Ask most Tour players what they’re thinking about on those days when they make nearly every putt they look at, and they’ll tell you “nothing.” There’s no noise in their head. They trust that their setup and stroke fundamentals are solid and their mind is free and clear to put their best stroke on the ball. They see the hole and see the ball rolling in before they ever hit the putt.
This effortless “zone” is what GOLF Academy lead coach Todd Sones explores in his latest book, In the Zone: Learn to Putt Like a Champion. For the book, Sones interviewed several great putters, including Luke Donald, Brad Faxon, Steve Jones and Hilary Lunke, and asked them what it is they thought about when they’re putting their best and when they’re putting not so good. Their answers, along with the knowledge that Sones has gained working alongside such major champions as Jones, Hunke and Shaun Micheel, all points to one thing: It’s what you do with your setup, routine and everything that happens before you pull the putter back that matters most.
“Any time I work with a Tour player they never give me mechanical thoughts when they’re putting well,” said Sones. “But when they’re putting bad they start talking about mechanics, and they have to get their head cleared. The book is about learning to set up in a way that allows you to make a fundamentally good stroke without thinking about it, so when you’re over the ball you can free your head up, look at the hole, trust your stroke and go.”
The average recreational golfer blames every miss on their stroke and is in constant fix-it mode, says Sones. They don’t think that the problem lies with their setup, and thus they never work on the basic fundamentals of grip, posture, ball position and alignment. As a result, it’s hard to putt with any consistency on the greens, let alone in a zone.
“Luke [Donald] said it best. He said when he was off, he went and worked on his routine,” said Sones. “He figured out what went wrong with his setup and what was causing the problem in his stroke. The whole book is about figuring out what’s wrong with the stroke before you swing the putter, so that if you fix it in the setup you don’t have to fix it in the stroke. If you try and fix your stroke while it’s in motion, you’re going to putt horrible.”
In In the Zone, Sones goes into detail on the four essential skills you need to learn in order to putt consistently well enough to get in the zone: 1) how to develop a sound, reliable putting stroke that holds up under pressure; 2) great speed control and touch; 3) good green reading skills (so you can choose a line to start the ball on); and 4) how to aim the face of the putter square to the start line you’ve chosen. Chapters 2 through 5 all get into the setup and, among other things, where your eyes should be relative to the ball at address and where your hands and shoulders need to be in order to square the face and control the path of the putterhead.
As an added bonus, there’s also a chapter on getting fit for a putter and the basic essentials you need to know regarding length, lie angle and swing weight.
In the Zone is Sones’ fourth instruction book and second book about putting, joining Lights-Out Putting: A Mind, Body, and Soul Approach to Golf’s Game Within the Game, which was published in 2000. To purchase a copy of In the Zone today, please visit amazon.com or toddsones.com.