You won’t find a professional golf instructor anywhere who would argue with the familiar golf cliché, “Drive for show – putt for dough.” While big tee shots and rising approaches look and feel great, they’re all for naught if you can’t sink that all-important five-foot putt for par.
The putter is the only club in the bag that a golfer needs on every hole. In fact, a par score on each hole involves the assumption that the player needs two putts on each hole to find the bottom of the cup. Famed golf coach Hank Haney often tells his students that there are three keys to good golf: keep the drive coming in, take one shot when approaching the green, and finish with the expected two putts.
Unlike any other element of golf, putting requires its own unique skills, and improving your putting technique requires patience, dedication and the right technique. Here’s everything you need to know to get started with that process.
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Too many average golfers make the mistake of making all their putts. Within a certain distance, that could be a reasonable expectation. But in most cases, the mid-handicap golfer needs to work on eliminating the dreaded three-putt green that pushes a par to a double bogey or a round in the ’80s to a round closer to 100.
It is more reasonable for that aspiring golfer to imagine a hula hoop, bushel basket or Frisbee around the hole (subject to confidence and competence). If the player can place the first putt within that circle, he or she gets an easier tap-in to a liveable bogey or par.
How to Improve Your Putting Technique — The Basics
Like any other stroke of golf, it helps if a player creates a routine when putting. Reliable golf performance requires minimal variation.
Mike Vance, PGA educator, insists there’s nothing like swinging a driver or lifting the ball off the fairway with an iron that can prepare a golfer for putting.
“It’s a very different set of skills,” says Vance. “The player must separate the moves from the other parts of his or her game and work on a different routine.”
Vance reminds every player that golf is a sport of silence and patience. He stresses that on a green, he should take the time to read the putting service before going into a putt from a distance. How wet or dry is the putting surface? Are there small obstacles or ball marks in the way? Does the green slope up or down? Does it break left or right?
Once the reading is complete, the player must focus on applying the right power and speed to the putting stroke while moving the putter straight back and smoothly forward.
“The move should flow from the shoulders,” adds Vance. “The wrists and arms should remain relaxed. It’s best to keep going smoothly and not to hit the ball.”
These basic principles allow the golfer to apply distance-related strategies to improve putting techniques.
How to improve your putting technique remotely
Long distance or lag putting means that the ball is on the green or just over the edge, but is too far away to be expected to make the putt. In some cases, the putt may be 10 meters or more from home. The goal here is to get the ball within achievable distance to avoid a three putt situation.
We turn to touring legend and World Golf Hall of Fame member Greg Norman for a great tip here. When he gives on-the-spot advice to players looking to improve their lag-putting, he invites them to use their spatial awareness.
To practice this, Norman urges players to place golf balls at a varied, but great distance from the cup – farther away than they can comfortably throw. He wants the player to ‘read’ the putt and use a typical stance and grip on the putter – before closing his or her eyes. Norman then encourages the golfer to imagine and shoot the putt based on feeling alone.
Then, when the eyes are open again and the result is clear, the golfer must repeat the process until mental and visual expectation meet the proper execution.
How to improve your mid-range putting technique?
Within the range of a lag putt, but still unlikely to go into it easily, the midrange putt must end on the cup side to fend off a three-putt. Again, it all comes down to a successful reading and execution at the right speed.
Vance offers another important tip. All too often, when a golfer hits a midrange putt wrong, only to see the ball roll more than a few feet from the cup, he or she will cringe, curse, or otherwise avert their eyes in frustration.
“Avoid that reaction,” says Vance. “Watch the ball until it stops to help you read the recovery putt so you don’t miss the comeback.”
How to improve your putting technique during short putts
There is nothing more disturbing in a round of golf than missing a putt that seemed indispensable. A short putt is any distance of three feet or less. It seems impossible to miss such a tap-in, but – even at that distance – greens can have breaks or a slope. An arrogant player can also easily push past the hole if he or she rushes.
To avoid such an unnecessary mistake, you should take the same amount of time for short putts as you would for a long attempt. Imagine an easy path to the bottom of the cup and make sure you stroke the ball with confidence. Nothing kills a short putt faster than trying to get cute and nudge the ball.
Have faith. Pick your spot. Put it away.