Category Archives: putting

Two Ways to Putt

There are two ways to putt.

1. Read the green to get the line and the distance, step into a stance you have practiced, and hit the ball with a stroke you have practiced.

2. Get up to the ball and think to yourself, “Hit the ball into the hole.” Then do it.

One or the other.

Reading Short Putts

There’s a common reason why you miss short putts. I mean putts of four feet or less. The reason is that you don’t read them correctly and a putt that should have gone straight in slithers off to the left.

How did that happen?

I think you know that when you read a 20-foot putt you pay attention to what is happening in the last few feet around the hole. That, and you’re reading the putt from about 25 feet away from the hole, make local slope, and the overall tilt of the green, clearly visible.

But with a four-foot putt, you might glance at it from seven or eight feet away, and that’s too close to detect what you can see from far away.

The answer is to back up and read those shorties from at least 15 feet away. Farther back would be even better. From there, you can see where the ball will roll to.

Hole-Oriented Putting

I have taken a devil-may-care attitude toward my golf game lately. In other words, I don’t play “smart” golf anymore. I attack.

You don’t make birdies if you don’t shoot at pins. You don’t lay up to “your distance.” Closer is always better.

And then there’s putting. Putting is about hitting the ball into the hole. That should be obvious, but it’s not.

What are we taught to do when we putt? Read the greeen. Get the line matched up with the speed. Set up to your starting line. Square up the putterface. Smooth stroke.

Where’s the hole in all that??!!

Instead, stand behind the ball and look at the hole. Fill your head with the thought of hitting the ball into it.

Then step up to the ball thinking the same thought and hit it in.

That simple.

When you’re awake, your conscious mind is always thinking about something. Choose the right thing for it to think about.

When you putt, do you get points for the quality of your mechanics? How well you read greens?

Of course not! You get points for hitting the ball in the hole. So think that, because that’s what you want to do!

I promise you if you try this you won’t putt any worse than you do right now. And you will probably putt better.

My Putting Procedure

A few days ago a friend of mine, who took up golf late in life, asked me for some advice on reading greens. So I described how I go about it.

Later that day I wrote up the procedure and sent it to him in an e-mail message. Here it is.

1. Look at the putt from the side to notice any elevation changes along the line of the putt. You can also see if the ground along that line slopes toward you or away from you. Do this when you first walk on to the green.

2. Look at the entire green in the broad area of the putt to see the slope of the entire piece of ground.

3. Look at the local slope between the ball and the hole. Merge that read with what you got in #2.

4. Go with your first impression. It is usually correct. The longer you look the more you think you see.

5. With short putts, play the break, but do not give away the hole. Spend time on the practice green learning how to take out break by hitting a short putt harder.

6. Spot putt. Pick a mark on the green about two inches in front of the ball on your starting line. Roll the ball over that spot.

A Few Putting Notes

1. I’ve been doing something lately that has improved my ability to take the putter way from the ball on a straight line and return it on a straight line.

I rest the sole very lightly on the ground, not hovering it off the ground, but just lightly touching, instead of resting the putter on the ground with all of its weight.

What this does is avoids my having to lift the putter off the ground ever so slightly before I swing it back. The lifting motion can cause me to lose stability in my swing and take the putter back at an angle and spend effort to get it back on line. Not a good way to putt accurately.

I am sinking more putts than before, and this might be a reason.

2. Ever since we have been able to keep the flagstick in the hole when we putt I have been doing that.

A few days ago, though, I had a left-to-right breaking putt of about ten feet for a birdie. For some reason I walked up to the hole and took out the flagstick. I didn’t think about whether or not to take it out, it just seemed like the thing to do.

Sank the putt.

Maybe I’ll do this from now for putts I think are makeable. For approach putts that I can only expect to get close, having the flagstick in gives me a better idea of what the distance is.

3. Speaking of approach putts, for really long ones, 30 feet or more, I have been hitting them with an open stance.

Being turned a bit toward the hole puts my right hand, which has a great deal of sensitivity to propelling an object to a certain distance, as yours probably does, too, in control of the stroke.

