How To Putt In Golf – Improve Your Score

Putting. The game within a game.

In any given round you’re going to hit an awful lot of putts. Something like 40% of the shots you hit will be with your putter.

Instead of spending hours on a driving range whacking balls why not spend a bit of time on your putting to see if that would help improve your scores.

How To Putt In Golf

Set Realistic Targets

While most amateurs can make significant improvements in their putting you still need to set realistic goals. As much as you’d never like to miss from inside 8 feet, it’s never going to happen!

Even the best players in the world miss short putts. On the PGA Tour in the 2020/21 season the leading player on tour, Shane Lowry, only made 71% of his putts from 8 feet and the average for the tour was only 53%.

These guys practice for hours every day and are usually playing on the best putting surfaces but they still make only just over half of their 8-footers. Let that sink in.

From 10 feet and more, Justin Rose led the tour making just 20% of his putts for the year. The tour average was 15%!

With these two statistics in mind, you can see the areas to work on are getting your chips and long putts inside 8 feet and holing out from 8 feet and in.

How are you going to improve your putting?

ladder drill
ladder drill

Putting Fundamentals

There are three fundamental skills that are going to determine how successful you will be on the green:

  • Green reading
  • Start your putt online
  • Speed control

Let’s take a look to see how you can improve in each of these areas.

Green Reading

Your first problem is working out what break, if any, exists on the putt. If you struggle to read greens correctly then it is going to be difficult to become a great putter.

If you are unsure where you need to aim in order for the ball to finish in the hole then it is going to be difficult to make many putts.

Lacking confidence in the direction you need to aim is also likely to lead to an indecisive stroke and poor connection which will make the part perform even worse.

For some advice on reading greens take a look here.

Start Your Putt Online

The key to starting your putts online is controlling the putter’s face through impact. Being off by about 1° on an 8-foot putt means you will miss the hole. The putter’s face direction at impact is responsible for 90% to 92% of the start line.

As with your full swing having a solid grip, stance and posture can be extremely helpful in making putting much more productive.

You are much more likely to start the ball where you intend if you can minimize the rotation of the clubface during your putting stroke and line up correctly in the first place.

Putting Grip

Unlike your normal golf grip, you want to try and lock the putter in position as much as possible by holding the putter more in the palms of your hands rather than your fingers.

Ideally, you want to form a straight line with the putter shaft and your forearms.

Putting Stance

You are probably best starting from a square stance although you might want to experiment with an open or closed stance to see if that brings better results for you.

Putting Posture

You want to bend from the hips so that your arms hang freely and you can turn around your spine without any additional movement.

Putting On Line Drills

There are a couple of girls you can try to make sure you are getting your pass and clubface square to the line that you are intending.

Find a flat putt around 8 feet in length and set two tees just slightly further than a ball’s width apart a few feet in front of you on your intended line.

Attempt to hole the putt by rolling it through this gate. If you don’t return the putter face square then you will not get the ball through the gate. You might want to try this exercise with a slightly wider gate to start with and gradually reduce the width as your putter face control improves.

To work on your path take a similar flat putt and use some tees or perhaps some golf ball boxes to create a gate just slightly wider than your putter head 3 to 4 inches in front and 3 to 4 inches behind the ball. To make sure your putter path is square you need to avoid hitting the obstacles as you stroke the putts.

If you want to work on your putting at home then you might benefit from a putting mat such as the PuttOut.

Speed Control

In some ways, speed control is probably more important than line. Amateurs probably get the distance wrong by a larger margin more often than the line. Don’t forget that speed and line are related. The firmer you stroke the putt the less it will take the break. 

Modern putting methods are very much focused on removing the wrists from the stroke and focusing solely on rocking the shoulders to move the putter head. The length of your backswing then dictates the distance the putt will travel.

This should improve the consistency of strike and therefore will help with your speed control. If you are striking all over the face and presenting the club with a different loft each time then it will be impossible for you to judge how long a backswing you need for a given distance.

Speed Control Drills

There are a number of ways of working on your speed control.

The ladder drill is one such method although different people have slightly different ideas on how to implement it. 

I would suggest this method for intermediate/good putters.

Create a semi-circle of tees a putter-grip length behind/around the hole.

Place a tee every 3 or 4 feet away from the hole up to whatever distance you feel like you struggle with To start with 20ft is probably as far as I would go since if you aren’t judging pace very well up to 20ft you aren’t likely to be great outside 20ft. Once you become more adept you can always adjust your practice to longer distances.

Try to putt a ball from each tee and only move on to the next if your putt either goes in the hole or finishes between the hole and the semicircle of tees.

If you are really struggling with your pace then you might want to place the backstop a little further away to give yourself more room for error until you are able to improve.

ladder drill with tees
ladder drill with tees

Should I Die My Putts Into The Hole?

I think Dave Pelz’s experiments concluded that the optimal putting speed was to hit your putts at such a speed they would finish around 17 inches past the hole if they didn’t drop. 

At the end of the day if the ball doesn’t reach the hole then it’s definitely not going in so if you try to put deadweight and get it slightly too short then you’ve definitely not going to reach the cup. 

The only caveat would be if the consequences of going too far past are more severe such as running down a steep slope and finishing a long way from the hole. In that instance, you might be justified being more cautious with your pace.

Clay Ballard on putting

How To Putt In Golf: Conclusion

For most people, it’s a lot easier to improve your putting rather than your long game. Almost everyone can work on their putting at home in the evening for a few minutes and see significant improvement over time.

Don’t forget that pace and line are just as important and don’t work on one without working on the other.

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