One of the greatest golfers of all time, Arnold Palmer, once said, “Putting is like wisdom – partly a natural gift and partly the accumulation of experience.” Putting is also often regarded as the least golf part of golf. What I mean by that is that it is completely detached from the full swing – instead of hitting the ball, you are stroking it. Instead of trying to hit it 300 yards, you are trying to make a 3-foot putt.
There is some correlation between good golf swings and good putting strokes. One of the most critical factors of a good golf game is feel – the intuition of knowing how far the ball will go with a certain length of stroke or swing. Putting your ball on line and with good speed requires excellent touch, but sometimes, this feel eludes golfers, leading to mental obstacles on the greens that make putting much harder than it needs to be.
In this article, we’ll explore a series of putting tips (some technical and some mental) that will help improve your overall golf game. Let’s jump in by establishing the foundations of great putting.
Setup and Grip
Because putting requires precise outputs – a small error in the start line will lead to the ball missing the hole – you must make sure that you’re correctly aligned before you stroke the ball.
To ensure suitable alignment, start by aiming the putter face at your target (more on this later) and sit the putter head directly behind the ball. Many putters have lines set up on top of the head to help you set up the ball with the putter.
After setting up the putter, step into the ball and try to be as parallel as possible with your shoulders, hips, and feet. That being said, some of the best putters of all time do not set up entirely parallel. Putting is all about being comfortable, so make sure that you are set up comfortably no matter what you do.
When it comes to grip, there are many options to choose from, from Tiger Woods’s conventional grip to Chris DiMarco’s claw to Jordan Spieth’s crosshanded grip. Like alignment, the key to a good grip is that you feel comfortable with it.
Once you learn how to set up well to each putt, you can begin working on the four components of putting: speed, start line, stroke, and reading greens. We’ll explore some tips in each section and then introduce some drills that could help you improve your skills in fun and engaging ways.
Tips for Speed
Improving your speed is crucial to improving your skills on the greens. Losing strokes on the greens, from 100-shooters to the best players in the world, comes primarily from inconsistent speed. Let’s start by exploring a source of inconsistency: tension.
When we try to will the ball in the hole, we often get tight in our shoulders, forearms, and hands. We might feel more in control in doing so, but this is a farce. Think of tossing a ball to a friend: you’d do so with a relaxed arm, not one that is entirely rigid!
The intuition is similar for putting. To practice being more comfortable over the ball, focus on your breath, and only start your stroke after breathing out. By doing this, you’ll establish a better putting touch.
“Putting for Score” Drill
A putting drill I love to use to develop speed control is one I call the “putting for score” drill.
Start by taking nine tees and place them at 5-foot intervals from 10 feet to 45 feet. Then, take one of your irons, and place it three feet behind the hole you are putting to. Using three balls, putt to the hole and score each ball in the following manner: -1 if you make the putt, 0 if the ball finishes between the hole and the club, and +1 if the ball ends short of the hole or hits the club.
Your goal is to never go over par after finishing a set distance. Repeat this process for each length. In total, if you complete the drill, you should hit 27 putts and end at a score of 0 or lower.
The Towel Drill
Another drill I enjoy is one that works great before going to your tee time. Take a golf towel and place it flat on the practice green, far away from any hole. Then, hit a few putts from 30+ feet and try to stop them on the towel.
This drill is not focused on any score but rather on getting your golf game accustomed to the speed of the greens on that certain day.
Tips for the Start Line
The second most important component of putting is getting the ball to start where you’re aiming. While speed is king, you must start putts on the right line consistently to be a better putter, especially when it comes to shorter putts.
The Role of the Hands
There are varying opinions on how you should use your hands while putting. On the one hand, some proponents say the trailing hand should provide the power and that the left hand should only “be along for the ride.”
Yet, how your hands work mainly depends on your putting grip. For example, if you use the claw grip, your bottom hand (right hand for right-handed golfers) will “be along for the ride,” with the leading hand doing most of the work.
Regardless of how you implement the role of your hands, make sure to try out grips that depend on either hand and see what works for you.
