The simple task of rolling a golf ball to a hole a certain distance away, would be considered by most to be the easiest skill to learn in golf. On the other hand, it tends to be one of the least practiced parts of the game, and therefore one of the biggest contributors to additional strokes on the scorecard. It’s a fact, over fifty percent of your shots are taken from the putting surface… it seem illogical not to practice it. Meanwhile Joe Schmoe hits his driver a maximum of fourteen times a round, but practices it 70 percent of the time. Something doesn’t add up.
If you want to lower your scores, improve your putting, it’s as simple as that. A good putter will beat a good driver of the ball any day.
Learn the putting basics, practice your stroke and lower your scores.
Author’s Note: Putting is the most individual and unique part of golf. Every player is different in the way they grip, stroke and putt the golf ball. These putting stroke fundamentals are very general basics and will not work for everyone. Use these tips as a basis, find what is most comfortable for you and stick with it.
Be positive! Getting discouraged about your poor putting is most likely the cause of your crummy putting in the first place. By having doubt and indecision over the ball, you are basically giving your brain permission to interfere in your ‘perfect’ fundamentals. Your brain tries to fix something, usually resulting in a ‘steering’ of your putt. You miss, and you get more discouraged. It’s a negative spiral… be positive, and watch the putts drop.
Stability is very important during your putting stroke, as such, a shoulder width stance is the much preferred method of addressing the ball. Both are square (facing straight ahead) and are aimed parallel to the target line. Your body weight should be centered 50/50 and you should feel relaxed and comfortable over the ball.
Putting Ball Position
I. Depending on the speed of the greens many players like the move the ball forward and back in there stance. For slower greens the ball tends to be more centered in the stance, and more towards the lead foot on faster greens. Letting the ball position creep back of center is usually frowned upon as it cause a descending blow into impact and helps to make the ball jump and skip during a putt.
II. Despite the many alterations and different styles of putting, one fundamental of ball position is quite universal. Your eyes should be directly over the ball at address. A great test is to get in your setup position and either hang a string from the bridge of your nose or drop a ball to determine exactly where your eyes are positioned over the ball. This helps to ensure proper alignment as your eyes are directly over the target line.
Putting Body Position
I. To properly get your eyes over the ball, you must bend over at hips (effectively sticking your butt out), and your arms should be able to hang naturally. This should give your arms enough space to swing back in forth without any influence or interruption for your stomach or chest. It should be an uninhibited motion.
II. Try to reduce head, eye and body movement. Any movements besides that of your arms and shoulders is counter- productive during putting. It tends to produce many miss-putts and a tendency to ‘steer’ the ball. Head and eye movement is also the number one cause of the ‘yips’. Try to keep your eyes on the space between the ball and your putter head long after the ball has left the clubface, before looking up.
I. I won’t even begin to talk about the hundreds of different style grips there is out there. I do have one comment though; grip the putter lightly, about a 2-3 on a 1-10 scale of grip pressure. This will ensure that there is no resistance in your hands from tight muscles that will influence the direction of your putt.
II. Tension in the arms is a killer as well, be relaxed over a putt… you need to have loose arms, wrists and hands to ensure a free-flowing stroke.
The Putting Stroke
I. For best results, work on making your stroke as smooth as possible, try to ‘roll’ the ball rather than ‘hit’ it. The smoother the stroke, the better the contact and the better the roll… work on making your stroke smooth and watch the putts drop. To do this, the best ‘swing thought’ is to rock your shoulder back and forth slowly, like the pendulum of a grandfather clock.
II. A huge killer in putting, especially is shorter putts is deceleration. A player will slow down into impact for many reasons, but most commonly its uncertainty or fear of missing. Make sure you accelerate into impact… slowing down will produce many missed putts and a larger fear of putting. I cannot stress this enough, make absolutely sure you accelerate through into impact.
III. The backswing should be about the same length as the follow through. A longer follow-through usually promotes deceleration and a short one promotes a ‘stabbing’ motion (short, abrupt putt).
Putting style is as individual as fingerprints. Using the fundamentals as a starting ground, work to find a stroke that works best for you and stick with it. Below are the fundamentals I think every great putter has; try to add these ‘Laws” to your current putting style.
1. Have a stable stance and setup.
2. Keep your eyes, head and body still.
3. Be confident and sure of stroke.
4. Eyes over the ball.
5. Ball at or ahead of center of your stance.
6. Feet aligned parallel to the target line.
7. Grip the club lightly
8. Accelerate, Accelerate, Accelerate
1)“Breaking my wrists in a putting stroke is a bad thing.”
This is not necessarily true; breaking your wrists slightly can help add the fluidity of the putting stroke. Many great players used to break their wrists during their putts, the best of them all Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. If your stroke is all arms, it tends to be too rigid, and doesn’t perform well on the course. Work to find the happy medium between the motion of your arms and wrists during your stroke.
2)“For longer putts, I must accelerate more into impact.”
The best putter’s in the world have close to the same tempo on every one of their putts, the only difference between their stroke on a five foot putt and a thirty foot putt is the length of their backswing. Use the length of your stroke to judge distance, not the speed of your stroke.
3)“I must keep my eyes on the ball.”
If you want to watch the ball miss the hole, please do keep your eyes on it. Otherwise, keep them focused on the ground well after you’ve hit the ball to make absolutely sure your head remains still through your whole stroke. Following the ball with your eyes during putting tends to cause head and eye movement before impact, which can negatively influence the outcome of your putt, so don’t do it.