Here's another easy tip to apply the next time you're on the putting green. Simply place a golf ball about six inches behind your ball and make a stroke. If you miss the ball (swinging either above it or to the side), then your backswing path is offline or too steep. Take a look at the illustration, and you'll see that I actually knock the second ball as my putter swings back. When I do this, I know that my putter is not only moving along the correct path, but is also the appropriate distance above the ground (ensuring I'll make solid contact). Solid contact is absolutely vital if you want to be a successful putter because it helps start your ball off on its intended line and with good energy, too.
Place a ball six inches behind the one you're putting. If you miss it, your stroke is either too steep or offline. To groove the right stroke, knock the ball every time.
Richard Stanwood teaches golf at Osprey Meadows at Tamarack Resort in Idaho.