If you want to shave a few strokes off your game then putting is most often the first place you should focus. It is essential that every golfer knows how to putt. You might not sink them all but you should feel confident on the green.
Bobby Locke is considered as perhaps the greatest putter of all time by golfing aficionados and the origins of the phrase “You drive for show, but putt for dough” is attributed to him.
No commitment is made that you will be in his league after this article, but we will provide some guidance on how to putt it to the best of your ability.
Putting is an individual art that requires you to feel comfortable standing over the ball and pulling the trigger to drop the ball into the hole. It requires loads of feel thus becoming great at putting will not happen overnight. You will have to work hard at it.
- Conventional Reverse Overlap Putting Grip
Feel Versus Technique
To become a great putter, you have to combine the technical aspects and develop the feel of the green and the putt.
As you only have 40 seconds to hit your putt when your turn comes around, you must have a good idea of what you expect the ball to do.
Golfers like Bryson DeChambeau have developed a system that offers them the technical expertise on how far to take the putter back for specific distances. That will help you to develop your technique and speed control to a certain extent.
However, this will only assist in straightforward putts.
Putting on an undulating green with changes in the way it slopes and grain direction, you require a good feel of how the ball will react to every change.
If you are concerned about putting technique, then you are already eating too much time into the allotted 40 seconds to hit the putt. Keep your technique as natural and relaxed as possible.
Speed Versus Line
Another combination that has to be coordinated to sink more putts is speed and line.
There are three lines to get your ball into the hole. All of them are determined by the speed of the ball. The line that has the putt dying in the front edge (aka dead weight putting), the line that has it falling in at the side door, or the line that sees the ball hit the back of the hole.
Once you have visualized where you want the ball to enter the hole, you can work out your line and start to factor in the severity of slope and grain.
You need to understand the percentage of slope, grain, and most importantly speed. Speed dictates line more than anything else.
Controlling the speed of the ball is best achieved by regulating the length of your backswing and through-swing.
Short putts require a short swing back and through and as the distance increases, the length of the stroke must increase.
Miss High Versus Miss Low
Professional golfers prefer to miss the ball on the high side rather than on the low side.
A ball that is on the high side, meaning on the line that is breaking towards the cup, has a chance of gravity pulling it into the cup when it ends on the lip.
Putts that end on the lip of the low side are unlikely to be dragged down by gravity.
Read The Green
You have reached the green with your approach shot and are walking up to mark your ball.
The best time to start reading the green is on your approach.
Seeing the undulations from a distance offers you a different perspective than what you will get from a close-up. You can form a complete picture of the green and whether you can expect a slippery downhill putt or a slow uphill swinger.
If your putt is uphill, congratulations. You can be more aggressive on the stroke. If your putt is downhill, you need to be thinking about hitting it a bit softer.
Unless your approach shot ended up in tap-in territory, marked your ball and stand back to view the green from close-up.
The close-up perspective could change your mind about the line that you considered in your approach.
It is advisable to pace the distance from your ball to the cup giving yourself an idea of how hard you will have to stroke the putt.
While pacing the distance you will get a feel of the line and see deviations that you may have missed from a distance.
The concept of alignment within putting can be broken down into three parts, alignment of the golf ball, your body, and the clubface.
Golfers frequently mark their balls with a marker to aid in the alignment on their golf balls for putting.
Some golf ball manufacturers added an alignment marker into the design of the golf ball.
Callaway’s Triple Track technology is the latest fad to hit the market in alignment aids. For this to be effective you have to play with a Callaway Triple Track putter as well as a Callaway golf ball with the Triple Track markings.
Once you have decided on the line that you want to hit the putt on, select a mark on the line and place your ball on the green matching your alignment with the mark.
You may have seen that professional golfers only remove the ball marker once they are 100 percent sure that the ball and the mark are aligned perfectly.
With the ball perfectly aligned with the mark, you selected it is time to align your putter with the chosen line.
Most putters have some form of alignment system in place to ensure that you can line up your putt.
The last is to consider is lining your feet, hips, and shoulders up straight down the line you selected.
Now you are ready to proceed to the next step of stroking the golf ball down the selected line, at the selected speed, and visualize it falling into the cup.
Grip pressure plays a significant role in the control and direction of the putt.
The way you grip the putter has a direct influence on the angle of the putter face through the hitting zone.
When you think about grip pressure imagine holding a tube of toothpaste.
