As an instructor, I've witnessed many different ways to play golf successfully, especially when it comes to putting. Throughout the history of golf, the art of putting has gone through numerous trends and fads. However, the fundamentals of good putting have always remained the same. No matter what style you employ, you must remember that good putting comes down to speed control and proper direction. How you choose to do it is up to you, as long as your stroke is both repeatable and comfortable. The following pages outline a few different styles to experiment with, all with the hope of helping you become a better all-around putter. Let's take a look, shall we?
When it comes to putting grips, there's really no wrong answer! Don't be afraid to try different styles if you find your current grip isn't helping you make more putts. The cross-handed grip can help if you have trouble leaving the putterface open at impact. The 10-finger grip may help add some hinge in the wrists and release some tension.
Unconventional grips like the claw grip can help remove unwanted wrist and hand motion. No matter what grip you choose, the goal of the grip is to keep the clubface square at impact. This can be achieved by having the hands placed on the club in different ways, as the above photos illustrate.
Remember the feel from putting comes right through your grip, you need to also be aware of grip pressure. The key is to maintain the grip pressure in both hands throughout the stroke. Just be sure that when you experiment, you stick with one style for a while. The last thing you want is to change up so often that you lose faith and confidence in your grip.
First, is a pendulum motion even necessary toward good putting? Some say yes, some say no. One thing for sure though: A pendulum-driven stroke is a great starting point. If you're having trouble decelerating on the backstroke or forwardstroke (a.k.a. "the yips"), practice making smooth, rhythmic, pendulum strokes. You can either putt with a ball or without, just remember to concentrate on an even speed and distance back and through the ball. This will help smoothen out your stroke.
The number-one fundamental for proper direction is having the club face square at impact. As I mentioned in the grip section, your grip pressure is crucial to maintain the same pressure throughout the stroke. If the right hand increases grip pressure, it will close the putterface, and the ball will go to the left, and if the left hand increases, the putterface will go to the right. The goal is to achieve balanced pressure from start to finish to keep the clubface from twisting. My favorite drill is the one-hand stroke. Putt a few with just your left hand and a few with your right hand on the club. You will feel immediately which hand likes to take over.
Another area where I've seen differences in successful putting strokes is with stance and feet alignment. Since putting doesn't require a long swing, the lower body's goal is to stay still. Some players accomplish this with a wide stance, while others like to have a narrow stance to feel centered. Either one will work as long as you keep the weight distribution the same throughout the stroke. There's no transferring of weight in putting. Stay balanced. Don't be afraid to mix it up and try something new!
A very confusing fundamental for putting is alignment. There have been great putters like Ben Crenshaw who putted with an open stance and great putters like Gary Player who putted with a closed stance. If you look at the pictures below, you'll see that the key that all great putters possess is to keep the shoulders and arms square to the target line. Changing the feet alignment can help some golfers see the target line easier. Just remember that your arms and shoulders need to be aligned correctly.
A BALANCED STROKE (pendulum) has equal speed and distance on the backswing and forwardswing. This method is usually preferred by golfers who putt more with a rocking motion using the shoulders and little wrist action. In addition, this stroke is useful for golfers who prefer the straight-back and straight-through approach. Just remember, there's no true straight-back and through stroke. You'll always swing on a slight arc because you stand to the side of the ball.
A POP STROKE has a longer backswing and a shorter followthrough. No, that doesn't mean decelerating on the forwardswing; rather the putter comes to a quick stop after impact. I've seen this stroke used on slow greens successfully, and from golfers who prefer a firmer grip.
If this suits you, consider using it more on longer putts; and on shorter putts, loosen up a little more on the followthrough. You'll have a better chance of controlling your distances and avoiding overpowering your short putts.
The ACCELERATOR stroke has a short backstroke and a longer followthrough. It's a stroke I've seen on Tour, since it favors golfers who play on fast greens. The short backstroke helps golfers hit more putts more solidly, making it a viable choice to keep the putter online. Hence, more short putts are made. For longer putts, it may be tricky to judge distances, but again, it's up to the golfer. In any case, all three strokes are worth considering the next time you struggle with your putting. There's no one right way to do it, as long as you're making the most of your putting opportunities.
Rick Sessinghaus, PGA, teaches at Chevy Chase Country Club in Glendale, Calif. For more information, visit ricksessinghaus.com.