Golf putting is one of the least taught and least understood parts of the amateur golf game, but improving your putting is the best way to reduce your handicap.
To prove that to you, think for a moment about how many putts you took in your last round?
FACT: For Most Golfers, Golf Putting Accounts For More Than 40% Of Their Shots!
But how much of your practice time do you spend working on your putting?
How would you like to reliably take 3 or 4 less shots every time you play a round and put the FEAR OF GOD into your match-play opponents when you take your putter out?
Improving your putting is the most reliable and easiest way to achieve this, so let’s dive right in and see which fundamentals you need to master to become a putting king on the green.
The Putting Grip
Your putting grip is the first crucial element that you need to get right, and it’s worth checking it from time to time to ensure you haven’t slipped into any bad habits.
A good putting grip will help you master two most vital parts of becoming a great putter:
- It will ensure you deliver the putter head at exactly right angles to the path of the putt. Remember – whatever the putter head does, the ball will do!
- Since your putting grip is the only contact point with the club it provides you with feedback from which you can learn the feel. From this you can learn the most important part of putting – controlling pace.
Unlike your power grip (woods and irons) which is very much in the fingers, your putting grip should be in the palms of your hands to ensure there is NO wrist movement.
If you’ve watched some golf on TV, you would have seen a number of different putting grips employed by the pros, but all of them have some things in common – the basics.
Whichever putting grip you choose to use you need to ensure you have got the basics correct, including:
- Where the putter lays in your hands
- How your hands are aligned on the putter – the palms should be facing each other just like you clap, and your thumbs should be pointing straight down the putter grip (which should be flat on the front to help you)
- Your putting grip pressure – but what is even more important is maintaining the same putting grip pressure throughout the stroke (try practising with your eyes closed to help you work on this)
How you stand when you putt (your putting stance) is trying to achieve two key things which will move you another step closer to being a great putter.
Your putting stance must provide you with a solid platform. Unlike your power swing (driver and irons), during your putting stroke there should be absolutely NO body movement at all.
Also the correct putting stance ensures that you can swing your arms correctly which in turn will ensure you deliver the club head to the ball on a straight line.
There are many other elements of your putting stance that are important and will help turn you from a good putter into a great putter including:
- How far over you should bend (this is critical)
- What angle should your neck be in relation to your spine
- How your weight should be distributed. From a front to back perspective your weight should be distributed 50/50. From a left to right view you should spread your weight 60/40 – 60% being on your left foot for a right handed golfer
- How far apart your feet should be to give you that solid platform you need. And remember – if it’s really windy you need to get your feet really wide to help you stay stable in the wind
- How relaxed or tense you should feel when you putt. This is really difficult to show you, but on the DVD
As a final tip to improve your putting stance, try putting with your eyes closed and without a ball, and really focus on your body movement. There should be absolutely none, and you’ll be surprised how much more you can feel when you do this practise drill.
Take a look at this picture from pgacoachonline.com
If you’ve built a great grip and a solid stance, you won’t be reaping the rewards if your putting alignment isn’t perfect.
Putting alignment is another critical element of your putting stroke, and if you get putting alignment wrong the chances of starting your putt off on the correct line are extremely slim!
Putting alignment is broken down into two parts:
- Your body alignment in relation to your target (where you are aiming which ironically is not at the hole!)
- The club head alignment to the ball which (at impact) should be precisely 90 degrees to your target
To achieve the best putting alignment you need to ensure all parts of your body are aligned parallel to the to target line, specifically your feet, hips and shoulders – your shoulders being the most important part (and most difficult to get right!).
Without having these right you will really struggle to swing the putter along the correct line.
One great way to ensure your body alignment is correct is to place two parallel clubs in front of you and stand with your feet resting against one and your putter running along the other one (just like railway tracks). Then ask a friend to help check your shoulders are aligned parallel with your feet (or check in a mirror if you’re at home).
Perfect Ball Position
By now you should be getting the message that each part of the putting stroke is as important as the other, and that if you have not got every element correct then you’re unlikely to become a great putter.
Your ball position is the next important part to add to your great putting grip, solid stance and perfect alignment.
Unlike the full swing, the ball position for a putt never changes. When your ball position is correct it ensures that you strike the ball consistently on a slight upstroke. This is to ensure you do not impart any back spin on the putt which makes the ball grip the grass and gives you very inconsistent distance control.
If the ball is too far back, in extreme situations it can actually make the ball jump off the green for a split second or you can catch the putting green first and then fluff the putt completely.