You want to hold on tight enough so that the tube does not fall on the ground, but you do not want to squeeze it too hard and spray toothpaste all over either.
Gripping the putter too tightly will create tension in your stroke that will make it near impossible to hole the putt.
Putting grips is available in a variety of shapes and sizes ranging from normal grips, square putting grips, large and Jumbo grips.
Larger and Jumbo grips will assist you in holding the club and placing the correct pressure spread over a larger area. Furthermore, it will reduce the amount of hand movement and wrist bend.
The way you place your hands around the grip is called, yes you guessed it, the grip.
Gripping your putter is a personal preference.
There is no right or wrong.
The grip of the putter must feel comfortable in your hands without losing control over the putter’s head.
Let us look at the most used grips. There may be variations of the grips as golfers try and become more comfortable in the way they hold the putter grip.
Conventional Reverse Overlap Putting Grip
This grip is similar to a standard overlap grip used on full shots to maintain a consistent feel from full shots through putts.
It is the preferred grip for golf instructors and is used by up to 68.5 percent of professional golfers as it provides the golfer the best feedback during the stroke.
A key factor in this grip is to get your leading thumb to rest on the flat section of the putter grip. This additional support will assist you in keeping the putter face square at impact.
The name is a result of the leading index finger resting on top of the trailing little finger. This differs from the normal overlap grip where the trailing little finger rests on top of the leading index finger.
Variations of the grip come about by changing the leading index finger position on the trailing hand. You can point your leading index towards the ground or place it parallel with the trailing pinkie finger.
Cross-Handed Putting Grip
The Cross-Handed putting grip (aka, left-hand low grip) is the opposite of the conventional reverse overlap putting grip. Your leading hand is now lower on the grip than your trailing hand.
This is an excellent grip for golfers who fight an overactive trailing hand pushing the putter during the stroke. It will assist in aligning your putter face and keep the face square.
Your leading arm and wrist are aligned and less likely to create any break in your leading wrist.
Ideally, you want to rest both thumbs on the flat part of the putter grip for increased stability.
There are two ways to connect your hands in this grip.
- The leading little pinkie finger can rest below or on top of the right index finger
- The trailing index finger can also point straight down and rest perpendicular to the fingers of the leading hand.
Cross handed putting will take a while to get accustomed to and could impact your feel and pace.
The Claw Putting Grip
The claw putting grip and variations of it has gained in popularity since the early 2000s and is becoming more frequently used by golfers at all levels.
A reason for using the claw grip is that it removes the dominance of the trailing hand from your grip.
Your first step would be to grip the putter with your leading hand resting your thumb on the flat part of the putter grip.
You grip the putter with your right hand placing it between 2 and 4 inches away from your leading hand.
Golfers using the claw grip vary in the way that they place and grip the putter with the trailing hand.
Importantly, as with all putter grips, the putter and stroke must feel comfortable in your hands.
Arm-Lock Putting Grip
When the rules changed disallowing locking your putter grip against your chest, golfers found another way of locking in the putter shaft without contravening the rules.
Rule 14-1b does not consider to constitute anchoring your putter.
With the arm-lock putting grip, the handle of the putter locks against the inside of your leading forearm. This connection should stay intact throughout the stroke. This method always keeps the hands ahead of the ball through impact.
You may use any putting grip with the arm lock method provided you maintain the forward angle of the putter through the stroke. Golfers may find it more difficult to line up the face of the putter as a result of the forward-leaning shaft.
To be able to use this grip effectively you require a putter with a minimum of 6 degrees of loft and a shaft that is long enough to lock in against your forearm.
Prayer Putting Grip
The prayer putting grip (aka palms-facing grip) have your palms facing each other and the thumbs next to each other.
At the back end of the grip, you can have the fingers of either hand on top. Decide which is the most comfortable in your hands.
This grip creates a perfect triangle as your hands are on the same level and your shoulder is level as well. Now you can execute a perfect pendulum action with all parts coordinated.
Fingers Down The Shaft
This is a less frequently used grip and one that I have used with much success over a few decades.
The main feature of this grip is that it prevents wrist breakdown, provides a great feel, and gets the ball to the hole.
Leaving the putt short after a great approach shot is one of the most frustrating shots out on the course.
Extend both index fingers down the side of the grip to even out the control.
If you only extend the trailing hand’s index finger, you could easily flip the putter at impact thus catching the ball on the upswing.
