Being a better putter, that’s every player’s goal who really understands the game. After all, the flat stick is the one we use the most during every round played. The problem with putting is that there are more styles, stances and systems than for any other part of golf.
Just look at the range of putters available. It seems like every week another company comes out with the latest space age contraption. And of course you can get them in every length from your knees up to your chiny-chin-chin.
There’s also been a proliferation of putting coaches and training aids to help you hone the perfect stroke. Many of today’s top Tour players have coaches just for putting as this is what usually separates first place from everyone else (and allows them to eat pretty well, too!).
So what’s the secret of being a better putter? For one thing, you have to find the setup and stroke that’s right for you. It’s my belief that there is no one ‘right’ way to putt. Just look at the game’s best putters and you’ll find as many different putting styles as players.
For example, Jack Nicklaus was a great putter who had a very hunched over style. Tiger Woods, who many feel is the best putter in the game today, stands very tall. It’s sort of like finding your soul mate, there’s someone out there for everyone, you just have to find them.
Finding The Right Setup
How do you find the right setup? I’ve never come across any system that helps you determine this. I don’t think there are any shortcuts, you just have to take the time and try different styles until you find one that feels comfortable, comfortable being the key word.
Every golfer who has played much knows that you can be set over a putt and you almost know in advance it’s going in, while other times it feels like you’re holding a broomstick in your hands. For every golfer body type and mental outlook, there is a ‘best’ putting setup and stroke.
Remember, first and foremost you have got to be comfortable over the ball. Do what I did last winter. Find a place indoors to try different putting styles, being attentive to what feels right.
Trust your body, it probably knows more about what’s best for you than your brain does. Put at least 10 or 15 minutes every day. Slowly you’ll start to find the setup characteristics that feel the best to you.
Here are 7 putting secrets that are almost universally accepted as true today. The “secret” part is you may know these but they could be lying dormant in some dark closet along with your mold-invested golf shoes. Now’s the time to bring some light and consciousness to them!
1. Keep your Head Still
This is critical. I don’t care what kind of putter or stroke you have, if you lift your head at impact or just after you aren’t going to be a good putter. Here’s a good benchmark: on anything shorter than 4 feet, you should hear the ball fall in the cup before you look up.
2. Use the Big Muscles to Putt
This means rocking the shoulders to move the putter. The big muscles are more consistent and less prone to twitches. Keep the wrists stable through the entire stroke.
3. Make as Smooth a Stroke as Possible
Please make a stroke as smooth as possible (with your own unique tempo) and accelerate the putter head through the ball. Simple, right!
4. Keep your Grip Light (and fluffy!)
I mean really light, particularly on short putts. By doing this you let the mass of the putter head move like a pendulum which is the best way to make sure the putter strikes the ball squarely and online. If you grip tightly you are going to get the yips, no two ways about it.
5. Learn to Read Greens
You can have the best stroke in the world, but if you can’t pick the right line you aren’t going to putt well. More on this coming soon – don’t worry – we gotcha covered.
6. Putt to Your Natural Tempo
Peter Kostis made an interesting point recently when he mentioned that your putting stroke should resemble your general overall swing temp/rhythm.
He mentioned Ben Crenshaw who had a smooth, rhythmic overall full swing and also one of the smoothest most beautiful putting strokes ever. It would be odd to add a pop-like putting stroke if you had a Ben Crenshaw-like swing. Get things syncing together. Make it easy on yourself.
7. Practice – Then Practice Some More
Oh no, you’d knew I’d say that, right?! You have got to spend time on the putting green if you want to get better. Putting is all about feel and the only way to produce feel is to practice. And practice with a purpose. There are a lot of golf books and web sites that can give you a lot of excellent putting drills.
Here’s one last bonus tip that I got from Jack Nicklaus that has helped me tremendously. Once you have your line, pick out a spot a few inches ahead of the ball and make sure you putt over that. Think about it, if you’ve read the green correctly and have the right speed then the ball will go in the hole if you hit that spot.
This also helps keep your mind from ‘adjusting’ your aim during the through stroke. David Pelz has documented this all to common occurrence among pros and amateurs. If your mind is focused on something a few inches in front, it will be more of a help than a hindrance.
Hey, and if you’re putting well, you’ll be surprised at how many of your playing partners end up buying the same putter as you – see if you can get a little cut on that action!
PS: I mean golf, overall, is never an easy sport. It seems to come and go at times. But, then again, golf is not like playing bingo.