“I PUTT MY BEST when I have a sense of gentleness in my hands, my stroke and the way the ball comes off the putterface. Then the ball rolls consistently, which might just be the secret to fine putting.”
by Jack Nicklaus, Golf Digest 1986
The fundamentals of putting are like other basics of the golf swing. Putting requires a light grip, relaxed stance with your arms hanging with your elbows slightly tucked to your hips, and eyes positioned over the ball.
The putting stroke is like a pendulum motion – swinging back and forward at nearly the same speed, accelerating slightly down the line.
The objective is to get the ball rolling smoothly with the proper pace for distance!
STROKES to PAR – putting accounts for half the strokes in a round of golf. If par is 72, 71, or even 70, then 36 strokes are given for putting – 2 x 18 = 36.
Practice these fundamentals:
- SETTING UP – light grip pressure, open stance and upright posture, eyes positioned over the ball in view of the face of putter. To set up, take an open stance, your weight slightly favoring your left side and your putter shaft leaning slightly toward the target. The open stance makes it easier to feel the left hand going down the target line.
- PACE = Distance Control – is all about judging the speed of the greens, reading the break, and adjusting the speed of your swing relative to distance of the putt. The key to distance control is to just roll the ball, not hit it.
- PENDULUM MOTION – it is easy to mimic a pendulum motion of a grandfather clock and stay online; it is easier to control speed and not really be consciously think about accelerating – it will become a consistent natural motion.
- NOTE: The left hand is the direction hand, and it’s just as important as the right.
When you make the stroke, keep the putterhead low to the ground past impact letting it rise gently down the line … the putter will ascend slightly down the line, so DO NOT try to consciously hit up on the ball.
The GRIP – Putting requires a slightly different grip with the position of both thumbs on top of the grip as close together as is “comfortable”. With your thumbs close together you get a sense of putting with both hands, not competing for control one over the other. Remember to Grip the putter lightly, with just enough pressure so that you can SENSE the weight of the putter head and better feel ball contact.
Putt with both hands! Think about the back of your left hand and palm of your right hand facing the line of your putt moving together in a pendulum motion down the line. If you ever let one hand dominate the other, it will be disastrous. Relax your grip and putt with both hands. The goal is to just strike the ball cleanly and “let it roll”!
Putt with confidence – and trust your instincts – As you practice and play more you will become familiar with how to play on and around the greens. Over time you will develop an “inner voice” that will provide you a vision of what you need to do to get the ball on the green and in the hole. Once you learn the routine of shot selection, club selection, and simple execution – you will have learned to finesse the ball and improve your score.
Practice the basic fundamentals and you will be putting like a pro:
Grip the putter lightly – Gripping the putter lightly increases the sensitivity of your hands. As you practice putting a sensitive grip will help you judge the speed of the green so that you can adjust the pace of your putting stroke. Gripping the putter lightly will also improve the mechanics of your swing and allow you follow through down the line – setting the direction of the ball and increase your ability to consistently make shorter putts. Gripping the putter lightly removes the tension in your hands, wrists, forearms, neck and shoulders and helps improve your rhythm and tempo. A lighter grip will also keep you from trying to steer the ball – and allow you to lightly stroke the ball thereby releasing the putter head through the ball.
Accelerate – All golf swings require that you accelerate the club head through impact and finish the swing, and a solid putting stroke is no different. Releasing the putter head simply makes it easier to complete the stroke with all putts – short putts, long putts, uphill and downhill putts must be completed by accelerating the putter head thru impact.
Select the line and pace the distance – pace is more important. Setup along the line you select counting the number of steps. This will help you learn to connect the distance and pace your putting stroke to determine the speed of your putting stroke. Once you set up over the ball to putt look at your target and trace a line from your target back to your ball and imagine your ball following the line breaking towards the hole and hitting the back of the cup. Then just putt focusing on making good contact and enjoy the result. Again – Putting requires that you focus on the line that you select before you set up to putt. Pace the distance to your target. For longer putts use the flag and focus on the base of the pin picturing your ball slightly tapping the back of the cup as it falls. For shorter putts always remove the pin and focus on the back of the cup picturing your ball diving into the hole and tapping the back of the cup.
Practice putting whenever you get the opportunity – it’s the most important part of the game – 50% of the Game of Golf. The key to becoming a good putter is that you must acquire a feel for your putter and the speed of greens and adjust to both. The goal is to develop a good putting rhythm and tempo. Practice putting by hitting longer putts 36 to 45 feet from the pin – about 12 to 15 paces. This will help you determine the speed of the greens and the pace of your putting stroke. Always putt in rhythm with a long putting stroke allowing the club head to continue down the line and finish towards the hole after impact – work to develop a solid feel at impact and smooth swing tempo by using a steady cadence by counting off “one – two”! Imagine and practice a putting stroke that resembles a pendulum with a swing tempo with a 1 – 2 cadence.
Reading the greens – many golfers have good putting skills (good mechanics) yet never seem to make any putts. As you practice your putting take time to read the greens too! Practice putting breaking putts of different lengths – left to right, right to left, downhill and uphill. Pick your line and stroke the ball “down the line” and “end over end”. Let the speed of your putt and line feed the ball towards the hole.
The object is to NOT to guide the putter down the line – just release it with the right speed and direction and let it roll towards the hole. Pace the distance of each putt and count your steps. This will give you an inventory of distances and speeds that you can use throughout the round and build confidence in the pace of each putt. For tips on Reading Greens read what Phil Mickelson’s caddy of 25 years Jim ‘Bones’ McKay has to say! 10 tips for reading greens
Practice routine for putting before a round of golf – After learning the speed and pace of your putting stoke from longer distances proceed to practice holing out each putts to gain confidence in making shorter putts imagining a final score of PAR. This practice routine before you tee off will “feed your minds eye” the information needed to feel confident with each putt and turn on your imagination when chipping, pitching and putting.
STROKES to PAR – putting accounts for half the strokes in a round of golf. If par is 72, 71, or even 70, then 36 strokes are given for putting because 2 x 18 = 36.
Ben Crenshaw’s Putting Secrets