#1 You Have No Routine If you look at any great player, he or she has a routine for every shot. And when it comes to putting, better players know that sticking to a routine is necessary for making consistent strokes. Now, what kind of routine should you have? That's up to you. Just try and incorporate what I'm doing here, which is looking at the putt from behind the ball, about halfway down the putting line and one more look from behind the hole. This helps to get a clear picture of the slope and speed. All that's left here is for me to make a couple practice strokes and hit the ball. Just remember, this is my routine because it happens to work well for me. Consider trying your own practice routine, and experiment with looking at the putt from different angles, making practice strokes from behind the hole or even counting your steps to get a numeric value in your head as far as distance is concerned. No matter what routine you develop, the most important aspects are don't waste too much time (the routine should take a minute or two) and always be sure to do it before every putt. Make your routine, routine!
#2 You Practice The Wrong Putts When I watch the practice putting green, I can't tell you how often I see people practicing the wrong putts. And although practicing 45-footers may be fun, you're not likely to have many of them during your round. Odds are, the vast majority of your putts will be from 15 feet and in. So, start with a 15-foot putt and work your way in toward the hole. To test yourself, see if you can make three in a row from each length. Finally, if time permits, go ahead and roll that 45-footer if you'd like. But don't be surprised if you never have to putt one that length the entire day.
#3 You Have One Style Has your putting proficiency vanished? If so, no worries. It happens to all of us once in a while. The key is getting your confidence back, and one way to do it is to try a new grip. New grip styles help take the focus off your actual stroke and sometimes can actually help rid your stroke of the dangerous yips. Most of all, don't be fooled by what others may tell you. No matter how odd your new putting grip may look, if it works, then stick with it!
#4 You Are Too Tense A general rule of thumb in golf is, if you're tense when you hit a shot, you're going to get even more tense when you see the results. The same goes for putting. If your arms and hands are tense, and you're virtually choking the putter, you'll become ineffective at making a smooth, steady stroke into the ball. To release some tension, take a few practice strokes and really concentrate on feeling the weight of the clubhead, and attempt to lag it behind the ball on the forwardstroke. Th is will promote better speed and directional control and will significantly increase your feel.
#5 You Don't Aim It If your putter and golf ball have alignment aids, don't be afraid to use them! Confirming your aim helps you focus more on the stroke and leads to more solid putts. Just remember to align the mark from behind the ball, and make sure it's aiming at either the hole or where you want the ball to initially start rolling. Taking advantage of any alignment aid will only increase your chances of holing putts.
Jay Larscheid, PGA, is director of golf at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, Ariz. For info, visit longbowgolf.com