Every golfer has heard the adage “drive for show, putt for dough” and there’s good reason for it (although driving has become more important in the modern game). Putting is an essential part of the game of golf and can often make or break a round. Mastering the art/science of putting can greatly improve your overall performance on the green and ultimately lower your score. So, we’ve got some tips on how to putt better. We’ve gathered them from our own experience on the course and from watching some awesome instructional videos.
How to Putt?
1. Understanding the Basics
- Grip: Begin by holding the putter with a soft grip. Too much tension in your hands can make your putt jerky or off-target. Many players prefer the reverse overlap grip, where the index finger of the top hand overlaps the fingers of the bottom hand.
- Stance and Posture: Your feet should be roughly shoulder-width apart with the ball positioned slightly ahead of the center of your stance. Bend from the hips, allowing your arms to hang naturally, with your eyes directly over the ball.
- Putting Stroke: Unlike a full golf swing, a putting stroke is straight back and straight through. The shoulders drive the motion, with minimal wrist action.
2. Have the Right Equipment
- Putter: Choosing the right putter for your style and preference is crucial. There are many different designs, such as blade or mallet, face-balanced or toe-hang, which can greatly affect how the ball rolls off your putter. Unfortunately, many amateur golfers don’t have a putter that fits.
3. Reading the Green
- Visual Inspection: Examine the terrain. Are there any slopes or undulations? Typically, the ball will break or curve towards the lower areas.
- Feeling with Feet: As you walk, feel the ground beneath you. Sometimes your feet can detect subtle changes in elevation that your eyes might miss.
- Grass Grain Direction: The direction in which the grass grows can influence the ball’s speed and direction. Generally, putting with the grain makes the ball roll faster and against the grain makes it roll slower.
4. Distance Control
- Pendulum Stroke: Ensure a consistent backswing and follow-through length. This will help you gauge distances more effectively.
- Practice: Invest time practicing various lengths. Develop a feel for what a 10-foot putt feels like versus a 30-foot putt.
5. Starting the Ball Online
- Aim Point: Once you’ve assessed the green, stand behind the ball and pick a target in line with your putt. This will allow you to align your putter face and body accurately.
- Draw a line on the ball – (Optional)
6. Build a Pre-Shot Routine
Develop a pre-shot routine that works for you. Similar to shooting a free throw in basketball, this will help calm nerves and promote consistency in your putting stroke. And it should build confidence for the player right before they putt.
This video by Brad Faxon on the Rick Shields YouTube channel is hands down the best one on how to putt. It’s a 40-minute watch, but trust me you’ll learn so much that it’s worth it!
Different Types of Putting Techniques?
There are different types of putting techniques that golfers can use depending on personal preference and the situation on the green. Some common techniques include:
Conventional Putting Stroke
This is what most beginners are taught. The grip is similar to that used in a full swing but with the thumbs pointing down the flat front of the putter grip. The stroke is guided by the shoulders with minimal wrist action, following a “straight back, straight through” path.
Reverse Overlap Grip
Common among many professional golfers, the reverse overlap grip involves placing the index finger of the lead hand (left hand for right-handed golfers) over the fingers of the trailing hand. This promotes a more stable wrist position during the stroke.
Cross-Handed or Left Hand Low (for right-handers)
This technique involves reversing the position of the hands on the grip. For right-handed players, this means the left hand is below the right. It helps to level out the shoulders and minimize wrist break, which can be beneficial for some players who struggle with conventional grips.
The Claw or Pencil Grip
A more unconventional grip, the claw involves gripping the putter with the lead hand in a conventional manner while the trailing hand grips the putter in a way similar to holding a pencil or a claw. It helps players who struggle with wrist movement during the stroke.
Arm Lock Technique
Popularized by players like Bryson DeChambeau, the arm lock technique involves using a longer putter that rests against the lead forearm. This method stabilizes the wrists and arms during the stroke.
Though anchored belly putters are now banned in professional tournaments, the belly putter technique involved anchoring the end of the putter into the golfer’s stomach, which helped stabilize the hands and arms during the putting stroke.
Long or Broomstick Putters:
These putters are much longer than standard ones and are anchored against the chest. Like the belly putter, the objective is to stabilize the stroke; however, they can be used without anchoring, which makes them compliant with current rules.
Side-Saddle or Face-On Putting:
In this method, golfers stand facing the hole (or nearly so) and swing the putter like a croquet mallet. The theory behind this technique is that it’s more intuitive to aim when facing one’s target. I was surprised that I’ve actually seen a few players play this way.
3 Great Drills To Help Improve Your Putting
1) 3 Foot Circle
Setting Up the 3-Foot Circle Drill:
- Locate a Hole: Find a hole on the putting green where you can clearly see the entire surrounding area.
