A simple way to improve your putting

Here’s a simple way to improve your putting. There’s nothing fancy to remember, no stupid rules or any new technology needed. This technique can be applied right away and I’m willing to bet you’ll see some sort of improvement.

If not, you’ll most likely be over complicating the process and thinking too much. Don’t read too much into the information below – it is simple. But don’t let that fool you as a lot of research/study/experimentation has gone into it. I reckon you’ll get something positive the first time out.

The Set Up

Your set-up needs to be comfortable. Forget about aligning yourself perfectly or worrying about body angles or posture. I have found that golfers get stiff and uncomfortable when they concern themselves with such things – from here, a good stroke is not possible.

You should choose a putter that you like the look of and then set up to the ball in anyway that feels good to you. Don’t worry about specifics – get comfortable and you’ll be in good shape.

Your Putting Stroke

I get asked, “how should I start the putter away from the ball, with the arms or with the shoulders?”

Modern thinking is definitely focused on the bigger muscles and I’m sure you’ve been told to take the club away with your shoulders. “Rock the shoulders” is a common trend.

This advice sounds good but I have found that many golfers find this task difficult. Humans have terrific control of their hands – so it makes sense to use them. For best results I believe you should start the putter back with your hands, not with your shoulders or anything else. Your hands lead and the shoulders can follow.

This makes the putting stroke natural and easy to repeat. Moving your hands back and through should get the job done. The more you play, the better and more rhythmical the stroke will become. Isn’t this like anything?

The stroke should feel comfortable and natural – no need to do anything weird or contrived. You should definitely forget about how hard to hit the ball – let your natural stroke come out. It will be much more reliable than anything else you can come up with (or anything your pro can tell you).

Still struggling? How would you toss a ball to someone? Your putting stroke should be no more complicated then looking at your target and pulling the trigger. Do you think of your elbow when you throw?

Reading Greens

Dave Pelz, the prominent putting guru, has said that no golfer can read greens correctly. Most cannot see the true amount of break. And this includes the best players in the world. If the best players can’t do it right, what chance do you have?

Not much…

Stop reading greens. I know this sounds radical but the approach works well. There’s less stress and and once less thing to worry about. All you’re after is an approximation – let you’re subconscious mind figure out all the subtleties.

Instead of spending a lot of time behind the ball trying to work out the speed and line, look at the putt, walk in and hit it. That’s it.

The trick is to look at the putt with your eyes level. It’s no good to have your head cocked to the side … this gives your brain mixed messages. If you feel the need you can even make a practice putt while looking at the hole. This is sorta like the throwing the ball exercise – you get a good feel of the putt without the complication. Look and react – again, just like how we do so many other things.

How to make more putts

Having a good putting stroke is one thing, learning to hole putts under pressure is an entirely different proposition.

All great players have an almost magical ability to sink those pressure putts time after time. Here’s how they do it…

They’re uncluttered

Their minds are not filled with technique or details about the line or speed. They are playing naturally and instinctively.

This is a difficult concept for many to accept. In the Western world we’re told to work hard, to grind and think about it. Has any of this kind of thing helped you in the past? Chances are it has had no positive effect on your game.

The more you think the more likely you will struggle on the greens. Thinking, grinding and trying really hard leads to the yips. Our conscious mind gets in the way and we make something that should be easy and turn into into mathematics. There’s a conflict between want you really want to do (hit the ball into the hole in the easiest way possible) versus want you think you should be doing. And the conflict leads to a lack of confidence and a short-circuit in performance.

Putting is a simple skill (compared to a full swing). Despite the simplicity of the motion, we’re still not capable of controlling the action. We’re no more capable than we are of manually performing a walk down a flight of stairs.

You need to treat putting like any skill. Keep it simple. Look at the hole, walk to the ball and hit it.

Making more of those tricky little putts

In a perfect world you would never miss those little putts. Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect world.

I can’t promise you’ll make ALL of those three and four footers, but here’s how to make most of them.

Always start from behind the ball. Look at the hole and be clear on your target. Your target (intention) is all that matters. You’re not thinking technique or what happens if you miss. You’re in the now.

The biggest mistake (and one that took me ages to overcome) is trying to be careful and safe. You have to let the stroke go! You can’t control it. Your natural stroke will work far better than anything else you can muster. You need to hit the putt like you’ve already made it. It’s the best way. Look at the hole, walk to the ball and hit it.

Get those long putts close to the hole

Successful putting is all about making most of your short putts and getting the long putts close to the hole. You’ll never make many of the long putts – nobody does. If you can get them closer to the hole you’ll three-putt less and some of them will find the hole by default. To make long putts we need to think about throwing the ball again.

