Putting is such an individualized art that I debated before writing a post/tutorial on improvement, but looking back at the full body of work which was the 2013 golf season, there was a lot of change that positively impacted my game and putting was tops. After a full year of playing with new irons and wedges, and being set back with a mid-season hip injury, and constantly fighting wrist and elbow tendonitis, I was surprised in the significant strides I made in game improvement, and that is mostly attributed to better putting. My 36-inch Ping Answer is still in the bag after 30 years, so it’s not equipment related; I’ve simply learned how to use it better.
Getting to the point where you consider yourself to be a good putter is quite rewarding and promotes a certain level of confidence every time you tee it up. I always thought of myself as pretty good on the shorties, but woefully inadequate with distance control outside of the 30-40 foot range, and as a result, the victim on many unnecessary three-putts. What follows are the list of keys I’ve developed this year that have helped me. Give them a try and see if they can help you too.
Key #1 – Pre stroke: Through my career, I have been plagued by inconsistency in the area of reading breaking putts. I would frequently alter technique between sighting an intermediate target, or one equidistant from the hole, or using the hole itself. I found that by aligning myself with the selected amount of break but then sighting the hole while taking my practice strokes gave me the best feel for distance. On long putts, I take the practice stroke with my right hand only, but on any length, you need to look at the hole. If you are chronically short, the right hand only practice stroke helps immensely. Not sure why, but it does.
Key #2 – Posture: Every wonder why on certain days your stroke feels silky smooth but on others you’re like a teenager learning to drive a stick shift, and you focus on the exact same setup? Used to happen to me all the time but I’ve found that to promote a smooth stroke all the time, it helps to arch your back. Yes, the key to making a good athletic full swing is also critically important for allowing your arms to swing the putter head more freely and consistently.
Key #3 – Elbows in tight: Early in the year, I was pull-cutting my putts and couldn’t figure out why until a friend noticed my shoulders were open at address. You must have square shoulders and the best way I’ve found to keep them square is to touch both your elbows lightly to your sides at address and keep them there during your stroke. Check the down the line view in a tall mirror and make sure you can see both your forearms lined up parallel to your intended target line.
Key #4 – Rock it! This is the most controversial because there are two schools of thought on making a stroke. You either rock your shoulders or deliberately take the putter on an inside to inside swing path. I’ve found that if you go with Key #3, you must make a rocking motion and the best way to promote this is to feel like you’re driving your right shoulder down and under during the down swing.
Key #5- Use the Two Tee Drill during warmup. 12-15 balls is all it takes. I wrote a post when I tried this early in August and have been killing the shorties ever since. Just love it!
I’ve employed the above keys and enjoyed consistent putting over a very protracted duration. Figured I’d better get them down before I forgot everything over the winter hibernation. Give these a try and good luck!