get off to a hot start with the putter! I am looking forward to really grinding this in during the fall.

  21. Charlie Goldberg says:

    This article is gold for a golfer, truly. I went first to the putting section of the blog because I wanted to be inspired in the part of the game that matters the absolute most. This post gave it to me. I immediately just wrote this down in my golf journal for future reference because of the worth that I felt it deserved. This right here is the definition of training your body the right way before a round, as well as well performed practice to simulate in round situations and feelings. You never want to leave a putt that you could’ve made on the course short, so why do it in practice?! Great ideas here, thanks coach.

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