Putting is one of the most challenging aspects of the game of golf. Many golfers nowadays are looking for quick and easy fixes to their putting woes, and they don’t want to hear that it’s going to take time and effort to correct bad habits. Practice makes perfect and if you want to straighten out your putts, that’s exactly what it will take.
Reading The Green
The ability to read a green and see the path your ball will follow takes years to develop. It’s easy to get frustrated on the green but keep in mind that even the pros miss “simple” putts. Undulations, slopes, and grass conditions can all play a factor into the way your ball will roll. If you watch any professional golf, you will often see a golfer and their caddy standing back from the ball on a green and discussing the putt. They always get a nice wide perspective on the green they are trying to read, and they pay close attention to the high and low points.
From reading the green, golfers decide how the ball will break, or move from side to side during the roll, and whether the putt is uphill or downhill. If you are ever stumped on whether or not a putt will be uphill or downhill, get a good look at the putt from the side. Sometimes, this side-view of your putt will highlight the slope and give you a better idea of how hard to hit it.
Setting up your putt properly can make all the difference, but it is a point of contention among some golfers. Pace of play is important, especially when playing a challenging course. Try to hurry to your ball once you’re on the green so that while your fellow players are hitting their shots, you can plan out how to hit yours.
One of the toughest parts about putting, especially on short-cut greens, is hitting the ball with the perfect weight or power. In order for the ball to roll along your planned path and into the hole, you can’t hit it too hard or too soft. A technique that I have found to be useful on the practice green is to grab a bunch of balls and stand a fair distance from the hole. Make sure that there aren’t other golfers to interrupt. If the coast is clear, try lobbing a ball towards the hole and try to get it as close as possible. Don’t worry about your aim left or right too much but focus on distance.
This drill can help you figure out the speed of the greens, and that way you know what to expect on the course.
Keep lobbing until you feel like the majority of your throws have the right weight. Once you get the hang of the power required to lob the ball to the hole, grab your putter and try to do the same. Many beginners find that lobbing the ball makes it much easier to feel the weight needed to roll right to the hole. This is a good way to get accustomed to freshly mowed greens, or just to get back in the swing of things after a long off-season.
Another difficult aspect of putting is striking the ball true and straight. Once you know the path you want your ball to follow, and how hard you want to hit it, it’s not as simple as lining up your feet with the imaginary path and swinging away… but lining up your feet is a good starting point. A major factor in how straight your ball will roll is how square the face of your putter is on impact. If the putter face is “open”, or the toe is behind the heel, your putt will miss to the right for a right-handed golfer, and to the left for a left-handed golfer. The opposite is true for a “closed” putter face, or when the heel is behind the toe. So how do you correct that?
First off, you should make sure that your setup is proper and that the ball is a natural distance away from you. Feeling comfortable while putting is important, but so is trying to keep a straight swing path. The ideal putting stroke would be if the handle of your putter was anchored in place, and the head of the club was pulled back and dropped like a pendulum. Trying to imitate a pendulum with your putting stroke can improve control greatly. As long your setup is right, you should be able to lightly grip the putter handle and swing along a straight path. Take some practice swings beside the ball and watch the club head swing straight. This is a good way to get a feel for the putt before you swing.
Two Ball Drill for Putting
So now your setup is perfect, your swing path seems straight, but you can’t seem to get a consistent putt. Maybe your putter face is open or closed at impact! A good exercise for correcting that is the two ball drill. Place two balls on the green side by side and try to hit them at the same time. If the outside ball goes further, then you know your club face is closed at impact. If the inside ball goes further, then you know your club face is open at impact. The goal is to try and get the two balls to leave your putter at the same time, and to roll about the same distance.
As you can see, the inside ball went further and so the putter face was "open" on contact.
If you can’t seem to make those balls roll consistently, (like me...) you should probably go back to your setup and make sure that you’re addressing the ball properly, and that your swing path is straight and smooth.
Keep on hitting two balls even after they start to roll the same distance. You want this to be your default putting stroke so the more consistently you can hit those two balls the same distance, the better.
I can’t stress enough that when it comes to putting, practice makes perfect. The best putters in the PGA are out on the greens constantly, and that’s really the only way to perfect the art of the putt. There are hundreds of useful drills out there to improve your putting, but practice and experience are truly the best teachers.