The result is hitting the long ones closer than before.

Par Putts and Birdie Putts

A question many golfers as themselves is, why is a six-foot par putt (say) easier to sink than a six-foot birdie putt?

There has even been some research done on the question.

This what I think, and it’s kind of an easy answer.

You probably have lots more six-foot putts for par than for birdie. You know if you miss this one, another opportunity will come later in the round and you’ll probably sink it.

A six-foot birdie put, on the other hand, comes around maybe once every three rounds or so for most of us. We don’t get a chance like this very often and we have to make advantage of it when it comes up. And that is the problem right there.

I remember a round I played on a course that has fiendish 17th hole. Par 4, somewhat longish, with a bunker on the left guarding the entrance to the green. Even hitting the green with your second is hard to do.

The pin was in the back left. I hit a hybrid which drew perfectly and ended up eight feet past the hole.

Getting a birdie here would be a feather in my cap and I knew I would never have another chance like this again.

Of course, I missed the putt.

The urgency to get an unexpected birdie putt into the hole takes us out of our usual process, our usual mental approach to the putt.

Instead of knowing what we are doing, and being as comfortable with it as if it were a par putt, we are really uncomfortable because there is so much at stake. We are mentally adrift.

We start hoping the ball into the hole instead of hitting it in. And that’s the difference.

Think this, regardless: If the ball goes in, it goes in. If it doesn’t go in, it doesn’t. There’s nothing more to it.

Now if it were an eagle putt…

A Fine Point in the Putting Setup

When you place the putter behind the ball preparatory to making a putt, it is a good idea to leave a gap of about an inch between the putter and the ball instead of being right up next to it.

1. It prevents you from accidentally moving the ball with the putter as you complete your setup.

2. It makes it easier to put a forward press into your stroke.

3. It encourages the feeling of swinging through the ball instead of hitting at it.

Three Ways to Read Subtle Breaks in the Green

Sometimes you have a makeable putt that you think must break, but you can’t really tell if it goes left or right. There are three ways you can read the green to find out.

The first way? Back up. Way up. Get about 30 feet from the hole. From that distance, breaks get revealed that would be unnoticeable from right behind the ball, especially when there is no local slope, but the entire green is tilted one way or the other.

Second, when you look at the putt from the side, which you should do routinely to check on uphill or downhill slopes, also look to see if the green is sloping toward you or away from you. A green sloping toward you will of course break in that direction, and vice versa.

The third way is the best one. Stand up behind the ball, take a sidestep to the left, and have a look. Now get back behind the ball, take a sidestep to the right, and look again.

From one side you will see the green looking the same as it does from behind the ball, but from the other side it will seem like you are looking into a slope.

So if you see that slope when you step to the right, for example, you know that the putt will break left to right. If you see the slope when you step to the left, the putt breaks right to left.

This video tip shows you how it works.

A Cure for the Yips?

A few posts ago I mentioned some things I am doing with my putting.

One of them was to think of swinging the shaft of the club, not the clubhead.

Today when I was playing (solo) I yanked a three-foot put two times in a row (the real putt and a do-over).

I realized I was thinking about the clubhead. I tried again and just swing the shaft back and forth, got a pure stroke, and the putt went straight in.

Just a thought.

A Few Putting Improvements

I’ve been doing a few things lately that have improved my putting. You might want to see if they make any difference for you.

1. I hover the putter slightly at address rather than resting it with its full weight on the ground. That way I can take the putter directly back from the ball and not have to lift it while I take it back.

2. I think of the ball being transparent to the putter such that the ball will be stuck first on the side closest to the hole (yellow dot). I even look at that spot when I putt. That takes all the “hit” out of the stroke. At the time I would brace for that little hit, it has already occurred. (And if you think you don’t brace for the hit, think again. You do.)

3. Instead of swinging the putter head, I swing the shaft. The arms and shoulders rock, the wrists do not break, but swinging the shaft is the important thing.