For most people, putting must be the most frustrating part of golf. It’s the shortest stroke, it’s done on the most manicured part of the course and many people are just lost in trying to do it correctly.
This article on how to putt in golf, is aimed at the ordinary golfer, not those of you who are lucky enough to hold a 14-or-better handicap….most of you guys are already good at putting.
For the ordinary golfer, trying to do what a professional does is hard to imagine, such as regularly dropping in 12-foot putts. I’m not a great golfer overall, but I am a good putter so I hope my knowledge will help other ordinary golfers out there.
Putting is actually very simple. It doesn’t require the hand-eye coordination of a full swing, where your club head can be moving at 80-90 mph and you have to hit the ball with the centre of the face. For putting, what you need is discipline, not necessarily talent.
You’d be surprised how many golfers don’t do the right things before they putt. This is where most of the problems lie.
Before you go out onto the course, make sure you have a putter you love….not like, love.
I don’t care what level golf you’re playing or what your budget is, buy the putter that feels the best. It could be a $5 bargain-bin special or it could be a Scotty Cameron Select Putter 2018 Newport 2….golf’s not cheap – but it can be incredibly frustrating, especially on the putting green. Whatever your budget, spend your money wisely.
If you’re a novice, but serious, you will replace your first set of clubs within 2 years as they can be rubbish. But your putter will make a difference in your game from the very beginning and last for many years.
Look at me, I’ve tried about a dozen or so over the years, but now I keep going back to the Ping Anser putter I bought some years ago. It was a mad price for me at the time but I don’t regret it for a minute.
The putter is the most diverse club, so try at least a dozen before buying one. You’ll know it has a great “feel” when you hit your second putt. It’s fine to buy your putter on line, PROVIDED you’ve either tried your buddy’s and you love it or you’ve tried it out in your local golf store first.
Markers Are Important
As a courtesy to other players, use a marker that is small and tamps down flat with the green.
Big, fancy, thick markers may look nice, but other players’ putts can hit them and change direction. Alternatively, you will be regularly asked to move your marker and you don’t need that.
Pick any ball you like – but play with that ball. Don’t play with whatever you found on the course.
For most of us ordinary golfers, the type of ball won’t make much a difference tee-to-green, because we don’t have that kind of distance control.
But, please remember, balls putt very differently.
Some are quite soft and others are hard – thereby reacting differently to a putting stroke. Cost may be important to some people, but overall, balls are typically one of the cheapest parts of golf. For those of you for whom it does matter, buy used “mint condition” balls or buy some other balls.
What’s important is that they are the same. Otherwise the same strike will result in two very different distances and, as we all know, lag putting is all about distance control.
Also, don’t forget to bring a damp towel, about the size of a face cloth is fine.
Preparation On The Green
First, mark your ball. If you’re in a rush, you won’t and you’re in trouble right there. Stop reading now….if you’re not going to take your time, there’s no point in putting.
Second, fix your pitch mark – I’m assuming you’re a lucky guy and just dropped your short iron shot onto the green. It feels really good to do this and inspires confidence in your next shot not to mention keeping the green in shape for the other players.
Third, clean the ball of debris and grass stains. Yes, even the stains, because they will distract you…hence the wet cloth.
Aim At Target
Plumb your putt for every putt over 3 feet. Under 3 feet, you can see the ball and hole in your cone of vision and the break is very rarely an issue.
Stand on a line behind the ball, facing directly at the hole. Hold the putter gently in your dominant hand (right for most people) so it hangs freely. Close your left eye. Ensure that when you look “through” the bottom of the shaft, it cuts your marker in two. Then look up towards the hole.
The shaft at that point will be left of the hole, right of it, or straight through it. The side the shaft appears on, is the “high” side (e.g. if the shaft is left of the hole, the putt will turn from the left to the right). You need to aim towards the high side, so the putt will curl down towards the hole.
On puts of around 10 feet, a good rule is to aim about twice as high as your plumb indicates. So if your shaft position projects 3″ to the left, aim 6″ to the left. As the putts get longer, your aim must be a bit further out than the shaft projection and with shorter putts, lesser out.
Walk on the low side of the line from your golf ball to the hole and count your steps. You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll be able to correlate distance and the force with which you strike the ball.
Also, this will let you feel whether the putt is uphill, downhill, and/or side-hill, and how much.
Place your ball
Next, set the ball down. Every golf ball has a line on it of some sort so aim that line almost precisely where you want the ball to go…this should be easy and quick.