On the other hand if the ball is too far forward you might ‘thin’ it and not hit the ball out of the sweet spot.
Also if your ball position is wrong you’re much more likely to start the ball off on the wrong line and you’ll automatically try to compensate for this and ‘steer’ the ball which will again lead to inconsistency.
Getting the ball position right is not difficult, but you need to check it once in a while to ensure you haven’t slipped into any bad habits.
Ball Striking – How to find the sweet spot
You must still remember the first time you swung a golf club and with the slightest of apparent effort absolutely nailed it and the ball flew for miles and miles!!
This is when you’ve struck the ball with great timing and right out of what’s called the ‘sweet spot’.
Every single golf club has a sweet spot, including your putter, but when you are putting clearly you’re not trying to hit the ball as far as you can.
However, striking your putt out of the sweet spot will help you with the most crucial part of putting, and that is consistent distance control, or pace.
To check how consistent your strike is, next time you are practicing, don’t aim for an actual hole, but hit (say) 4 or 5 putts with exactly the same length swing at the same tempo.
If your strike is consistent (and you’re using the same type of golf ball), every putt should roll the same distance, give or take an inch or so. If not you need to work on your strike.
Unfortunately there’s more to a great strike than simply hitting it out of the sweet spot. If only it were that easy !!
Over and above finding the sweet spot you also need to perfect your tempo and ensure the putter is still accelerating when you strike the ball.
Golf Psychology – it’s all in the mind!
Golf Psychology will help you control your state of mind under pressure
Golf psychology is such a huge subject that we could easily build a whole site just dedicated to golf psychology, and here we are only scratching the surface. But it can make a HUGE difference for golfers of all abilities – if you commit to working at it.
Golf is a very unique game in that in a typical four hour game of golf, only a very small proportion of this is actually spent taking shots.
Between shots your mind can wander, and if you’re not having the best of rounds quite quickly your chin can literally go down which can put you in a very negative emotional state for playing golf.
This is not ideal!
Golf psychology helps us control our emotions, which in turn can help us control our physical bodies. This can affect all parts of your game, but is particularly important when you are putting since the smallest of changes can cause you to miss.
Try to memorize the following key golf psychology points and then build them into your game. They are all key points that will steadily make you a better and more consistent putter:
Have a strict and consistent routine before every putt. When you’re faced with a real pressure putt, don’t change anything in your routine. Don’t take an extra practise swing, don’t have another look at the hole – just repeat your consistent routine
Remember – you are trying to hole every putt
Once you have read the putt and picked your line, commit 100% to it.
Think about the things you can control. You can control your routine. You cannot control the condition of the greens.
Remember some good putts that you have holed in the past and this will give you confidence
You must realize that missing putts is part of golf and always ask yourself, “what can I learn from that putt?
Visualize yourself having success
If you have been struggling with your putting tell yourself that you are learning to become a good putter as this is more believable than telling yourself that you are already a good putter.
Stay in the present moment. Don’t think about the last putt that you missed, or the tee shot you’ll be facing after this putt – stay in the present.
Finally try this little exercise next time you play a round. When you’re walking between shots, try to NEVER look down – always keep your chin up and look ahead not down at your feet. You’ll find it surprisingly difficult, but it can help keep you in a much more positive state of mind which is crucial in golf.
Basic Putting Stroke
Now you’ve got that perfect putting grip (with consistent grip pressure – remember!), ideal stance, great alignment, spot on ball position and you’ve just run through your preshot routine, now you’re standing over the ball and ready to putt!
During the actual putting stroke, there are still some key factors you need to master to ensure you make the best of your great set up.
The most important ones are:
How you should swing the putter.
Of course this sounds simple, but you need to ensure you are using the shoulders to swing the club. This will give you consistent distance control and won’t break down under pressure.
Your body and head should remain perfectly still during the putting stroke. One great tip we can give you now is to NEVER look at the hole when you putt. Just listen for that ball dropping into the hole – it’s such a sweet sound when you hear it!
TEMPO, TEMPO, TEMPO.
Watch any of the golf professionals and you’ll see how consistent their tempo is. It doesn’t matter how long a swing they make, the tempo is the same and this gives them consistency.
If you swing the putter back 2 feet on the backswing, you should swing it at least 2 feet through after you strike the ball.
It’s ok for you to have a slightly longer follow through than your backswing, but it must never ever be shorter since this will mean you are probably decelerating the club head which will give a poor strike.
Perfect putting practise makes perfect.
Imperfect putting practise makes…… imperfect !!!
