One of the most overlooked aspects of putting is making sure you have solid contact. Not many people think about it, but how you make contact with the ball when you're putting can greatly affect your ability to make putts. Most mis-hit putts are the result of a too-slow tempo, a hesitation at impact and a too short of a followthrough. This can result in off-center hits, improper face angle and twisting of the putterhead.
What can you do to work on hitting the ball solidly? If you have a standard heel-toe putter, you're in luck (sorry, mallets don't work so well for this one, folks). What I like to do to help improve my tempo and contact with the putter is to use what I call the toe putt. Quite frankly, this means gripping the putter on the side of the grip and putting the ball with the toe pointing at the ball. As you try this, the point isn't so much to see how many putts you can make or to impress your buddies the next time you want to show off. Instead, practicing the toe putt helps you impart a more pronounced impact with the ball and a followthrough that's directed toward the target, much like hammering a nail into a board. After a few tries doing this drill, go back to the standard way of putting. I bet you'll instantly feel as though finding and hitting the sweet spot on your putter is a lot easier, and your putting will improve.
And one more thing about the toe-putt. There's another use for it, if you're so inclined to give it a try. If you find your ball up against the fringe or even rough, using the toe-putt technique (it's perfectly legal, by the way) can help you pass the putter through the thicker grass and make better contact with the ball. Fred Couples and Vijay Singh have done this a few times in situations where there isn't a lot of room behind the ball to rest the putter.
Give it a try the next time you face a tough putting lie from just off the green. The toe-putt might be just the shot to help you make a birdie or, at worst, two-putt for an easy par.
Mark Bereza, PGA, is an ANNIKA Academy Instructor, Certified Callaway Performance Center Clubfitter at the ANNIKA Academy in Orlando, Fla. Visit theannikaacademy.com.