How do you know how hard to throw a ball to someone? What happens if they move?

We tend to throw instinctively and it works brilliantly. We look and react. Why can’t putting be as simplistic as this? I’m saying it can be.

It’s impossible to use language to tell ourselves exactly how hard to hit a putt. “The greens are fast” is an approximation. Faster than what? So stop thinking so much, look where you want to hit the ball and then trust your instincts to do the job.


Simple putting

Many golfers want putting to be difficult. They like trying hard. They hatch. They like copying the pro’s incredibly boring (and slow) routine and analysing the putt from every angle. If that works for you then go for it.

For everyone else, I’m offering an alternative. To sink more putts, to worry less and to shoot better scores. It requires less energy and will have a ripple on effect for your entire game. You’ll have more confidence and you’ll feel better about yourself. It’s also an easy win because you already have the talent inside you. You just have to learn to get out of your way.

Look at the hole, walk in and hit the putt.

Resources: Check out my How To Cure the Yips info.

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  • Lukey

    Reply Reply September 30, 2012

    You are absolutely correct Cam it is as simple as that

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply October 1, 2012

    Dont consciously read the green (let your subconscious figure out all the subtleties) look at the hole, walk in and hit the putt….

    I reckon what happens when we read this sort of stuff is we nod in agreement but deep down don’t believe it’s REALLY that simple so we don’t fully commit to it. That’s where we go wrong. It IS this simple. If its not working for us it’s US not the process. There’s nothing else you need to read on putting, ever. This is it. How do I know? Because this is the way we do ANYTHING. Golf isn’t some mysterious skill that only a fortunate few have the necessary hand / eye coordination to be good at, it’s just a “hit object with tool” skill that humans do every day – and have been doing for thousands of years – without a thought. “Get out of your own way” should be tattooed on your forehead.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply October 1, 2012

      I reckon what happens when we read this sort of stuff is we nod in agreement but deep down don’t believe it’s REALLY that simple so we don’t fully commit to it.

      GP, this is one of my biggest frustrations. Golfers are looking for something magical. A trick or some new way of playing the game. Long term readers still struggle with the beauty of “just playing”. Walking in and hitting the ball is profound – it might give you the kinda golf you’ve always wanted. But it’s so simple that it get’s left behind – easier to try some tip or other quick fix. We all can “hit the ball” and experience our own version of remarkable. Most still won’t get it, despite how many times it is said.

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply October 1, 2012

    “Most still won’t get it despite how many times it’s said…”

    Yes. Like most things in life there’s the broad (“easy”) way that most people go down and there’s the narrow (“hard”) way that a few go down. As the old saying goes “if you want what everyone else has do what everyone else does but if you what something different you have to DO something different”. It takes courage though because there’s a feeling of safety in numbers. But it’s only a feeling, it’s not real. When you realize that you’re on your way.

  • Cam280

    Reply Reply October 1, 2012

    G’day, I agree with this simple approach. Just today I was practicing this type of putting and big strike rate, I also found that the set up should really be dictated by the slope of the green to start with followed by visualising the line followed by a stroke dominated by your writing hand, it really is that easy. To become a master though fundamentally speaking the slope of the green should be your abbreviation or throwing the club angle, I reckon throwing the club along the slope is the finishing touch to greatness.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply October 2, 2012

      Cam280: can you expand on your comment, “I reckon throwing the club along the slope is the finishing touch to greatness”?

      I’m not quite sure what you mean.

  • Cam280

    Reply Reply October 3, 2012

    Cam I don’t know what i’m talking about either I dribble crap, seriously I still haven’t even played 3 rounds without thinking over the ball. Competition is where golf eludes me. I love playing by myself racing around the course not having to worry about other players or waiting, its so boring playing against high handicappers, what oh um sorry off subject.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply October 3, 2012

      Cam280: now is the best time. The sooner you start the sooner you’ll have a breakthrough. You really need to learn to play golf in competition like you do when you go for a whack by yourself.

  • jake chase

    Reply Reply October 5, 2012

    Terrific stuff. Getting this around could cut an hour off the length of an average round. On technique I think there’s only one other thing you might consider: weight distribution and movement. The hands work beautifully unless body movement interferes. It seems to me sensible to concentrate weight on the front foot and leave it there, particularly on short putts. What do you think?

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply October 6, 2012

      Jake: Golf could definitely do with some speeding up. It’s one reason why many leave the game in my opinion. With a busy world, it’s hard to justify 5+ hours for some.

      I’m certain that with a comfortable set up and a focus on the hands there is little unwanted body movement. Not to say there shouldn’t be any, I think a “little” movement is normal and very natural. In the end, you could stand on one foot and become a great putter if your mind is uncluttered.

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