Back up and take a look at both your mark and the ball. Ensure the ball points precisely where you want it to go and, if not, adjust it.
Pick up your marker.
Virtually every putter has a line or notch in the middle that points where you want to hit the ball. Put this line immediately behind the line on the ball. Some putters have two-balls on them, making lining up even easier.
Pinemeadow Golf PGX SL Putter..click on image for more information
Point this line in the same direction.
Stand over the ball.
You should be in a comfortable athletic position, feet around body-width apart. The key is that the bridge of your nose (between your eyes) should be directly over the ball. You can test this on the practice green by placing a ball against the bridge of your nose and letting go. If it hits the ball on the ground, you’ve got it. If not, your head’s in the wrong place.
Set Your Body
Basically, this is a minimalist move. The only part of your body that moves is a rotation of your shoulders around your spine.
The putt doesn’t use your wrists or elbows. If these parts move, your putt will do crazy things. But there’s a huge tendency to do this – especially for people who have the “yips”…yips is a term for when people are second-guessing themselves in the middle of the stroke.
Hold the club with your arms as straight as you can.
Ensure your hands are “at” the ball – neither ahead of, nor behind the ball. Unlike all other golf swings, this one does not need forward lean.
Striking The Ball
Some people like a short backstroke while others prefer a long one. But the mark of a good putter is a long follow-through. The reason is, it proves there was commitment to the putt. It forces you to go “through” the ball, helping ensure it goes on the line you just spent so much effort choosing. A short jab is very likely to go off line and end up short.
If your problem is in moving your wrists, one solution is a fat grip on your putter. It is very tempting to use your wrists but it’s the “death knell” for a putting stroke. Why? Because it leads to inconsistency in the putting strokes……the more moving body parts, the easier it is to get it wrong.
On short putts (under 3 feet), the break almost never matters. If it does (because the green is so side-sloped), you’ll know it – it won’t be subtle. Otherwise, on these short putts, never aim away from the hole. Centre of the hole will almost always be good enough.
Don’t be afraid – hit the damn ball. You want enough speed to ensure that if it doesn’t go in, it’s 12″ on the other side.
What Are You Hoping For?
On a lag put (your first one, assuming it’s more than 6 feet), all you really want is to leave the ball as close as possible within 3 feet of the hole, preferably on the low side (i.e. short if it’s uphill, long if it’s downhill).
I know that it’s common wisdom never to want to leave a putt short, but there’s a very big difference, statistically, for an amateur golfer, between 3′ uphill and 3′ downhill.
The reason is that just about everyone has full confidence that they can make a 3′ putt. In some friendly games, it’s a “gimmie”.
Go to your practice green, and (if the pro will let you), draw a 3′ radius circle around a cup. If he won’t let you, then use 8 balls to form a circle, each 3′ from the cup. This will give you a 6′ diameter circle – as wide as I am tall!
I bet that with a little work, you can stop 90% of your balls in that circle from almost anywhere on the green. Now you’ve got an “easy” next putt. When this is your objective, see how your confidence improves.
Of course, this practice does not provide a guarantee – nothing does. But for 90% of ordinary golfers, it will improve your putting. If a bogey golfer can limit the 3-putts to one per round, that’s usually 2-4 strokes off the game….and it’s easy.
Oh yeah. If you want to get better, you have to practice. But now you know what to practice.
I was careful to say I’m a good putter, not a great putter. These tips will not have you holing every 30-footer. Heck, tour pros are under 50% from 8 feet. But this approach has made it so that I am confident that I can two-putt from virtually anywhere.
Having Too Many Thoughts?
“You can’t think and hit at the same time”
Have you noticed that just about all of this answer is about preparation and very little about swinging? There’s a reason for that. All the preparation takes most of the thought out of the swing.
Worried About Time?
This is a long article and many of you are probably afraid that the preparation process will take a lot of time. You don’t want to anger your fellow-competitors by being slow.
Nonsense. Four of us playing together are good for 4 hours or less. We don’t engage in time wasting like looking for lost balls for more than 15 seconds. We walk to our balls, take one practice swing each, and then we hit. We talk as we walk….
A natural ability to perform precise motions at relatively slow speeds combined with a firm belief in one’s ability that I just mentioned above…that is how to putt in golf.
Of course, your experience may differ! Find what works for you. And yes, it’s ok to have a putter and a cup at home….
That’s it for today, I hope you found this article helpful….either way, a comment can be left below.
Cheers for now,