Category Archives: Putting

A Mini Golf National Open Championship…Seriously? YES! Seriously FUN!

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Recently I read that the first New Zealand Mini Golf Open Championship was going to be played right here in Auckland. I thought, No way! I have to be a part of this!

Sure, like all of you, at first I was thinking, Come on, this can’t be serious. But everything associated with the event seemed like a big-time tournament. There was qualifying to get into the event, and there were par 2s, 3s and par 4s on the course. There is a New Zealand Mini Golf Federation, and there are even professional mini golfers! I quickly learned that this is pretty serious stuff and that competitive mini-golf is massively popular in Europe.

I couldn’t help but think to myself, What kind of weirdo is going to play in this event? Then I answered my question: ME! That’s who!

Over the next weeks I qualified and practiced enthusiastically. I’ve never played mini golf seriously before. The winner of the event would even gain automatic entry into the World Mini Golf Championship in Croatia later in the year! All the while I was thinking, This is can’t be a real thing. But at the same time I was thinking This is going to be an absolute blast!

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I showed up on the day of the event to find that around 85 golfers had registered to play in the first NZ Mini Golf Open Championship. There was even a professional mini golfer (Allan Cox) who came over from Australia to participate. He’s been a professional mini golfer for 25 years.

I was a little surprised when I showed up. I was expecting a nuttier vibe. It was just a really fun group of people. Fun, and serious! I made it a point to talk to the experienced mini golfers. I spoke to the New Zealand current women’s and men’s national champion, Lucy Geisen, and Bobby Hart. Both have participated in the World Mini Golf Championships. I had to ask them two questions: Why? and How did this happen?

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The answer was simple—competition—which was no different from the reason that I was participating. Bobby Hart is a soccer coach, and Lucy is an athlete who played many sports in her life, and both craved the same thing, an avenue in which to compete. AND mini golf is so much fun! Lucy and Bobby both also commented on the quality of people they have encountered through mini golf.

What I experienced as I teed off on the first hole with people watching and cameras pointed in my direction was the same first tee jitters I have felt during important golf tournaments. And over short putts, I felt the the same real nerves.

The format for the men’s division were as such: we’d play in foursomes in a 54-hole stroke-play event, played over 2 courses, with a cut after 36 holes. The ten lowest players would compete for the title in the final round. I was determined to make the cut. I didn’t think I could win, because I was immediately intimidated by the serious mini putt players. You could tell who they were by their equipment (special balls) and their outfits. Yeah, I felt like a rookie.

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The tournament was run very professionally, with Red Bull and others as sponsors. There was a scoreboard, and there were first class trophies and rules officials. You had to sign your card after the round, too… all aspects of a traditional golf tournament carried over to the Mini Golf Championship. We had fans, media coverage, cameras, and a lot of cheering. I’ve been to The Masters in Augusta many times. I’ve heard the roars from distant holes. You even had that. Yes, even the roars and groans. Many of the holes were completely surrounded with on-lookers craning to get a view of the action. When you made an important putt or a hole-in-one, there was applause. It was fun to tip the cap in acknowledgement of the spectators—who appreciated fist-pumps with even more enthusiasm. There was a lot of energy and excitement surrounding the event.

After a few holes I settled down and was playing well. At the end of the first round I was one under, and I believe only one off the lead. I had even beaten the professionals in my group.

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I started the second round slowly, missing some short putts. Hey, I admit it! I was nervous. I figured the professionals in my group would be very motivated to show their stuff in the 2nd round, and I was right. Both Alan (from Australia) and Bobby (the New Zealand Champion) came out on fire. They played well on the front nine, and I struggled. I pulled it together on the back nine and ended up even par for the round. Alan, the professional from Australia, came back strong after a disappointing first round and shot -4. Bobby played well the 2nd round, shooting under par after struggling in the first round.

We waited for about half an hour after the 2nd round while scores were being entered into the scoreboard, and we were all wondering if we’d make the cut. This time gave me a chance to get to know more about some of the hard-core mini golfers.

We were all a little nervous.

Then came the results… I was in! I made the cut! Mission accomplished. I was 4 shots out of the lead going into the last round and would need a strong showing on a tough and unforgiving course. Anyone within 5 shots of the lead had a chance. There were some tricky holes out there that could blow up your score. For example, there was a 3-tiered hole where in the first round I made a hole-in-one and the defending champ made a 5. So, anyone in the final 10 had a chance to win.

In the final round I got paired with a lad named James Turner. He is a professional rugby player from the Hamilton Chiefs. He and some of the other boys from the team who were on injured reserve came out to participate for a couple of reasons: 1) to have a laugh, and 2) to compete.

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Me and the lads from the Chiefs. James Tucker (brown jacket), big guy with a great stroke.

I struggled the last round in spite of hitting two holes-in-one. I was really disappointed! I thought I might able to win, but my nerves got to me. I missed some crucial second putts and also got some bad breaks, as you’ll tend to get in mini-golf, or any form of golf. I think I shot a 3 over par. I ended up finishing 6th, a respectable showing in my first mini putt major.

My 15 year old son also played in the youth division. He came 3rd, which was awesome.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! I already can’t wait till next year and have been contacted about joining the local professional mini putt tour.

This was some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I would recommend competing in the Mini Golf tournaments to everyone, golfers and non-golfers alike. I’m going to get as many friends as I can to come next year and give it a try. Anyone can do it, at any age! There are also divisions for youth, parent/child, and women.