- Place Golf Balls: Set up six to eight golf balls in a circle around the hole, each exactly 3 feet away. You can use your putter to measure this distance as most standard putters are around 3 feet in length.
Performing the 3-Foot Circle Drill:
- Start With One Ball: Begin by putting one of the balls from the 3-foot mark.
- Work Your Way Around: After putting the first ball, move to the next ball in the circle, and continue this pattern until you’ve putted all the balls in the circle.
- Objective: The goal is to make all the putts in succession. If you miss one, start over from the beginning. This adds a bit of pressure to mimic game situations.
- 25-75: Use a backswing of 25%, and follow through of 75%. You want to be aggressive in your short putts.
- Challenges: To make the drill more challenging over time, try to beat your previous record for consecutive putts made. Alternatively, you can increase the distance or incorporate breaking putts to add variety and challenge.
- Consistency: This drill encourages a consistent putting stroke as the repetitive nature of the short putts allows players to make minor adjustments and understand their stroke better.
- Pressure Management: As you progress and try to beat your records or complete the circle without missing, you simulate the pressure of making short putts during a round.
- Confidence: Regularly practicing and succeeding in the 3-foot circle drill builds confidence. When faced with a short putt during a game, you’ll be more likely to recall the many times you’ve sunk the putt in practice.
2) Gate Drill
Setting Up the Gate Drill:
- Choose a Straight Putt: It’s essential to pick a straight putt to start with so that you can focus purely on your stroke and not the break of the green. Over time, as you become proficient, you can introduce putts with breaks.
- Place Your Ball: Set your golf ball down on your chosen line.
- Set Up the ‘Gate’: About a foot in front of the ball, place two tees in the ground, slightly wider than the width of a golf ball. This creates a ‘gate’ for the ball to pass through.
Performing the Gate Drill:
- Aim and Stroke: Take your stance and make your putt, trying to get the ball to pass between the two tees. If your putter face is square at impact and your stroke is on line, the ball will roll through the gate without touching the tees.
- Adjust and Repeat: If the ball consistently hits one of the tees, it’s a clear sign that your putter face is either open or closed at impact, or that your stroke path is inside or outside. Adjust your stroke and try again.
- Increase Difficulty: Once you’re consistently rolling the ball through the gate, you can make the drill more challenging by moving the tees closer together or by increasing the distance of the putt.
- Immediate Feedback: The drill provides immediate feedback on the quality of your stroke. If the ball doesn’t pass through the tees, you know you’re not starting it on your intended line.
- Improved Putter Face Alignment: By ensuring the ball goes through the gate consistently, you’re training yourself to keep the putter face square at impact.
- Builds Confidence: There’s a psychological benefit to seeing the ball pass through the gate repeatedly. Over time, this boosts confidence in your ability to start the ball on your chosen line, especially under pressure.
3) Pace/Distance Control
Setting Up the Pace Control Putting Drill:
- Choose a Starting Point: Select a point on the putting green as your starting location.
- Set Up Targets: Place a series of tees or ball markers at intervals from your starting point. Common distances are 3, 6, 10, 20, 30, and 40 feet, but you can adjust based on the space available and your practice needs.
Performing the Pace Control Putting Drill:
- Sequential Putts: Start by putting a ball to the first tee or marker (e.g., the 10-foot mark). Your goal isn’t necessarily to make the putt but to get the ball to stop as close to the target as possible.
- Progress to Further Distances: After the first putt, move on to the next distance, adjusting your stroke to account for the increased distance.
- Cycle Through Distances: Go through all the distances you’ve marked out, then start the sequence again. As you repeat the drill, focus on making any necessary adjustments to get the ball closer to each target.
- Reverse Order: Once you’ve gone from the closest to the furthest distance, try going in reverse order, starting from the longest putt and working your way back to the shortest.
- Improved Distance Control: This drill helps you get a feel for how hard to strike the ball for varying distances, which can improve your lag putting and reduce the number of three-putts.
- Adapting to Green Conditions: By practicing on different greens and under varying conditions, you’ll learn how to adjust your pace based on the speed of the green.
- Building Confidence: Knowing you can consistently get the ball close from various distances will boost your confidence, especially in pressure situations.
Additional Variations and Tips:
- Vary Your Starting Point: Don’t always start from the same spot on the green. Vary your angles and starting positions to encounter different breaks and slopes.
- “Ladder” Variation: Try to putt the first ball to the 10-foot marker, the second to the 20-foot marker, the third to the 30-foot marker, and so on. Then, without resetting the balls, try to putt the next ball to stop just short of the first ball, the next just short of the second, and so forth. This variation really tests and refines your touch.
- Focus on Follow-Through: Ensure your follow-through is smooth and consistent. Often, a good rule of thumb is that your follow-through should be about the same length as your backstroke.