|Confidence is the X-factor when it comes to putting. (QMI Agency/Brian Donogh)
It's safe to say everyone wants to get better at golf. It's also safe to say most golfers are looking for the easiest way to shoot those lower scores.
Golfers are buying the newest, hottest drivers. They're trying tips from magazines. They're even willing to listen to a buddy's tips. But very few have figured out the easiest way to knock off a few strokes off the scorecard: Improve your putting.
Most average golfers could easily trim 3-10 strokes off every game by working at their putting. If you really want those lower scores, stop the quick fixes and follow these 10 steps to guaranteed better putting.
10. Buy a Quality Putter: You hit twice as many shots with your putter than with any other club. your putter should actually be the second-most expensive club in your bag (after your driver). Generally speaking, more expensive putters have computer-milled faces and are better weighted and balanced than cheaper models.
9. Get Fitted: Your putter should fit you and your putting stroke. A pro fitter will make sure your putter is the right length for you, has the correct amount of loft, the proper amount of offset and is the correct lie angle. You should also closely consider head design, weight, grip and insert material before pulling out your credit card.
8. Lighten Up: The biggest stroke killer out there is tension. Tension prevents rhythm and rhythm is the key to putting consistency and feel. Lighten up on your grip if you want your putter to swing properly. Tight hands, wrists and arms will lead to a jerky putting stroke. Check out how lightly Tiger Woods holds the putter as his stroke flows through, even under the most intense pressure.
7. Work On The Short Putts: Great putters like Steve Stricker and Jack Nicklaus almost never miss putts of less than five feet. There are some technical reasons why they excel at short putts, but the importance of practice can't be undervalued. I spent years with Steve Stricker at the University of Illinois and witnessed the time he spent within five feet of the cup. In general, and especially right before you play, spend at least half your time close to the hole sinking short putts and gaining confidence. Nothing is more important than watching and listening to short putts fall into the cup.
6. Pick A Spot: Jack Nicklaus always talked about picking a spot just in front of your ball to help you with your alignment. Get in the habit of picking a spot just in front of your ball on the proper line, then focus on rolling your ball over that spot. Putting guru Dave Stockton even suggests to look at that spot while you make your stroke. Annika Sorenstam, for one, actually used that advice from Stockton and won 10 major championships with it.
5. Check Your Wrists: I don't particularly care how you place your hands on your putter grip, as long as they are fairly neutral and stay passive during the putting stroke. Quiet hands and wrists are keys to solid impact.
4. Consistent roll: One of the biggest errors I come across with my students is wrist rotation or wrist hinge. Learn to swing the putter with your arms and keep your wrists and hands quiet.
3. Warm Up Properly Before You Play: Dropping three balls 12-15 feet from a hole and trying to make the putts is pretty much a waste of time when you are warming up. Statistically, you will make very few 10-20-foot putts, so why spend your precious time practising them? Instead, work on critical putts inside five feet and take some time to hit longer putts so you can develop some confidence and feel for your round. If you can lag putt well and sink your short putts, the game gets a lot easier.
2. Hold Your Ground: To be a great putter, you've got to stay deadly still as you swing your arms to putt. Most of you stay pretty still during your back stroke, but almost all of you move as your club swings through the ball. Golfers are always anxious to have a look at their putt and that almost always leads to a rotating club face or a mishit. When you practise, try to keep your hips and body still and keep your head looking down until you finish your stroke. That quarter-second of patience is usually the difference between a solidly struck, holed putt and a mishit.
1. Find A Buddy: Putting practice can be really boring, so very few golfers actually spend much time practising their putting. I always recommend to golfers to find a practice buddy. Games, contests and challenges will make your practice much more fun and meaningful.
Confidence is the X-factor when it comes to putting. I've seen some pretty lousy strokes make some pretty important putts over the years. If you want to get to the next level with your putting, find a quality putter that fits you and take some lessons to make sure your stroke is sound. But the most important thing is to believe you'll make every putt you try.