Keys to Good Putting

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!


About Brian Penn

Avid sports fan and golf nut. I am a lifelong resident of the Washington D.C. area and love to follow the local teams. Also worked as a golf professional in the Middle Atlantic PGA for several years and am intrigued by the game to no end. I love to play and practice and am dedicated to continual improvement.
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10 Responses to Keys to Good Putting

  1. Brian

    Great tips. I am a rocker as well. One other point I believe is critical to good putting is to follow through twice as far as the draw back. Thanks for the tips.

    • Brian Penn says:

      Jim, I am in the long follow through camp as well and find that helps to put a more aggressive roll on the ball. This one is controversial too. If you’ve seen the latest Playing Lesson with Brad Faxon, one of the greatest putters of all time advocates for a long backswing and short follow through. Brandt Snedeker’s cover piece in also advocates for a short popping follow through. Definitely an individual preference type of thing. Thanks!

      • I have seen similar articles. When playing with local pros, the also had a short follow through with a pop in their stroke. I find that for most amateurs, especially those just starting, too much wrist movement is involved. A long follow through ensures a solid contact all the time. It is something that can be built upon as they develop their own stroke.


  2. Brian Penn says:

    Yes, I agree, you definitely want to keep the wrists out of the stroke as much as possible. The only time I’ve adjusted in that direction has been on very slow greens or on very grainy greens, like Bermuda. And even then, the adjustment has been minimal. Thanks! Brian

  3. I liked the tips, especially the one about the elbows. Will try it when I get back home.

  4. Brian Penn says:

    Thanks, I’m going to try myself in the cool temps and high wind down at the eastern shore this weekend. Hope the good putting holds up for a couple more rounds!

  5. Elbows in is by far my favorite key for putting. It just seems to get things neat and tiddy and makes me feel like I just need to roll the ball on my line.

  6. James says:

    Nice post but would like to add the one thing that helps me most – grip pressure. Keep it light and distance control becomes a breeze.

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