The three most important things to remember about putting practise are:-
Most amateur golfers spend far too little time working on their putting and short game, and ironically putting is such an easy part of your game to work on. All you need is a flat piece of carpet and you can work on many parts of your putting – all from the warmth and comfort of your home!
Also very importantly you need to practice the right things that will ingrain good habits into your putting stroke, and for this you need feedback to prove to yourself that you are executing things correctly, such as:-
- Have you aligned your club face correctly?
- Do you have the ball in the correct position?
- Are your shoulders aligned correctly?
Without this feedback you are quite likely to repeat faults during your putting practice which will soon become habits, and this is fatal.
It’s so hard to unlearn faults once you’ve grooved them into your swing!
For the putting practice sessions you’ll need two blow up cushions, a lip salve, and a glass of red wine.
There is no ‘scientific’ definition of what constitutes a short putt, but the most widely accepted one is that a putt less than 8 feet is classified as a short putt.
This was ‘discovered’ by a genuine ex-NASA scientist called Dave Pelz who conducted a long study and found that when a putt is longer than 8 feet, the chances of holing the putt start to fall massively, even for the professionals.
Check out our golf statistics page for more interesting putting statistics…..
So – why do we make this distinction and what difference does it make to your putting?
Whatever length putt you have, the most critical element you need to focus on is always the pace. It’s not quite as crucial for short putts, but it’s still hugely important.
Without enough pace your ball won’t get to the hole.
With too much pace your ball can ‘sling shot’ out of the hole.
Your technique for all putts should remain the same, but for short putts you should pay special attention to the following points, and this will help you hole more of those crucial putts:
- Make a shorter backswing. This will encourage you to accelerate through the ball and get a good strike;
- Keep your head and body completely and totally still;
- You should never ever look at the hole – listen for the ball dropping into the hole
Holing those crucial short putts can make or break your round and can often help you win holes in matchplay situations, so practise short putts as much as you possibly can!
Medium and Long Putts
As we mentioned, a putt less than 8 feet is generally considered to be a short putt, but there is really no distinction between medium and long putts.
When you are faced with a putt longer than 8 feet you need to pay attention to three vital elements:-
It’s all about the pace on the longer putts since this will determine how much the ball turns (fast moving balls turn less) and of course how far the ball will travel.
To control the pace is easy in theory – simply take a longer swing to make the ball go further!
But in practice it’s very difficult, and amateurs nearly always try to hit it harder by using the wrong muscles and getting tense.
Really try and work on this as much as you can. Hit lots of putts with your eyes shut, a nice soft grip (and don’t change it during the stroke!), and just feel which muscles you are using to swing the club. On every putt you should be using the same muscles to simply rock your shoulders – just vary the length of your swing to alter the pace.
It’s also very important to try and leave yourself an easy second putt if your first putt doesn’t drop, which in reality even for the professionals is quite likely! Ideally you want to leave yourself with a short uphill putt for your next putt.
Even if you have the best putting stroke and distance control in the world, if you struggling with reading greens you simply won’t be able to hole any putts.
Reading greens is an art form in its own right, and many amateurs struggle with this part of their game. Experience will definitely help, so try to play on a variety of courses if you can.
In Europe golfers only have to be concerned with the slope of the green and weather conditions, but in America and most of the rest of the world we also have to contend with different types of grass. There are a number of types, the most common being Bermuda and Bent grass which are designed to cope with more extreme weather.
The type of grass can play havoc with reading greens because the blades of grass can affect where the balls goes. The putt may look as though it will turn from right to left, but it turns the opposite way because the grass leans that way. This is called the grain.
So – how do you see the grain?
If the grass is shiny it means the grain is growing away from you
If the grass is dull it means the grass is growing towards you
How does the grain affect your putt ?
- If the grain is growing to the left – the putt will turn to the left – this is also called the ‘break’
- If the grain is growing to the right – the ball will turn or break to the right
- If the grain is growing away from you – it will make the putt faster
- If the grain is growing towards you – it will make the putt slower
- And finally bear in mind that the grain direction changes during the day because it follows the sun!
Start looking at your putt even before you get to the putting green – look at the slopes on and around the putting green as you’re walking up to it. If the surrounding ground slopes from left to right, you can be 99% sure that the green will also slope from left to right to help with drainage.
Once you get onto the green make sure you look at your putt from as many angles as you can (without holding your playing partners up! ) and try to learn from other players’ putts but remember you are not allowed to stand directly behind another player when they are putting.
If you’re in doubt about which way the ball will turn, hit it straight!
Finally – once you’ve picked your line, commit to it, have confidence and trust your ability to reading greens.