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Top 10 - Dave Stockton Golf Tips

Dave Stockton does not fit the mold of the typical golf legend. Not only did he have an illustrious playing career, but he has in recent years established himself as one of the premier short game instructors on the planet.

An eleven-time winner on the PGA Tour, which included two major victories (1970 & 1976 PGA Championships), Stockton also won fourteen times on the Champions Tour. Having always been known for his exceptional short game, Stockton is now passing on his knowledge as an instructor.

While there are many world-class teachers from which professional and amateurs can learn from, not many can back up their teachings with years of playing experience on Tour. While a lack of playing experience does not discount teachings, Stockton’s successful playing career certainly enhances the validity of his instruction.

Author of multiple books such as Unconscious Putting (2011), Unconscious Scoring (2012), and Own Your Game (2014), Dave Stockton prides himself in his ability to improve any golfer’s game, and to do so in a very short period of time. Let’s take a look at some of his tips.

10. Finish Low - Stockton states that putting should be about rolling the ball rather than hitting it. He speaks of the putting stroke being similar to a brush stroke. When you make a smooth stroke down the side of a wall, the paint goes on evenly and looks smooth. If you were to hit the wall, paint would go everywhere and everything would get very messy. In order to ensure that you make a smooth stroke Stockton likes to see golfers finish low through the ball. This creates a stroke that gets the ball rolling smoothly. Making a hitting motion at the ball will not produce a consistent roll, nor will it produce consistent results.

9. Finish With Your Lead Hand Facing the Hole - Another tip for creating a pure roll of the golf ball is to ensure that your lead hand finishes toward the target. Stockton states that this lead hand should mirror the putter face, for doing so creates greater consistency through the stroke. A drill he recommends is to have a fellow golfer hold the grip of a club approximately four inches in front of your lead hand when you are set up to make a putt. Your goal should be to make a stroke on the ball where the back of your lead hand presses firmly against the grip being held. This not only promotes the lead hand finishing toward the target, but also ensures that your stroke finishes low through the ball in order to create a consistent roll.

8. Expect to make every putt - Stockton says this is why he is a good putter. It doesn’t matter the distance you are faced with, your mentality should be that you expect that any and every putt will in fact fall in. This mentality comes from a focus on, and trust in, the line you have read for the putt. It also promotes a mentality which focuses on what you desire to see happen, rather than trying to prevent against what you are trying to avoid for each shot.

7. Practice Strokes are Overrated - Stockton has a tremendous conviction in the fact that practice strokes can be very detrimental to your putting game. His reasoning comes from the belief that in order to make a practice stroke, one must take their focus away from the line they have just read for the putt. He uses the game of pool as a means to illustrate this idea. When you get ready to take make a shot in pool, you do not line up your pool cue to the side of the whiteball. Instead, you get a feel for the shot by taking practice strokes directly behind the ball. This allows you to keep a proper focus on the line you are about to take your shot on. Stockton recommends something similar when putting. He isn’t picky on how you get a feel for the putt, but he does teach the importance of ensuring that whatever you choose to do, that it not involve taking a practice stroke beside the ball. Instead, when you set up to the ball, make sure that your focus is never removed from the line you intend to stroke the ball on.

6. Let Athleticism Take Over - Stockton often speaks of finding your “signature stroke”. When teaching this concept, he refers to one’s written signature. If you were to sign your name, and then immediately attempt to duplicate it, your attempted duplicate would always appear messy due to the fact that it was forced. Your best bet for making a proper duplicate is to simply sign your name again without thinking about the mechanics of the signature. Stockton desires to see all his pupils adopt this principle in putting. Rather than trying to duplicate the same stroke every time, react to your target line and trust that your personal putting mechanics will roll the ball over that line each and every time. Doing so is what it means to find your “signature stroke”.

5. Trust, Don’t Try - Once you have decided upon the line of your putt, choose a spot a few inches in front of your ball on that line, and then roll your putt over that line. Stockton teaches that anybody can hit a spot a few inches in front of them, and therefore they don’t have to try to make the putt, they can trust that they will. Stroking your putts over a spot a few inches in front of the ball replaces trying to make putts with trusting that you will.

4. Paint a Picture - When reading a putt it is important to visualize what you expect the putt to do once it leaves the putter face. Creating this mental picture should better enable you to putt the ball along your intended line with the appropriate speed for that line.

3. Break Each Putt into Thirds - Stockton’s personal putting routine involves looking at the putt from the low side of the putting line (the side of the line that the putt falls towards) and then breaking the putt into thirds. He always pays extra attention to the final third of the line. As the ball approaches the hole, it slows down and is therefore more susceptible to break.

2. Don’t Spend Too Much Time Getting Ready - Stockton states, “It’s not about how much time you take, it’s about getting committed, seeing it, and letting it go”. Many players can fall into the trap of spending a ridiculous amount of time reading the putt and getting set over the ball, which usually results in their focus being taken away from the actual putt they are about to make. Stockton teaches that consistency in putting comes when you trust your initial read, see that read, set up over the ball swiftly and then make a confident stroke on that line. Golfers who spend too much time reading a putt are often finding a way too miss, rather than trusting what they see so that they can make the putt.

1. Keep It Simple - Putting is one of the most simple motions found in sport. For this reason, the process of making putts should also be kept simple. When you examine the teachings of Dave Stockton you realize that his methods are profound, but always maintain a consistent level of simplicity. The effectiveness of his instruction is rooted in this philosophy.

About the Author This article was written by Jonathan Carr (@jonathanwcarr) as part of our weekly 'Top 10' series. As a scratch golfer himself, Jonathan has a keen eye for what it takes to be successful on and off the golf course. His passion for golf is surpassed only by his passion for his faith and his family.

Read some of Jonathan's other articles here.

About Dave Stockton

Dave Stockton is an 11-time winner on the PGA TOUR, 14 times on the Champions TOUR, and a Ryder Cup Captain. He is well known as one of the pre-eminent short game gurus. In addition to his many inspiring successes as a professional golfer and master instructor, he is also widely recognized for his humble and motivational philanthropic efforts and contributions.

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