Welcome to Shaving Strokes, a new GOLF.com series in which we’re sharing improvements, learnings and takeaways from amateur golfers just like you — including some of the speed bumps and challenges they faced along the way.
The game of golf can be tremendously unforgiving at times.
For instance, take this video of my putting competition with GOLF Teacher to Watch Ryan Young, who offered to help shore up my flat stick by introducing this pressure game he calls “Chopping Block.”
As I mention at the start of the video, my putting has been terrible all summer long — which Young knows, as he was my teammate during my first-ever Pro-Am.
Unlike my full swing — where I’ve been able to find some answers for what I’m doing wrong — my putting remains frustratingly inconsistent.
Some days I’m reading greens like a pro, but can’t dial in the speed. Other days I struggle to find the lines, and my distance control is superb. And then there are days when neither is going right, and 3-putts become more common than I’d like to admit.
But this putting competition against Young helped me work on a little bit of everything in the short game.
From handling pressure, to confidently rolling my shots, to reading tricky short putts, this was really useful — so here’s why it can be a fun game to help you before your next round.
How the game works
In the competition, Young and I take turns hitting putts starting at three feet and moving back one foot from there, with the purpose of “simulating pressure putts,” as he describes it.
If player 1 misses, then player 2 has the chance to knock that person out by sinking the putt from the same distance.
Adds Young, “we’re going to start at three feet, move our way back each round. But basically, if you make, you’re safe. If you miss, you’re on the chopping block.
“If I make it right after you [miss], you’re out. But if you miss and I miss, you’re safe,” he adds. “Every round we go back; so don’t miss!”
So should both player 1 and player 2 make the putt, they move back another spot. If they both miss, they must redo their attempt.
If player 1 misses and player 2 makes it from the same distance, player 2 wins.
This is where golf can be cruel, though.
What you can learn from this putting competition
Personally, I have no business beating someone of Young’s caliber in this putting competition — but, obviously, I’m glad I did. Not only did it allow me to channel the pressure I’ll experience on the course with these types of short putts, but it also gave me supreme confidence that I could hack it with one of the best instructors in the sport.
“When you feel pressure, if you just focus on speed, they go in more often,” says Young. “So you don’t have to worry so much about being perfect.”
This is where a big lesson for amateurs comes in: Never concede.
In golf, it’s easy to downplay your abilities, often throwing around a self-deprecating quip here and there. But it’s a slippery slope, because, do it enough, and you may start actually believing it.
Sure, Young is a much better player than I am. And, sure, if we did this putting competition 10 times, we both know he’d probably gain the upper hand.
But in this instance, I got the best of him.
So even if you’re playing with low-handicappers and you’re struggling to break 100, carry yourself with confidence and think positively. You probably can’t outdrive those types of players, but you sure as hell can compete with them in the short game a lot of times.
“[This game] helps you know what you should be focusing on next time you’re on the course,” adds Young. “Whether trying to break 80 or win your first tournament, whatever you did here, copy and paste.”
Hopefully this fun putting competition — and witnessing a 12-handicap like myself defeat a Teacher to Watch — is something you can take with you to the practice green to boost your confidence as we head into fall golf season.
Wellputt Mat 10ft