Who doesn’t love mini-golf? Nobody. Not many other activities can lay that claim. We all have great memories of playing mini golf as a kid. Perhaps we should all do more of it, if for no other reason than to feel like a kid again.

SOOO much fun!! Give it a try if you can.

Scotty Cameron is Smarter than You.

Seems I’ve been talking putting a lot lately with my clients. This is one of my favorite and one of my most popular articles from way back in 2012. Thought I’d repost it. It’s always relevant. Thanks to my friend Pete Bilheimer back in Savannah, Georgia, for posing for the photo.

Here’s a golfing tale with which we’re all familiar. If it doesn’t describe you, it surely describes one of your golfing buddies.

So, you’ve just bought a new Scotty Cameron because you can’t make a 4 foot putt to save your life. It sure is pretty! Not only that, it’s a trophy. It’s proof that not only are you a serious golfer, but one of taste as well. You can’t wait to show the guys because they’re going to want one too. They’ll envy you. Status, baby! That’s what it’s all about.

You go to the course and one by one each of your friends sees, inspects and takes a few whacks with your new baby. Everyone is drooling over her and telling you how good she feels. The attention is intoxicating. You’re a star!

So you now go to play your round and as you approach each green, everyone in your group has their eyes squarely on you—because now you’ll make everything. Right?

As the round goes on and the short ones fail to drop, you can sense your friends’ disappointment, because it’s the same old story. You’re still one of them. You have been exposed. Your buddies know that there is no magic cure in that stick. You use your same tired excuses, “I’ve just got to get used to it,” and, “It’s a little different than my other Scotty.” Then one of your friends asks, “What are you going to do with your old putter? Can I buy it from you?” You respond, “Which one? I have a garage full of them.”

Boom. The lightbulb finally goes off. You realize that your putting is not getting any better. You’ve struggled with the same problem for as long as you can remember, and worse than that, you are not so much a golfer as you are a “collector.” You own enough putters to start a putt-putt course. You cry out in desperation, “Why don’t I ever get better?!”

~ The End ~

I hate to break it to you, but it’s you.

When I give a putting lesson the very first thing I look at is whether the putter is soled properly. Sounds basic, but rarely do I see it sitting on the green the way it was designed to sit.

Scotty Cameron and other top club designers have dedicated their working lives trying to make putting easier for all golfers, both amateur and pro. However, not one of them that I know of has ever designed a putter that wasn’t intended to be soled squarely on the ground. Yet, I see more toes in the air then you’d see at a morgue. So then the question I ask is, “Why do you do that?”

If you don’t sole the club properly you are, in essence, voiding the warranty, with any putter. Club designers like Scotty Cameron are craftsmen. If he saw you using his creation incorrectly, he’d be sad. Don’t undo his genius.

There are many reasons golfers miss putts, but if you don’t set the club up properly before it ever starts in motion, you’re fighting a losing battle—emphasis on losing.

When the toe is in the air, many things are going wrong. For one thing, you’re probably standing too far from the ball, which means the ball isn’t directly under your eyes, as almost every teacher in the world encourages.

If you are too far from the ball, and your toe is in the air, you will pull many putts. When you get tired of pulling putts, you’re hands will say, “This stinks, I don’t want to do that.” Then you will begin to push putts. After your confidence has been completely eroded away, you will find yourself standing over 3 and 4 footers wondering things like, “Who am I? Where am I?” Then, it’s off to Edwin Watts! You think, “Maybe I can buy my way out of this funk.”

Fact of the matter is, all of your putters work! The problem is that most golfers adjust the putter to their own faulty set-up.

So, here’s the lesson: Sole the putter flat on the ground, then adjust your stance so that the putter stays soled properly. It’s pretty easy. Just keep inching in a little closer to the ball until the putter head is perfectly flat. Some of you will feel too close to the ball, but you’re not! If you feel too close, it’s only because you were too far away to begin with. In the proper position (second photo), you’ll use your hands less, your big muscles more, and you’ll hole tons more putts.

All golfers need to come to terms with the fact that they can’t buy their way out of bad mechanics.

Do me a favor. Send me the next 300 beans you would have spent on a new putter. Leave a comment and I’ll give you my address.

We’ll talk a lot more about putting soon.

The Littlest Shots Make the Biggest Difference

If you’re like most golfers, you spend most of your practice time on the range, and finish up with a few quick minutes on the practice green. I believe everyone should reverse that and spend the majority on your practice or warm up time on the practice greens and less time beating balls. If you look around your club you’ll notice that the best players hang out around the practice greens a lot. If you want to be one of the best players at your club I would suggest you do the same.

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At least half of your shots during a round come from on or around the green. Most of the time it’s the quality of the Little Shots that determine the quality of your score. You could improve half of your game simply and quickly by improving your skills around the green—without going through swing changes or investing money in lessons or equipment!

Many years ago, my wife and I spent our honeymoon in Scotland, the birthplace of golf. We drove from town to town seeing the sites and enjoying the Scottish culture. Almost every evening, almost everywhere we went, we noticed townspeople of all ages practicing putting and chipping.

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Practicing your short game is a great after-dinner activity. I find it very relaxing. Late afternoon and evening is the most beautiful time of day, and there usually aren’t many people around to distract you so you can get in some quality practice.

It beats sitting on the couch, or trying to squeeze in a quick nine and being frustrated by poor play. Try investing time instead of spending time.

Here are two great drills that will help your short game. You only need a dozen balls and if you spend an hour or two a week doing these drills you’ll see real results.

I know these drills will help you score better and enjoy your rounds more.

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.