Anyone who has played just a single round of golf knows that improved putting is the fastest and best way to better your scores. And while no one has ever claimed putting is easy, it can be the strength of your game with practice and the below tips from our golf professional, Nate Gray.
In my opinion there are four major factors you need to consider to improve your putting. A general understanding of the principles below will lead to another skill you’ll need to practice – bending down to pick your ball out of the cup!
I was caddying one winter in Florida and my player asked me for a line on a 20-foot putt. I told him it was a cup out on the right. After he smashed it by 10 feet he told me it didn’t break. I thought to myself that if it were dead center it would have gone right over the hole. Without good speed you won’t make many putts. I think that good speed is divided up between makeable putts (roughly 25 feet and in and lag putts over 25 feet). To practice good lag speed, put a couple tees about 2 feet in circumference around a hole and practice hitting long putts into that circle. For makeable putts practice with a few tees about 2 feet behind the hole with the balls ending up in that zone.
Great putters vary in their putting strokes. Loren Roberts is long while Tiger has a more compact stroke. Personally, I think that a compact stroke is more reliable. Either way, your putting stroke, just like your swing, needs to accelerate in order to get a better roll and start on your line. A drill I like to use involves setting up two tees as a gate and one tee about 10 inches behind the ball while striking 15-foot putts. At first most people have trouble getting the ball half way to the hole without flipping their wrists. Just give it about 15-20 minutes and you will start accelerating the putter through the ball with minimal effort.
The gate drill is also a good way to work on path. Find a straight putt and get the gate perpendicular to the hole. At first give yourself some room but slowly tighten the gate. Try to eventually get the gate just outside of the putter’s heel and toe and practice putting without hitting the gate. You can also put a smaller gate a foot into your follow through that the ball has to go through.
Set Up and Technique
I want my ball to start rolling as soon as possible with minimal skid or hop. Putters, just like the rest of your clubs, have loft. You don’t want the putted ball to get airborne, and we don’t want it to get driven into the green. I like the ball position to be just forward of center with a little more weight on my left side. The club will be leaning slightly towards the target at address. From there you basically rock your shoulders and let the weight of the of the club head do the work not your hands or arms. I try to take the arms and wrists out of the stroke through my setup. My grip is more in the palm and my hands oppose each other with a reverse overlap grip. I inner rotate my arms and unhinge my wrists with a slight bend at the elbows. This helps get my forearms lined up and now all I have to do is look at the hole and putt.
If you want to drop strokes on the course, put a couple minutes in every day on the greens and try to practice with a purpose. I believe Gary Player once said, “The more I practice the luckier I get”, so when you start making more putts tell your friends that you’re just lucky.
Nate Gray is the Head PGA Golf Professional at Fire Ridge Golf Club in Grafton, Wisconsin. Before Fire Ridge, Nate spent the previous seven years as a full-time golf instructor. Although he loves to help his students win championships, Nate hopes to resume a fuller schedule of competitive golf in the Wisconsin PGA Section events following his second shoulder surgery in the last three years. When Nate has free time his likes to spend it with his best pal Twigs. His lesson rates start at $40 per half for juniors and $50 per half hour for adults, plus he offers numerous lesson packages to customize your experience. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (262) 375-2252.