Putting is the most neglected element of the game. A strong statement l know, however in my estimation more time and effort is focused primarily on driving and iron play, especially among amateurs. The consequence being that after all the hard work is done to get to the green, it is undone by not knowing what to do when you get there.
If you think about how significant a putter is to reduce your score in a round, that is a sad epitome of the game. People place a lot of importance in a putter but don’t follow through on it. Tour players spend a lot of time on the green. Amateurs will drop a ball on the way from the car park and off they go. They are not working on their stroke, pace, or anything. Very few people will go and spend 30 minutes practicing. Few people have dedicated passion to practice, so I’m never surprised that the putting stats for amateurs are so poor.
1. There’s a reason you leave it short
A lot of amateurs tend to look ball-to-hole, and that’s it. But there are stats out there that show the majority of amateur golfers come up short with their putts. The philosophy behind that is that, because they haven’t looked behind the hole, they don’t know what’s there, nor do they have any confidence. It’s almost like the unknown. The metaphor is this: if you walk into a room with all the lights on, you’ll walk in quite confidently. If the lights are off, you’ll walk in a little bit gingerly. Naturally, you’ll be a bit more cautious if the lights are off and you’ll be more inclined to feel your way around. So, if you’re not aware of what’s beyond the hole, it won’t allow you to execute a free-flowing stroke and you’ll be hesitant to hit into the unknown. Tour players are great in the way they analyse the whole putt. I’m not trying to promote slow play in any way, but if you at least recognize what is behind the hole before you hit your putt, mentally it will give you the opportunity to deliver a slightly more committed stroke.
2. Accelerate your stroke
To have a good putting stroke you need consistency and repetition. It doesn’t matter whether your stroke is in-to-in or square-to-square, you are looking to have an accelerating stroke. What you are not looking to do at any time is for the putter to slow down at impact. That will only add to the skid. You want a slightly accelerating stroke. At the very least, the stroke should be the same length at either side of the ball. Ideally, the through swing should be just fractionally longer than the back swing.
3. Try one-handed putting
One-handed putting is used by lots of tour players these days but it’s certainly nothing new. Tiger Woods, for many years, was one of the best putters in the game and he has done this quite a lot. Many players putt one-handed to get a better feel for the greens. At your own course, your green speeds will vary from week-to-week so my advice is to just hit a couple of long putts, from 15ft to 25ft, just get a feel for the putter. Try to get a feel for the weight of the putter head as the ball comes off the face. Using one hand and not two will help you judge the pace and get a better understanding of the correct feel.
One more tip…
If you grip is too hard your forearms will tense up and this will reduce the amount of feel you have. There is all sorts of nonsense on how hard you are meant to grip the club, but here’s an easier tip on how hard to grip it. If you were going to grip it as tight as you can – where you think you’re going to snap the shaft – you would class that as ten on a scale of 1-10. If the putter is falling out of your hand, you would class that as 1. You want to be 3 or 4 on that scale when it comes to grip pressure. Because there is no great change of pace in the movement you don’t have a firm hold on the putter. You want to make sure it’s not twisting through impact – but you want to maximize feel so you’ll need a lighter grip. Reducing tension in your forearms allows your shoulders to rock – they won’t be inhibited. This will improve your feel and performance, particularly on longer putts.
Your golf score is never going to improve if you can’t putt. Strokes on the green amount to about half of your strokes in a round of golf and it is absolutely essential to be able to get the ball in the hole. Becoming a good putter starts with a solid putting grip.
The proper wrist position is different in the putter grip than it is for the swing grip.
The very best putters are ones who do not roll or release the wrists at all. The proper golf grip for the putter is one that keeps the wrists and hands as static as possible. To consistently strike the ball cleanly, the wrist of the lead hand must remain firm and not move. One of the hottest players on the PGA tour right now is Steve Stricker whose success is credited to his ability to putt. He achieves excellent results by lining up his forearms on opposite sides of the putter with his palms facing each other.
When you keep your wrists and hands firm in the putter grip you control your distance with your arm swing. The farther you take the putter back, the longer the ball will roll. Do not try to control your distance by hinging and unhinging the wrists, it is extremely difficult to achieve consistent results.
