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Circle Putting Drills for Confidence and Fundamentals

Short-Range, Repetitive Drills Also Mimic Putting Under Pressure

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Phil Mickelson Putting Drill in a circle around the hole

Phil Mickelson's circle putting drill, with 10 balls around the cup, each three feet from the hole. He tries to make 100 in a row.

Donald Miralle / Getty Images
In recent years, circle putting drills - in which the golfer putts balls from different spots around the hole, working around the hole in a circular pattern - are most closely associated in the minds of many golfers with Phil Mickelson. Mickelson is often shown on television on the practice putting green, warming up for the start of a round by doing his own version of a circlular putting drill.

Such putting drills all work in basically the same way: The golfer putts from short distances, typically no more than a few feet; the golfer tries to make a lot of putts in a row without missing; and if the golfer does miss, he or she starts over.

The benefits of these types of putting drills are clear:

  1. Fundamentals, technique, mechanics - if you want to make a lot of putts in a row, you have to focus. Such focus helps hone your skills and sharpen your technique. (But you have to make sure that each time you putt you are applying your technique correctly - no slacking off!)
  2. Because you have to start over if you miss, circle putting drills apply pressure - the type of pressure you'll feel out on the course during a round of golf. That's going to help nerves.
  3. And such putting drills build confidence. If you make 100 2-foot putts in a row, then the next time you have to sink a 2-footer to win a hole or a tournament (or $5 from a buddy), you're going to make a more confident stroke.

Following are some examples of different types of circle putting drills, which include recommended numbers of putts. You can adjust those numbers any way you see fit. We suggest starting by trying to make a small number of putts in a row, just to get a baseline. As you get better at the drill and gain confidence, increase the number of consecutive putts you have to make.

(For more similar drills, also see our article, "Make many short, straight putts to build confidence.")

Phil Mickelson's Circle Putting Drill
1. Find a flat spot on the practice green around one cup.

2. Arrange 10 golf balls in a circle around the hole, each one three feet from the cup. (Hint: Most conventional putters are just shy of 36 inches in shaft length, so your putter is probably a good guide for measuring that three feet.)

3. Now start sinking those putts, working your way around the circle.

After you've made all 10, put down 10 more. Continue the process until you've made 100 3-foot putts in a row. If Mickelson misses, he starts over.

To reiterate what we said earlier, you don't have to start out trying to make 100 putts in a row. Just make 10 in a row first. Once you have that down, make 20 in a row, and keep building.

This drill certainly didn't originate with Mickelson (he got it from Jack Burke Jr. - who probably got it from someone else in 1950 or so - according to his former coach Rick Smith), but it's now most closely associated with Mickelson.

Four-Points Putting Drill
1. Find a cup in a sloping part of the practice green.

2. Arrange four tees around the hole, each three feet from the cup, one at each of the four points of a compass (north, south, east, west - or, to put it another way, 12, 3, 6 and 9 on a clock).

3. Start at the west, or 3 o'clock, position and make three consecutive putts. Then advance to the next location and sink three consecutive, and so on, until you've made it around the circle.

The drill was featured in the book Golf Magazine Private Lessons (compare prices), which points out that doing this on a sloping part of the green means each of the four locations will present a different break and speed.

Make 12 putts in a row (three from each location) with this drill. If you miss, then start over at the point on the compass from which the miss occurred. As you get better at making all 12, increase it to 24, and so on.

Around the World Putting Drill
1. Place four balls around a hole on a flat area of the putting green, with the balls only one foot from the cup.

2. Make all four 1-footers.

3. Back up to two feet, placing four balls around the cup. Make all four 2-footers.

4. Back to three feet, and so on.

The first time you try this one, keep moving out until you reach a distance where you aren't guaranteed of making the putt - a distance where you start to feel uncertain. For many, that will be three feet, maybe even two feet for many who struggle on the greens. Stick with that distance as your limit for the time being, and repeat: Make 'em all from one foot, then from two feet or three feet. If you miss, start over with the 1-foot circle.

Just keep repeating the process going from one to two to three feet, until you start feeling comfortable and confident - and you stop missing - from three feet. Only then move back to four feet.

If you work with this drill enough, you'll eventually be moving out to five, six feet. Remember: Always apply your technique, even on the 1-footers; and start over if you miss.

Know Of Other Circle Putting Drills?
If you use another circle putting drill, one that is a little different from those above, drop us a line, we'd love to hear about it (and might add it to this feature). Note to golf instructors: If you are a golf instructor and would like to share one of your drills or other putting tips with About.com readers, submit here.

Remember, you can adjust the volume (the number of putts you require yourself to make in a row) any way you see fit with these drills, as well as the distances, for that matter. The better putter you are to begin with, the farther from the hole you can start, and the more putts you can try to make consecutively.

Putting practice can be hard a golfer's muscles - all that bending over. Don't forget to step back from time to time and do a little stretching to keep your back, legs and neck fresh. See our "exercises to make putting practice less painful" article for more about that.

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