Unlike the golf swing, there are almost no centrifugal forces at work in the putting stroke. Therefore, whatever you do at address pretty much determines what you’ll do with the putter during the stroke. In studying the best players on Tour, it’s easy to find common denominators in both their setup positions and strokes. Obviously, there are exceptions to every rule, but for the most part, common traits run rampant in the setup positions of great putters. Specifically, they establish four key setup lines.
A square putterface and a straight-back, straight-through path are crucial fundamentals for a solid stroke. These two elements control direction, which is undeniably one of the two most important aspects of good putting. However, perhaps the most important fundamental, rhythm, is often overlooked. Rhythm establishes the steadiness of the putting stroke and is the main factor in controlling distance and speed. Rhythm is the heartbeat of a good stroke, and is at least as important, if not more so, than any other aspect of successful putting.
Take a look at 99 percent of the putters designed today and you’ll notice that if you hold the face up to a flat edge, the shaft actually leans away from the target. Manufacturers use this design to ensure that you press your hands forward at address, preserving the loft of the club and promoting more consistent impact. The key to understanding and using this fact to your advantage is to make sure you’re setting up in the correct fashion at address. To accomplish this, press your hands forward to the belt loop of your pants, just to the target side of your belt buckle.
The keys to great putting are really pretty simple. You must hit the ball squarely with the putterface, keep the putterhead moving level to the ground and square to your target line, and swing the putter at the proper speed to roll the ball the desired distance. To accomplish this more consistently, I recommend a grip that’s a bit revolutionary, but extremely effective.
Even though we all do it from time to time, there’s really no excuse for missing a relatively straight four- to six-foot putt. Here’s a visualization trick I use with my students to help take the anxiety out of these putts.
The proper putting setup is an important ingredient in a golfer’s success. Setting the eyes in the correct position is one of the critical factors that’s often overlooked. On that subject, there are two schools of thought.
Acceleration is the increasing speed at which the clubhead moves through the ball and is important not only for hitting shots of substantial distance, but also for short putts. In fact, if you find that you’re missing too many short putts, the cause may be failure to accelerate the putterhead. Here’s a drill that will help.
To be a great putter, you have to have sound fundamentals. This requires a steady putting stroke that regularly sends the ball rolling in the desired direction. You also ought to have a clear idea of what direction you should roll the ball—not only in the first few feet, but also during the entire distance of the putt. To do this effectively, you need to know how the green breaks by looking at two components of the putt: speed and direction. Some instructors argue that speed is the most important factor in putting because it dictates direction—that is, more speed equals less break, less speed equals more break.
The secret to consistently putting well is to match your posture to
your stroke type. However, the conventional wisdom applied by most
recreational golfers is that while putting, anything goes (witness the
claw grip, the left-hand low technique and the belly-anchored stroke).
And while many a Tour victory has been fueled by an unorthodox method,
one fundamental shouldnt be ignored: How you stand to the ball
conditions how you stroke it.
A quiet body, a ball at rest, a short back-and-forth motion—how could
something so simple cause so many headaches? Its a question that
occupies the minds of touring professionals and weekend warriors alike.
Wouldnt it be great if putting was as simple as it sounds, where every
round was as automatic as the clinic Aaron Baddeley put on at Harbour
Town this year (97 putts over 72 holes)? Jeff Ritter, director of
instruction at the ASU Karsten Golf Academy in Tempe, Ariz., believes
putting isnt complicated. And to help solve your putting woes, he has
put together his No-Frills Putting Drills—nine straightforward,
no-nonsense exercises intended to be practiced on your own, without the
aid of an instructor. Practice these drills and, before you know it,
youll actually look forward to working with the flatstick.
Most recreational golfers don’t spend as much time on the practice putting green as they should, and when they do make the effort to roll a few balls for improvement’s sake, it’s usually done without purpose. Practice is most effective when you have a specific focus or goal and it’s the only method to truly improve your putting technique—and to easily drop a few strokes per round. The following Three-Speed Drill is a purposeful method for doing just that by involving four key areas of successful putting: green reading, concentration, speed control and accuracy.
The ability to control putterhead speed translates into the ability to control the speed of the ball and, ultimately, your ability to make more than your fair share of putts. If your control has become shaky, here’s a two-part drill to help you get the ball rolling at the speed you desire.
A tried-and-true method for becoming a lights-out putter
For most golfers, finding time to practice putting is difficult. In fact, it’s no easy task to find time to improve in any area of the game. Therefore, it’s essential that players not only create practice opportunities whenever they can, but also budget practice time to maximize effectiveness and create better habits.
Though diagnosed a hundred different ways, the yips begin with loss of conscious, directional control of the ball off the putterface. Next comes the resultant loss of confidence. And suddenly, the possibility of actually hitting a controllable putt into the hole becomes nil. Yikes!
It sounds crazy, but one-armed putting can improve even the worst putting strokes. Putting with your rear arm (the right arm for a right-handed golfer) helps instill a feeling of acceleration through the putt, which is absolutely critical for creating a smooth, end-over-end roll. Rear-arm putting accomplishes this largely due to the weight of the putter—with two hands, it’s easy to manipulate the club and make jabbing or decelerating strokes. But with one hand on the club, you don’t have the coordination or strength to manipulate the putter. You’ll need to rock your shoulders and control the stroke with your body, not your arm, two hallmarks of a fundamentally solid stroke.
For most golfers a left-hand-low grip cures all setup flaws
Every golfer is built differently, but in constructing a putting posture that will yield the most successful results, you have to take into account subtle, less obvious differences in build. The most important of these “anatomical fingerprints” is shoulder lines. When standing naturally, every golfer has shoulders that are either open (left shoulder behind right), closed (right shoulder behind left) or square. Most golfers have open shoulders, and the putting setup that best accommodates this anatomical structure is one that features a cross-handed (left-hand-low) putting grip.
There’s no quicker way to establish yourself as totally clueless on the greens—and to inspire confidence in your opponent—than to set up for a right-to-left putt, make a little pull stroke that sends the ball dead left, and watch the ball meander aimlessly on a path five or six inches below the cup, totally oblivious to the hole. Ditto the left-to-right breaker that you push well right of the hole. There’s a reason they call this “missing on the amateur side”—these are the putts that haven’t got a chance.
Golfers tend to get worked up about putting. They make it into a far more complex exercise than it has to be, which is why I often jokingly compare putting to performing brain surgery. No doubt about it, we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves as we stand over that little white ball and whisper a prayer before pulling the trigger.
Posture and balance in golf are extremely important if you want to be a consistent ballstriker. In fact, in all sports, balance is paramount. The next time you thumb through a sports magazine, look for a baseball player awaiting a pitch at the plate or a quarterback set in the pocket and ready to throw. In every case, you’ll immediately recognize the high level of balance all professional athletes possess.
Just like it is with the full swing, it’s easy for golfers to get sloppy while executing their putting strokes. By sloppy, I mean hitting the ball all over the putterface rather than striking the ball precisely on the sweet spot.