There are a number of grips being used in the game of golf today. It is hard to say that one is better than another; you have to find which one is best suited to you through experimenting and practice. The grip is the overlap which most closely resembles the grip used for other shots. Left-handers should place their right hand on the grip first and then lay the left hand over the top of it. The index finger of your right hand should lie on top of the lower fingers on your left hand.
After the overlap the most common grip is the two fingers grip. In this case you will hold the club in the fingers of both hands and then point each index finger straight down the shaft. Professional golfer Mark McNulty has used this grip quite successfully on tour and is regarded as one of the best putters on the P.G.A. tour. Pointing the fingers down the shaft helps lock the wrists in position so they don’t breakdown during the swing.
A similar grip that is becoming more common is known as the box. This grip calls for placing the palms facing each other onto the club. As the name suggests your hands should form a box shape around the putter grip. Some golfers will use a cross hands approach. For left-handers this would mean placing the right hand lower on the club than the left. Those who switched to this putting grip have usually done it because they have been suffering from the yips and blown a number of short putts. It provides a little more stability but makes longer lag putts a little more difficult.
The style you choose does not matter as long as you can repeat the swing consistently. The key to good putting is keeping the hands as quiet as possible and executing a good arm swing to get the ball rolling. Think of your arms as a pendulum swinging back and forth.
Putting On Line
The easiest way to cut strokes off your golf score is to become a better putter. Making more one putts and eliminating the three putts is sure to get you out of the 90’s. The secret comes down to choosing the line, reading the green and feeling the pace.
Learning to read the green is the first step in putting well. Knowing how the putt is going to break is essential to choosing the line to hit the putt on and determining how fast the green is will tell you how hard to hit it. To determine the break take a good look at the green and examine the slope and contour. Examine the grain of the green and check to see if you will have to putt with the grain or against it. When you putt into the grain the putt will be much slower than when you are going with it.
As a rule the faster the greens the less the ball will break. The same principle applies if you are putting downhill because the quicker that the ball rolls the less it is going to move. Take this into consideration as you choose the line for your putt. Determining the pace is a matter of feel. Make sure to give yourself some time before your round on the practice green to gauge the speed.
One common trick many golfers use to determine the break is plumb-bobbing. Kneel down, hold your putter by the top of the grip and let it hang straight down facing the hole. The putter head will swing in the direction that you should strike the putt to get it going on line. As you look, close your weak eye and examine the break through your dominant eye (probably the left for most left-handers ) Another good way to determine how a ball will react on the green is to watch the shots of your competitors as they land. Information is the key to finding the line.
Once you find the line it won’t do you any good if you can’t hit the ball on that line. Alignment is critical to making a good stroke. Square the putter to the ball and take the club straight back and follow straight through. Make sure to keep your speed the same going back and coming through the ball. One very common mistake by most people is to slow down the club as they strike the ball.
The only way you are going to become a better putter is through practice. While most golfers will go to the driving range and hit balls to groove their swing, many neglect spending an equal amount of time on the green refining their stroke. Remember, half of all shots in your round are putts. Therefore practicing your stroke is very important for those who would like to improve their overall scores on the golf course.
The first thing to work on when you get to the putting green is your alignment. You are not going to hole many putts if you can’t get the ball started on your target line. The simplest way to practice this is to lay two clubs on the ground, side by side forming a chute to the hole. Practice your putts between the two clubs, making sure that your backswing and follow through stay inside the chute formed by the clubs.
Practicing using the clubs will also help you develop the proper arm swing for your putting stroke. The image that most teachers will tell you to picture is a swinging pendulum. Move your arms and shoulders from side to side in the same manner that a pendulum swings back and forth inside a grandfather clock. You don’t want to use your wrist in making the putting stroke. Control distance by how far you swing your arms back.
Another way to groove your swing and make sure that you are rolling the ball properly on the green is to mark your ball with a thick line. Align the line on the ball with the hole and hit the putt watching to make sure that it rolls end over end toward the target. Most of today’s putters have lines on them as well to help you set up properly to your target.
The most difficult of the putts is the long lag putt. The key to eliminating three putts is to be able to get up and down in two from anywhere on the green. Using the pendulum style of putting can make the long putts difficult so many pros have gone to what is known as the piston technique. In the piston technique the right arm and the club hang directly below the right armpit (for left-handers . The left arm is then used to take the club back and push the putter through the ball towards the hole.