Ok, your golf ball, putter, and body are all aligned.
But how must I stand?
Where should your arms hang?
Most great putters allow their arms to hang directly under the shoulders to create a straight arc back and through.
Stand slightly upright with some bend in your knees to relieve tension.
Tilt forward from the hips, keeping your straight enabling your spine to rotate freely.
Putting The Ball
Before stroking the putt, I take a few practice strokes while facing the hole. This enables me to acquire a feel for the distance and to determine whether the clubface is coming through on the correct path.
At this stage, I can visualize the ball traveling on the line at the speed that I stroke the ball.
Start The Ball On The Chosen Line
Whatever your putting path is, you must make contact with the ball to start it off on the chosen line. Any deviation from the line at contact will create a bigger margin the longer or faster the putt is.
Accelerate Your Hands And Putter Head Through Impact
Advice that is often dished out is that you must accelerate your clubhead through the impact on any shot.
The technical reason for this is that it enables you to keep your hands moving forward to keep momentum through impact.
Decelerating your hands towards impact, the putter head will want to continue at the same velocity.
Your leading wrist starts flexing as the putter head overtakes your hands. Although this is only a small bend, the wrist hinge creates a notable change in putter face angle and putter face loft.
Maintaining the speed throughout the stroke, or even accelerating through impact, create an even flow and a predictable face angle and loft.
You have already visualized the ball going into the hole. No need to watch it happen for a second time.
Sergio Garcia putted with his eyes closed when winning the Masters in 2017 and Sanderson Farms Championship in 2020. This allowed him to generate the feel and avoid looking up before he hears the ball drop into the cup.
It is unlikely that you will have to go to such extremes. Keeping your head completely still throughout the putting stroke is a near-impossible task. However, the benefits will far outweigh the inconvenience.
Now that you are keeping your head down, the next thing to concentrate on is aligning your eyes directly over the golf ball and keep your eyes quiet through impact. Train your eyes to stay down by focusing your eyes on a dimple at the back of the ball until you hear the ball drop into the cup.
This is an extremely important basic fundamental of putting.
Movement of the eyes/head alters the level of your body which leads to inconsistent strikes.
Hands And Wrists
Put your hands ahead of the ball at setup to create forward lean and lower the little loft that you may have on the putter face.
By creating forward lean you will reduce, if not eliminate, spin to avoid the ball bouncing and skidding along the green.
Flexing your wrists during the putting stroke changes it from a stroke into a hit. Keeping your wrists quiet, without creating tension, throughout the putting stroke will prevent you from hitting at the ball.
The putting stroke is a rocking motion with as few moving parts as possible. It is like a pendulum swinging back and forth.
By keeping your arms and wrists locked in and starting the putting stroke with a shoulder turn, you can eliminate most moving parts.
Now that you can read the green, set it up correctly, and grip the putter comfortably it is time to look at how to stroke the putter for more birdies.
The basics of the putting stroke are that you take it back and stroke forward on a single path squaring the clubface to the golf ball at impact.
Not all golfers use the same path to produce their best putts. The most crucial factor is that the putter face is square through the impact zone. This zone can be defined as the six inches before the golf ball, and the six inches after the golf ball.
The most recommended stroke paths are
- Straight back straight forward
This is most frequently used by golfers especially on shorter putts.
Taking the putter straight back minimizes the risk of not coming through the impact zone with a square face. However, it becomes more difficult on long puts to keep your stroke in a straight line.
- Inside out
There will be more deviation of the path on longer putts. The arc of the path will change slightly on the backstroke. It will start straight before deviating slightly to the inside.
It will return to a straight path through the impact zone before finally ending slightly towards the inside on the follow-through.
To maintain good control of the pace of your putts it is important to develop a consistent putting stroke with good rhythm.
The rhythm will lead to consistency in contact and distance control.
Creating a pendulum effect with your shoulders and reducing the number of moving parts will create a good rhythm.
Putting is a significant part of your golfing experience.
Since the origins of golf, it was decided that this shot is so difficult that you would be allowed two takes to get the ball into the cup once you are on the green.
The putter is nearly always the most used club in your bag since golf is designed that 50% of the par score is allocated to putts.
Understanding the basics will set you off on a journey to better and more enjoyable golf.
However, you have to practice your putting regularly to enhance your feel and speed control on a variety of greens.
Enjoy your golfing experience and sink more putts.
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Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.