The “One-Inch” Marker
An excellent putting tip from Dave Stockton is an adaption from Jack Nicklaus’s famous intermediate target to putting. By choosing a spot an inch or two in front of your ball where you wish to start your ball, you will lower your margin for error. All you need to do is start your putt over the spot and you can rest assured knowing that you hit your putt on your desired line.
Dave Pelz Putting Tutor
The Dave Pelz Putting Tutor is by far my favorite putting aid. My putting has improved immensely by using this training aid. I’ve loved trying to string together as many good putts (going through the gate) as many times as possible.
I highly recommend using this tutor to teach your body how to improve your golf stroke so you start each putt on line. This being said, there are many great aids on the market: simply searching up putting golf training aids on the internet will lead you to products from brands like Visio, Momentus, and more.
The 80-Putt Drill
While it sounds daunting, this drill is sure to improve your start line and consistency. For this drill, hit 30 putts from 3 feet, 25 from 4 feet, ten from 5 feet, ten from 6 feet, and five from 10 feet.
I recommend doing a diagnostic test the first time you go through it and trying to improve upon that score every time you do it. Try the 80-putt drill once or twice a week and maintain your focus throughout each putt for the best effect.
Tips for the Stroke
Starting your ball on line and having the right distance are both keys to good putting, but it all starts with the stroke. Developing a smooth and consistent putting stroke is crucial to making a consistent motion every time.
Keep Your Arms Connected
One of the most relevant modern putting tips is to rock the shoulders. While this advice might not work well for everyone, I believe that a great piece of advice is to keep your arms connected to your body through the stroke.
To do this, have the back of your forearms stay attached to your stomach, and rock the shoulders from there. In doing so, you create a putting stroke that uses more big muscles instead of smaller ones, making a more consistent putting stroke.
Tips for Reading Greens
Starting putts on your desired line is an essential skill to have, but it’s not worth anything unless you’re able to effectively select the right line. Here are some tips on how to read greens more accurately.
Focus on Speed
When reading a putt, the first thing you should do is focus on the speed. Is it uphill, or is it downhill? If it’s downhill, focus on hitting the putt so that it dies at the front edge of the cup. If it’s uphill, you have a bit more leeway. Focusing on speed more than anything will lower your three-putts, thus lowering your score.
The Last Third
A great way to read greens is by splitting a putt into thirds. You can read greens this way by looking at each segment independently and then judge how the ball will break cumulatively. Since the ball will be moving slowest in the final third, pay extra attention to what happens in this component, and your margin for error will decrease significantly.
The Mental Side of Putting
It can become quite challenging to carry over your putting technique when you take your skills from the practice putting green to the actual golf course. It can be tough not to get rattled at a few missed putts during a round, primarily when you have worked hard to improve your skills. However, that is where the best golfers separate themselves from the rest.
The Preshot Routine
Regardless of whether you are hitting full shots or short putts, the preshot routine is one of the most crucial parts of your golf game.
In putting, it is essential to approach each putt the same way, whether it’s a straight 3-footer or one of those treacherous downhill putts that scares almost anyone. For example, no matter what, you should make the same amount of practice shots before every putt.
Repeatability in your preshot routine is the key to making sure you’re prepared to hit your putt. Make sure to practice your routine on the practice green to take it out on the golf course.
The Post-Shot Routine
As Chi Chi Rodriguez once said, “I never pray to God to make a putt. I pray to God to help me react good if I miss a putt.” It doesn’t matter whether you holed the putt or not– what is most important is that you committed to your target line and did your best to hit a good putt.
Also, the golf ball won’t act differently if you get mad at missing a putt, so it’s mostly futile to be angry at a missed putt if you were committed to the shot at hand.
Recap: Puttings Tips to Help Your Game
To sum up, great putting comes from a mix of great technical and mental skills. While your putting game is merely a component of your entire golf game, being a good putter will ease pressure on the short and long games, as your putter will bail you out on more occasions.
In golf, putting can be one of a golfer’s greatest strengths or greatest weaknesses. But, if you can significantly improve your putting, your golf game will improve tremendously (and you will be amazing at miniature golf).
If you are looking for more putting tips, I always recommend you visit a PGA certified instructor. If you don’t have the time to do so, feel free to check out more golf posts that might help.