Putt Looking At The Hole

Jordan Spieth. Photo from Golf.com

In the many years I’ve been playing golf, I have never looked at the hole while putting, until today.  The objective was to test whether my distance control would improve and I could specifically eliminate the short miss on medium and long range lag putts.  My pre-round commitment was to try this out on every single putt, regardless of the results.  I had read up on the technique before trying, and the theory is that you let your binocular vision kick in while you make your stroke.  This will free up your body to perform its best and release any tension associated with mechanical thinking.

I have tinkered with various putting methods and pre-shot routines largely to gain a measure of improved feel, but have always stroked the putt with my eyes over the ball.  In today’s round, the change was pronounced right from the start.  Playing #1, I had a 20-footer uphill for birdie and rifled it eight feet past the cup – but I made the down hill comeback and could feel that I more easily kept the putt on line by looking at a spot on the cup.  It felt like my back swing was shorter and I was accelerating through the putt more than usual.  The rest of the round was characterized by excellent distance control with medium and long range straight putts, but I started to falter trying to judge breaking putts.  I couldn’t figure out whether to look at the hole and feel the apex of the putt, or focus on the amount of break and pick a target directly to the right or left of the hole.   On short putts, I was completely lost and had no feel for pace, especially on putts that required any break.  I left the course encouraged because I smacked in a few long ones and felt I just needed to settle on how to play the shorties and the breaking putts.

Some of you may recall that Jordan Spieth (the world’s best putter) won The Masters two years back by looking at the hole on his short putts.  He’s since gone back to sighting the ball rather than the hole, but it obviously worked for him.  I’m a little perplexed that he used the method only on short putts while I was completely lost.

Most games of skill that involve aiming at a target require you to focus on the target rather than the projectile or body mechanics.  Think of a basketball player shooting a free throw.  They sight a spot on the rim and just let it go, feeling how much force and arc to supply.  I was aiming for that feeling.

I just finished reading Charles Henderson’s Marine Sniper, an excellent book and true story about Carlos Hathcock (world’s greatest combat sniper and competitive marksmen).  In it, Hathcock would adjust his rifle scope several clicks to adjust for wind, terrain, and distance, and while the rifle would be realinged, his scope remained sighted on his target.  Does this imply that I should adjust my body for the break of the putt but always look at the hole when I make the stroke?  Still trying to work through this.

Anyone with experience looking at the hole while they putt?  Please share if you do.  Thanks!

6 thoughts on “Putt Looking At The Hole”

  1. Hey Brian
    Putting is a strange phenomenon – it does not require power or great speed. It requires enough speed combined with the right line. Anyone can make a putt on the putting green even by accident. I said that to say this, there have been all kinds of putting strokes, grips and lengths of putter – all attempting to make a repeatable stroke. Nobody has nailed it. While names like Faxon come to mind even he was not perfect. My suggestion is that if it working for you then keep at it – despite what Jordan does. I know That when Tiger was holing incredible putts for majors – it looked like a standard stroke.
    Good luck and keep making the putts.


  2. Brian,

    Interesting that you tried this out! Funny enough, Beth and I tried that out once on a 9 hole practice round last year, and we also hung around and hit some extra putts on certain greens. Similar to your first attempt, in general I found that I hit putts with more aggressive pace, and ran some mid to long putts way by initially. As far as short putts, if it was straight I had a lot of success, and felt like more success with uphill ones versus downhill, probably due to my tendency to hit it firmer using this method. It broke down for me with breaking putts. Similar to you I think I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to be looking. In general it seemed fine to look at the hole as long as my aim point was also the hole (ie straight putts).

    I won’t be putting this into competition anytime soon, but I think it’s a good drill to practice to work on feel. Thanks for sharing!


    1. Josh, you describe exactly what happened to me. Totally lost on the shorties. I had stuffed a wedge into 3 feet on a par-5 but the birdie putt had at least a cup of right to left break. I missed it so badly below the hole it was perplexing. I think if I figure out where to look, then practice it a bit, it could work. I was definitely satisfied with the straight putts both uphill and downhill. Might have to look down on the breakers.



  3. Hi Brian, I have always been a beliver that if you are not looking at the ball, you can not strike it correctly. It’s like hitting a nail with a hammer, if your not looking at the nail the chances are reduced of you striking the nail on the head.

    1. Pete, I ultimately arrived at the same decision after hitting the ground on a few long ones. Found you have to focus on the ball but feel the stroke necessary to control the distance.



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